Important Cultural PropertyThe Fifty-Five Episodes of Sudhana’s Pilgrimage: Visiting Upasika Acala

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  • 絹本著色華厳五十五所絵
  • 1 piece
  • Ink on colors on silk Framed
  • H 74.7, W 44.7
  • Heian period/12th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 888(絵178)

  There is a story of the pure-hearted Sudhana (Zenzai doji) from the last chapter of Flower Garland Sutra, “Entering the Dharma Realm.” In the story, Sudhana was determined to become Buddhist after hearing the sermon of Monju (Skt. Mañjuśrī) and he followed the advice of Monju and visited 53 virtuous teachers (Good Friends, Zen Chishiki) one after another and finally achieved great enlightenment by Fugen (Skt. Samantabhadra). The scenes of Sudhana’s pilgrimage had already been represented in the description of Flower Garland Sutra known in the Nara period (710–794) in Japan. This painting is one of the 53 paintings (or 54 painting including Monju twice) that separately represent scenes of these pilgrimages in the order of places visited. These were originally hanging scrolls with the mounting with pictures (kaki-hyogu). Twenty paintings remain among them and of which, ten paintings are held in Todaiji Temple, and the other ten paintings are separately held in the Nezu Museum, the Fujita Museum and the Nara National Museum. Although there are some variations in expressions among these paintings, there is no doubt that they are a set of paintings.
  It is presumed that paintings of Sudhana’s pilgrimage (rekisan zu) drawn as wall paintings existed in the late Heian period (794–1185) in Japan (according to The Prayer of Buddhist Buildings and Statues by the Empress (皇后宮建堂舎安仏像願文)). There are also some examples in the Northern Sung in China, and it is presumed that a Tendai sect priest Jyojin (Zenne Daishi), who went to Sung, saw the iconography of Sudhana with Good Friends (Zenzai Chishiki zu) on the wall at the Great Buddha Hall of Kaigenji Temple in Ro (路) Province in China and Uicheon (Giten) from Goryeo dynasty in Korean Peninsula copied “Hanging Scrolls of Sudhana’s Pilgrimage to 54 Good Friends (善財童子参善知識五十四軸)” held at Einji Temple in Hangzhou in China and went back to their own countries. Therefore, the establishment of this painting should be considered from the perspective of East Asia.
  The names, addresses and tributes and so forth of Good Friends are inscribed on the upper part in ink. The tributes vary and are based on either Sixty Volumes of Flower Garland Sutra Translated by Buddhabhadra or Eighty Volumes of Flower Garland Sutra Translated by Śikṣānanda. The style of iconography is not based on the one newly established in the late North Sung period, which is known by folios of rubbing and xylographs and it probably inherits the characteristics of the old form of Chinese iconography of Sudhana’s pilgrimage. Various features seen in the Buddhist paintings in the mid Heian period including the whitish pale coloring expression (guiro), colored lines and color shading (iroguma) techniques are applied and the patterns of the landscapes and unique shapes and types of motifs represented in this painting are also old style. This is a thought-provoking painting due to its conservative style.
  It is presumed that this painting was hung on the wall of the center (the Lecture Hall and Jikido Refectory) of the Northern Dormitory of the Three Faced Priest’s Dormitories (Sanmen Sobo Kita-muro) at Kaidan’in of Todaiji Temple in the Muromachi period (1392–1573).