Important Cultural PropertyFragment of the Fifty-five Visits (of Sudhana) as Narrated in the Avatamsaka-sutra (Manjushri)

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  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Light color on paper
  • 28.6x25.6
  • Heian period, 12th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-10494

This scroll depicts the tale of Zenzai-dōji (Skt: Sudhana) told in Nyūhokkaibon (Skt: Gandavyuha-sutra) in Kegongyō (Skt: Sk: Avatamsaka-sutra, Flower Garland Sutra). In this story, Zenzai, following the instructions of Monju Bosatsu (Skt: Manjushrī, the great-wisdom Bodhisattva) takes a long journey to meet with fifty-five zenchishikis (Skt: kalyana-mitra, lit. spiritual friends, the virtuous people who have the power to lead others), and in the end achieves the enlightenment of Bodhisattva. Each scene has the name and rank of each zenchishiki written on it, as well as a praise written by Youketsu, a literati in the Northern Song dynasty. .
This piece had been kept in Tōdai-ji Temple as a one-scroll emaki until the modern era, but some parts were moved to other locations in the Meiji period. The piece remaining in Tōdai-ji is designated a National Treasure, and all of the parts separated from that are designated as an Important Cultural Property. This scene of Fugen Bosatsu (Skt: Samantabhadra, the universally good bodhisattva) is an independent hanging scroll now, but it was originally the last part of the entire scroll, next to the scene where Zenzai meets Monju Bosatsu again, which is also a separate hanging scroll now, owned by Tokyo National Museum (A-10493). With Monju's guidance, Zenzai meets Fugen Bosatsu and attains the enlightenment of bodhisattva. The picture consists of soft, effortless brushstrokes, bright, light coloring in the tansai style (light-colored painting). Along with Youketsu's beautiful praise, it expresses a deeply poetic world, far exceeding the level of a mere explanatory picture of the episode.