Important Cultural PropertyThe Bodhisattva Juntei, Mother of Buddhist Deities (Cundi)

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  • Color on silk
  • Heian period, 12th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-12449

  The unusual name, Juntei, comes from the resulting sound when Japanese character readings are applied to the name Cundā, which is derived from an ancient Sanskrit verb meaning "encourage" or "inspire." The bodhisattva Juntei is believed to be an incarnation of a mantra that was chanted by practitioners of Buddhism in order to encourage and inspire themselves. Perhaps due to Juntei’s role in Esoteric Buddhism as the mother of countless buddhas and bodhisattvas, many sculptures and paintings of Juntei were created for use in ceremonies to pray for healthy children and safe childbirth.
  Few depictions of the bodhisattva Juntei remain, and most are from the Kamakura period (1185–1333) onwards. This painting is a rare early example from the Heian period (795–1185). In this work, Juntei has a firm slender and sensual body, and nine arms on each side that make her look graceful and even bewitching. This style of depiction is not traditionally Japanese and likely came from overseas. In addition, under the lotus pedestal, there are soft and voluminous bunches of leaves and flowers similar to peonies, an element not often seen in these types of works. The scenery around the pedestal is painted using pointillism, and surrounding the base of the pedestal, there is a pattern of overlapping circles, which was often used on the robes of monks in statues from the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279) in China. This work has an elegant expressiveness typical of Buddhist paintings of the Heian period, but also contains elements that reflect foreign influence.