National TreasureThe Extermination of Evil

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  • 紙本著色辟邪絵
  • 5 hanging scrolls
  • Ink and colors on paper
  • H 25.8(each), W 39.2-77.2
  • Heian period/ 12th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 1106

  These paintings depict the God of Heavenly Punishment (Tenkeisei), Sendan Kendatsuba (Skt. Cadana Gandharva), the Divine Insect (Shinchu), Shoki, and Bishamonten (Skt. Vaiśravaṇa), all believed in China to be benevolent deities who expel demons of plague. This set was originally mounted as a handscroll that was known as the “Second Edition of the Masuda Family Hell Scroll.” After the war, the handscroll was cut into sections and the paintings mounted as hanging scrolls.
  The God of Heavenly Punishment—literally “the star [that metes out] heavenly punishment”—is a demon from the Yin Yang tradition (On Myo do). In Japan, he was incorporated into Esoteric Buddhist prayers. In this painting, he is shown consuming the Ox-headed Deity (Gozu Tenno), the pestilence god worshipped at Gion Shrine (present-day Yasaka Shrine) in Kyoto.
  Sendan Kendatsuba was originally an Indian god of music. Later, he came to be classified as being one among the Eight Kinds of Mythological Beings (Hachibu shu) and is described in the Lotus Sutra as one of the thirty-three manifestation forms of the bodhisattva Kannon (Skt. Avalokiteśvara). He is also believed to protect youths from the dangers of the fifteen malevolent deities. Here, his form closely resembles that found in the Mandala of a Ritual for Children (Doji kyo Mandara) of the Esoteric Buddhism.
  The Divine Insect is a euphemism for the silkworm. Its miracles as a benevolent deity were known from very early on. In this painting, it takes the form of a moth.
  A Buddhist tale relates that Shoki, a demon-quelling deity from China, protected the Tang emperor Xuanzong (685-762) from malevolent demons. He is portrayed with large eyes and a thick beard and is wearing a black robe, hat, and tall boots. Here, he is shown strangling a small demon.
  Bishamonten is portrayed as a benevolent deity who protects devotees of the Lotus Sutra. Examples of Bishamonten holding a bow, as he is painted here, are found in Chinese works of the Tang and Sung dynasties.
  The scroll set, which brings together a number of unusual images, has had strong connections to the Southern Capital (Nanto) and to the Hell Transformation Screens (Jigokuhen go byobu), which were used in year-end repentance ceremonies, held at the Imperial Palace up until the Heian period (794–1185), in which the names of the buddhas were recited (butsumyo e). Like other paintings of the Six Paths (Rokudo e) such as the Buddhist hells scroll (Jigoku Zoshi), it is conjectured to have been made during the time of Emperor Goshirakawa (1127–1192) in the latter part of the Heian period and kept in the treasure house of Rengeo-in Temple. One view holds that the calligraphy for the Extermination of Evil was brushed by the same hand as that of The Hell Scroll (Jigoku Zoshi) in the Tokyo National Museum and the Disowned Goblin (Kando no Oni) in the Fukuoka Art Museum.
  The acts of each of the gods in exterminating evil are briefly explained in the texts accompanying the illustrations.