Important Cultural PropertyTwelve Deities (Chinkai version)

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  • 6 hanging scrolls
  • Black ink on paper
  • 86.9x45.7
  • Kamakura period/13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-12186

Juniten means a group of twelve tutelary deities who are responsible for the eight cardinal and intermediary directions of east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest, north and northeast, the two upward and downward directions and the movements of the moon and the sun. The twelve deities were originally Hindu gods, which, together with their attributes, were later incorporated into Buddhism, particularly Esoteric Buddhism and took root as deities who guard the ritual space. While the old form of Juniten, which Kukai is believed to have brought back from China, shows deities seated on birds and animals, such as a duck, an elephant and a lion, after the Kamakura period, deities standing on a round rug became the mainstream form. These iconographs are believed to be the copies that Chinkai (1092 – 1152) made of the Juniten iconography that had been handed down to Sanpoin, Daigoji Temple and constitute the oldest existing hakubyo painting (a painting principally created by the use of brush lines in monochromatic ink) of standing images of Juniten. Among the twelve deities, the Tokyo National Museum owns images of six deities: Tenshakuten (Indra), Katen (Agni), Enmaten (Yama), Gatten (Candra), Futen (Vayu), Bishamonten (Vaisravana) and Nitten (Surya). Since there are color instructions on these iconographs, it is possible that these were created for reference purposes for the creation of colored paintings. Chinkai was a son of Kasuga Motomitsu, a painter and learned Kegon philosophy at Todaiji Temple and esoteric rites at Daigoji and Kajuji Temples. While serving as a lecturer at Todaiji Temple and an academic chief at Daigoji Temple, Chinkai also excelled in painting and is said to have engaged in the creation and repair of Buddhist paintings. Several of Chinkai's works including this one have been passed down to the present.