National TreasureShaka Rising from the Golden Coffin

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  • ink and color on silk
  • Height: 160.0cm Width: 229.5cm
  • Heian period, 11th century
  • Kyoto National Museum
  • A甲373

This painting captures the scene of Sākyamuni Buddha, who had entered his great passing, resurrecting himself from his coffin to offer his final sermon to his mother Maya, who was overwrought with grief having arrived too late to see her son before his death. This unusual motif, which resembles the resurrection of Christ, comes from the Great Māya Sutra (Ch. Mohe Moye Jing, J. Maka Maya kyō), a Chinese apocrypha. The thematic emphasis on Sākyamuni's filial piety suggests that its Buddhist compilers intended to use this sum to avoid criticism from their Confucianist rivals.
Although the present work is dated to around the latter half of the eleventh century, some scholars attribute the original painting to tenth-century China. This work may have been a reproduction of a Chinese original made in Japan to revive interest in Chinese paintings, which had been imported to Japan in the past. In brief, Japan experienced a renewed admiration for China initiated by Emperor Shirakawa (1053-1129) around the beginning of his cloistered rule in the late eleventh century. While the vivid composition of the lively crowd and the expressive thick and thin black lines are reminiscent of Chinese works, the vibrant color scheme strongly reflects the Japanese aesthetics of the time.
This large hanging scroll originally belonged to Chōhō-ji Temple in the western part of Kyoto (now the city of Nagaokakyō). After the Pacific War, however, Matsunaga Yasuzaemon (pseudonym Jian; 1875-1971), who was called the last great chajin (tea aficionado), came to own this work.After Matsunaga’s death, with the dissolution of the Matsunaga Memorial Hall in 1979, the Matsunaga Foundation presented the painting to the Japanese government.