Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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北宋 小楷書維摩詰經 卷
The Vimalakirti Sutra

Artist:
Unidentified Artist Chinese, early 12th century
Period:
Northern Song dynasty (960–1127
Date:
dated January 13, 1119
Culture:
China
Medium:
Handscroll; gold and silver on purple silk
Dimensions:
11 in. × 26 ft. 7/8 in. (27.9 × 794.7 cm)
Classification:
Calligraphy
Credit Line:
From the Collection of A. W. Bahr, Purchase, Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number:
47.18.2
Not on view
Throughout Buddhism’s early history in China, the ascetic aspects of the religion—the practice of celibacy and self-deprivation—came into conflict with the Chinese family system and social values. The Vimalakirti Sutra, celebrating the supremely wise layman Vimalakirti, provided canonical proof that enlightenment and salvation were possible even for believers who remained outside monastic orders.

In this scroll, which transcribes chapters 5 through 9 of the sacred text, the illuminated frontispiece portrays Vimalakirti seated on a dais preaching to a large audience. He is depicted with the attributes of a traditional Confucian scholar: long beard, fly whisk, and armrest. An inscription at the end of the scroll indicates that it was executed in remote southwest China, present-day Yunnan Province. Lavishly painted and written in gold and silver on purple silk, the scroll was commissioned by the prime minister of the independent kingdom of Dali as a gift for the Chinese ambassador.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription (512 columns in standard script)

Colophon

Yin Huifu 尹輝富 (active early 12th c.), 9 columns in standard script, dated 1119:

大理國相國公高泰明致心為大宋國奉使鍾造此《維摩經》壹部,贊祝將命還朝,福祿絕嘏,登山步險,無所驚虞,蒙被聖澤。願中國遐邦從玆億萬斯年,而永無隔絕也。文治九年戊戌季冬旦日記,佛頂寺主僧尹輝富監造。
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