Art/ Collection/ Art Object

高野四所明神像
The Four Deities of Kōyasan Temple Complex

Period:
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
Date:
late 14th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Dimensions:
Image: 37 × 16 in. (94 × 40.6 cm) Overall with mounting: 66 1/2 × 22 1/4 in. (168.9 × 56.5 cm) Overall with knobs: 66 1/2 × 24 1/2 in. (168.9 × 62.2 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1994
Accession Number:
1994.309
Not on view
The four deities in court dress represent a hierarchy of local Shinto gods (kami) important to Kōyasan, the great mountain-based complex of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. The upper pair comprises Kariba Myōjin (male) and Niu Myōjin (female), the gods of the mountain who welcomed the monk Kūkai (774–835) as he searched for a site on which to build a temple. The other two deities in the painting—Kehi, on the right, and Itsukushima Myōjin, playing a lute on the left—were worshiped by the Taira clan. All four deities are regarded as local manifestations of Buddhist gods: Kariba and Niu are identified with two aspects of Dainichi Nyorai (Sanskrit: Mahavairochana), Kehi with the Thousand‑Armed Kannon (Avalokiteshvara), and Itsukushima with Benzaiten (Saraswati). The pair of dogs at the bottom of the painting reference the canine companions of Kariba Myōjin, who is sometimes depicted as a hunter who is said to have guided Kūkai through the mountains.
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