Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Mandala of the Four Deities of Mount Kōya

Period:
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
Date:
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
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 223
The four deities in court dress in this painting represent a hierarchy of local Shinto gods (kami) involved in the founding and perpetuation of the great Shingon Esoteric Buddhist headquarters on Mount Kōya. 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 identified as local manifestations of Buddhist gods: Kariba and Niu are aspects of Dainichi Nyorai (Sanskrit: Mahavairochana); Kehi is an aspect of the Thousand-Armed Kannon (Avalokiteshvara); and Itsukushima is an aspect of Benzaiten (Saraswati).
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