“Universal Gateway,” Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra
Calligrapher: Sugawara Mitsushige (Japanese, active mid- 13th century)
Kamakura period (1185–1333)
Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper
Overall with mounting: 9 11/16 in. × 30 ft. 8 1/16 in. (24.6 × 934.9 cm)
Purchase, Louisa Eldridge McBurney Gift, 1953
Not on view
One of the masterworks of the Met’s Buddhist painting collection, this handscroll is the earliest known painted version of the twenty-fifth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which is known as the “Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds.” The text of the sutra is interspersed with thirty-four colorful images that celebrate the merciful acts of the bodhisattva Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara).
According to the inscription, this work was modeled after a Chinese printed book of 1208, which in turn was based on an earlier painted handscroll. The anonymous artist transforms the Chinese original through the inclusion of indigenous yamato-e (traditional Japanese painting style) elements, especially in the landscapes.
Signature: Sugawara Mitsushige (the writer; painter is unknown)