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Excursions from the Four Cardinal Gates: Encounter with the Four Sufferings of Birth, Old Age, Sickness, and Death from the Life of Buddha

Period:
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Date:
early 15th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Section of a wall panel mounted as a hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Dimensions:
29 1/2 x 43 7/8 in. (75 x 111.5 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Alvin Friedman-Kien, 1993
Accession Number:
1993.478.2
Not on view
Here, the fundamental truth that suffering is the essence of life is charmingly conveyed in the story of the young prince's excursions from the palace, where he had enjoyed a sheltered life of plenty and pleasure. In the canonical iconography of the life of the Buddha, he first meets an old man, then a sick one, then a corpse, and finally an ascetic who inspires the prince to abandon life in the palace to seek the truth. However, in this work, a birth scene at the lower right replaces the customary meeting with the ascetic. The scene of a birth is rare and is probably based on the Lotus Sutra, which preaches four essential sufferings.

The skillful brushwork employed for a tree in the upper left corner reflects Japanese artists' study of Chinese paintings and suggests a date in the early fifteenth century.
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