The Secrets of the Nine Luminaries (Kuyō hiryaku)
Sōkan (Japanese, active late 11th–early 12th century)
Heian period (794–1185)
Handscroll; ink and color on paper
11 1/4 in. x 26 ft. 6 1/4 in. (28.5 x 808.3 cm)
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Not on view
Designed to foretell destiny and to help overcome the influence of unfavorable stellar configurations, the rituals of Esoteric Buddhism, imported from India and combined with native Daoism, played an indispensable role in the religious life of China. Rituals dedicated to stars were also introduced to Japan together with Esoteric Buddhist (Mikkyō ) teachings. Paintings depicting the stellar system were produced and disseminate through copies (zuzō).
This handscroll illustrates the Nine Luminaries (Sanskrit: Navagraha) that emerged from the Vedic tradition: the sun and moon; the planets Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury; and personifications of the ascending and descending lunar nodes. Each appears within a disk accompanied by a detailed text explaining the properties and appearance of the figure. The scroll originally would have served as an iconographic reference for monks.