Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Shakyamuni Triad with the Sixteen Protectors of the Great Wisdom Sutra

Unidentified Artist Japanese
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
late 14th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, gold, and cut gold on silk
Image: 55 x 26 in. (139.7 x 66 cm) Overall with mounting: 93 1/4 x 34 1/4 in. (236.9 x 87 cm) Overall with knobs: 93 1/4 x 36 3/8 in. (236.9 x 92.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Sue Cassidy Clark Gift, in honor of Donald Keene, 2012
Accession Number:
Not on view
The historical Buddha Shakyamuni, known as Shaka in Japanese, sits on a lotus throne at the center of this painting—impressive in size, precision of brushwork, and coloration. He is surrounded by an entourage of deities and sheltered by a jeweled canopy. Flanking Shaka are two bodhisattvas: Fugen (Sanskrit: Samantabhadra), mounted on an elephant, and Monju (Sanskrit: Manjushri), on a lion. Also represented are sixteen deities who protect the Buddhist scripture known as the Great Wisdom Sutra (Japanese: Daihannyakyō; Sanskrit: Mahaprajnaparamita). Counted among the Sixteen Protectors are the Guardian Kings of the Four Directions.

At the bottom right stands the Chinese monk Genjō (Chinese: Xuanzang, 602–664). He carries a scripture in his left hand and a brush in his right; on his back is a large portable chest containing Buddhist texts. These motifs symbolize Genjō’s prominent role as a Buddhist scholar and translator of sutras from India, including the Great Wisdom Sutra. A fierce red deity wearing a skull necklace—the Jinja Daishō (Great General of the Desert), who protected Genjō during his travels in India—stands opposite him. This painting would have been hung in a Buddhist temple during ceremonies at which the Great Wisdom Sutra was read aloud.
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