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Ink Painting and the Rinpa Tradition

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Vimalakirti Sutra

Unidentified Artist , early 12th century

Period:
Northern Song dynasty (960–1127
Date:
dated January 13, 1119
Culture:
China
Medium:
Handscroll; gold and silver on purple silk
Dimensions:
11 in. × 26 ft. 7/8 in. (27.9 × 794.7 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
From the Collection of A. W. Bahr, Purchase, Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number:
47.18.2
  • Description

    Throughout Buddhism’s early history in China, the ascetic aspects of the religion—the practice of celibacy and self-deprivation—came into conflict with the Chinese family system and social values. The Vimalakirti Sutra, celebrating the supremely wise layman Vimalakirti, provided canonical proof that enlightenment and salvation were possible even for believers who remained outside monastic orders.

    In this scroll, which transcribes chapters 5 through 9 of the sacred text, the illuminated frontispiece portrays Vimalakirti seated on a dais preaching to a large audience. He is depicted with the attributes of a traditional Confucian scholar: long beard, fly whisk, and armrest. An inscription at the end of the scroll indicates that it was executed in remote southwest China, present-day Yunnan Province. Lavishly painted and written in gold and silver on purple silk, the scroll was commissioned by the prime minister of the independent kingdom of Dali as a gift for the Chinese ambassador.

  • See also
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    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
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