Iconographic Drawings of Five Myōō

Period: Heian period (794–1185)

Date: 12th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on paper

Dimensions: 13 1/4 in. x 42 ft. 2 3/16 in. (33.7 x 1285.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: 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

Accession Number: 1975.268.6


The Zuzō shō, or Jikkanshō, is an encyclopedia of Esoteric Buddhist iconography in ten scrolls. The first edition is datable to the early twelfth century, when multiple versions of the iconography made it necessary to assemble and organize a guide to illustrating the many deities. This scroll is stylistically close to the oldest extant version of the Zuzō shō, housed at Daigo-ji from approximately 1193.

The Five Great Kings of Light are ferocious-looking deities who ward off evils in order to protect the Buddha's law. The unrolled section of this scroll shows four of the Great Kings; the passages of text on either side of the images identify the deities, give their mantras in both Japanese and Sanskrit, and describe, in encyclopedic detail, their iconographic attributes.