The Illustrated Sutra of Past and Present Karma (Kako genzai inga kyō emaki)

Artist: Unidentified Artist Japanese, active late 13th century

Period: Kamakura period (1185–1333)

Date: late 13th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Dimensions: Image: 10 7/8 x 22 3/8 in. (27.6 x 56.8 cm)
Overall with mounting: 43 1/2 x 23 1/4 in. (110.5 x 59.1 cm)
Overall with knobs: 43 1/2 x 25 1/4 in. (110.5 x 64.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, several members of The Chairman's Council Gifts, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and Mary and James G. Wallach Foundation Gifts, 2012

Accession Number: 2012.249


Sinicized figures representing the Buddha’s father and his men occupy a landscape with a rolling hill and trees. The text beneath the illustration relates how Prince Siddhartha (the historical Buddha) travels to Mount Gaya and practices asceticism for six years. The worried king dispatches ministers to report on his son’s activities and orders that he be brought one thousand cartfuls of daily necessities and watched over at all times.

This work is a section of a handscroll version of the Buddhist scripture The Illustrated Sutra of Past and Present Karma. It details the lives, past and present, of the historical Buddha. The earliest examples of this work in Japan, which date to the eighth century, are thought to be copies of now-lost ancient Chinese originals.