“Universal Gateway,” Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra

Artist: Calligrapher: Sugawara Mitsushige (Japanese, active mid- 13th century)

Period: Kamakura period (1185–1333)

Date: dated 1257

Culture: Japan

Medium: Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper

Dimensions: Overall with mounting: 9 11/16 in. × 30 ft. 8 1/16 in. (24.6 × 934.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Louisa Eldridge McBurney Gift, 1953

Accession Number: 53.7.3

Description

One of the masterworks of the Met’s Buddhist painting collection, this handscroll is the earliest known painted version of the twenty-fifth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which is known as the “Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds.” The text of the sutra is interspersed with thirty-four colorful images that celebrate the merciful acts of the bodhisattva Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara).

According to the inscription, this work was modeled after a Chinese printed book of 1208, which in turn was based on an earlier painted handscroll. The anonymous artist transforms the Chinese original through the inclusion of indigenous yamato-e (traditional Japanese painting style) elements, especially in the landscapes.

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