Taima Mandala

Period: Kamakura period (1185–1333)

Date: 14th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Dimensions: Image: 36 1/8 x 28 5/8 in. (91.8 x 72.7 cm)
Overall with mounting: 74 1/2 x 36 3/4 in. (189.2 x 93.3 cm)
Overall with knobs: 74 1/2 x 38 3/8 in. (189.2 x 97.5 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1957

Accession Number: 57.156.6


Unlike more abstract mandalas in which myriad Buddhas and other aspects of the cosmos are placed in geometric relationships within a painting, the Taima mandala depicts a paradise made up of buildings and gardens. Amida sits enthroned at the center of a palatial landscape, flanked by attendant bodhisattvas, musicians, dancers, and celestial beings. In the foreground is a pond in which the faithful are reborn in lotus blossoms. Jeweled trees and flowers, forever in bloom, add to the sense of splendor.

Surrounding this glorious scene is a frieze of smaller vignettes from the Kanmuryojukyo Sutra that teach the living how to attain salvation.The left side tells the story of Queen Vaidehi, who achieved rebirth in paradise by performing sixteen meditations as instructed by Amida. The right-hand border enumerates thirteen of the sixteen meditations. In the lower right corner, Amida is shown descending with many bodhisattvas to lead a devotee to his Western Paradise.

Based on Chinese Tang-dynasty compositions, the Taima mandala was introduced to Japan with the first Pure Land teachings during the Nara period. With the enormous popularity of Honen's Pure Land sect four centuries later, during the Kamakura period, this type of mandala was revived and continued to be made throughout the Edo period. A temple in the Nara region, Taima-dera, houses the earliest version of this mandala, a tapestry believed to have been miraculously woven from lotus fiber by a young noblewoman, Chujo-hime, who was considered a manifestation of the Bodhisattva Kannon.