Art/ Collection/ Art Object

北宋 小楷書維摩詰經 卷
The Vimalakirti Sutra

Unidentified Artist Chinese, early 12th century
Northern Song dynasty (960–1127
dated January 13, 1119
Handscroll; gold and silver on purple silk
11 in. × 26 ft. 7/8 in. (27.9 × 794.7 cm)
Credit Line:
From the Collection of A. W. Bahr, Purchase, Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number:
Not on view
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.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription (512 columns in standard script)


Yin Huifu 尹輝富 (active early 12th c.), 9 columns in standard script, dated 1119:

[ A. W. Bahr , until 1947; sold to MMA]
Nara National Museum. "Depictions of Buddhist Scriptures," April 28, 1990–May 27, 1990.

Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "Buddhist Art from Yunnan Province "Der Goldschatz der Drei Pagoden"," May 4, 1991–July 12, 1991.

Lawrence. Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. "Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850–1850," August 28, 1994–October 9, 1994.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. "Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850–1850," November 16, 1994–January 11, 1995.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Resonant Image: Tradition in Japanese Art (Part One)," 1997–98.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Text and Image: The Interaction of Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy," January 23, 1999–August 16, 1999.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan II," March 22, 2003–September 21, 2003.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Secular and Sacred: Scholars, Deities, and Immortals in Chinese Art," September 10, 2005–January 8, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Printed Image in China: From the 8th to the 21st Centuries," May 5, 2012–July 29, 2012.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection II," May 7, 2016–October 11, 2016.

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