Scroll of Deities of the Diamond World Mandala


Not on view

This iconographic handscroll features representations of the thirty-seven principal Buddhist deities from the Diamond World Mandala, along with auxiliary deities, amounting to a total of forty-nine deities. According to an inscription, it was copied from a scroll belonging to the temple Zentō-in on Mount Hiei in Shiga prefecture. Zentō-in, in fact, possesses a scroll very similar to this one. Known as the Scroll of the Thirty-Seven Deities, the Zentō-in scroll was brought to Japan from China by the founder of the Tendai School, Saichō (767–822), in 806. Distinct from the Diamond World Mandala of Kūkai's (774–835) Shingon School (see example), in which bodhisattvas are shown sitting on lotus thrones, this Tendai School scroll depicts bodhisattvas riding animals and birds. The identities of some of the deities in the scroll are indicated with Sanskrit letters, while the attributes held by others are noted with Chinese characters. Scrolls such as this one were often copied by initiates into Esoteric Buddhism as a means of instruction, but the fine line work of this scroll indicates that it was brushed by a professional artist. It may have been used as a model for the production of hanging-scroll format painted mandalas.

Scroll of Deities of the Diamond World Mandala, Handscroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

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