Illustrated Biography of Prince Shōtoku (Shōtoku Taishi e-den)


Not on view

Prince Shōtoku (574–622), a preeminent champion of Buddhism against the hereditary clans in charge of Shinto ritual, was venerated within a century after his death as an incarnation of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. Monks told parables about him inspired by the life of the Buddha, and episodes from his life decorated temples and shrines, aiding the spread of popular Buddhism throughout medieval Japan.

This hanging scroll and its pair depict sixty-two such scenes from the prince’s life, shown neither chronologically nor in an orderly spatial sequence but instead identified by accompanying inscriptions. Although Shōtoku lived during the early seventh century, when the capital was located in Asuka, these fourteenth-century paintings depict costumed figures, festive activities, and architectural settings inspired by the Kyoto imperial court during the Heian (794–1185) and Kamakura years.

Illustrated Biography of Prince Shōtoku (Shōtoku Taishi e-den), One of two hanging scrolls; ink, color, and gold on silk, Japan

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