Iconographic Drawings of the Secrets of the Nine Luminaries

Sōkan Japanese

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 223

Designed to foretell destiny and to help overcome the influence of unfavorable stellar configurations, the rituals of Esoteric Buddhism, imported from India and combined with native Daoism, played an indispensable role in the religious life of China. Rituals dedicated to stars were also introduced to Japan together with Esoteric Buddhist (Mikkyō ) teachings. Paintings depicting the stellar system were produced and disseminate through copies (zuzō).

This handscroll illustrates the Nine Luminaries (Sanskrit: Navagraha) that emerged from the Vedic tradition: the sun and moon; the planets Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury; and personifications of the ascending and descending lunar nodes. Each appears within a disk accompanied by a detailed text explaining the properties and appearance of the figure. The scroll originally would have served as an iconographic reference for monks.

Iconographic Drawings of the Secrets of the Nine Luminaries, Sōkan (Japanese, active late 11th–early 12th century), Handscroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.

section 1 of 13