Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Mandala of Hannya Bosatsu

Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
14th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, gold, and gold foil on silk
Image: 64 1/2 x 48 5/8 in. (163.8 x 123.5 cm) Overall with painted mounting: 83 1/4 x 57 3/4 in. (211.5 x 146.7 cm) Overall with mounting: 126 x 65 1/16 in. (320 x 165.2 cm) Overall with knobs: 126 x 69 11/16 in. (320 x 177 cm)
Credit Line:
Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2000
Accession Number:
Not on view
The bodhisattva Hannya, an emanation of the Cosmic Buddha Dainichi as the embodiment of ultimate knowledge and perfect wisdom, is depicted in the center of the painting, seated on a lotus pedestal and mounted on the back of a lion. The deity is attended by Bonten (Sanskrit: Brahma) and Taishakuten (Sanskrit: Indra) and surrounded in alternating registers by figures from the Buddhist pantheon: bodhisattvas, guardian deities, demons, and heavenly musicians. A monk makes an offering before the second gate at the bottom of the outermost register, reminding the viewer of the world of causes and conditions.

The painting is an example of a “single deity mandala” (besson mandara), which focuses on a particular aspect of a deity and is used in rituals to invoke that aspect. The compositional structure of the mandala reflects the cosmological order in descending degrees of sublimity, from the center to the periphery.
The iconography of Esoteric Buddhism is the most elaborate and complex in the Buddhist tradition. The rich multitude of its icons and deities is most comprehensively represented in two mandalas, the Womb World (Taizōkai) and the Diamond World (Kongōkai), which together are the fundamental manifestation of the cosmic world. The earliest extant pair in Japan, which are characteristic of the type, in Tōji (Kyōō Gokokuji), Kyoto, are believed to be a ninth-century copy of a late Tang Chinese original (figs. 32).[1]

Han'nya Bosatsu (Skt: Prajnaparamita), the embodiment of transcendental knowledge and perfect wisdom, appears with six arms in the Womb World mandala in the jimyōin (Hall of Vidyadhara), below the central section of the hachiyōin (eight-petaled lotus).[2] The principal icon in this section, Han'nya Bosatsu is flanked by two figures on each side: on the right by Gōzanze Myōō (Vajrahumkara) and Fudō Myōō (Achala), and on the left by Daiitoku Myōō (Yamantaka) and Shōzanze Myōō (Trailokyavijaya).

In the Burke mandala, a two-armed Han'nya Bosatsu is the central icon of the entire painting.[3] Attended by Bonten (Brahma) and Taishakuten (Indra), originally two of the three highest-ranking gods of Hinduism, he is enshrined as if on an altar. In accordance with iconographic descriptions of Han'nya Bosatsu in the Darani Jūkkyo Sutra (Collection of Magical Spells), the bodhisattva's Sixteen Protectors (J: Jūroku Zenshin) appear within the surrounding register, the Demonic Guardians (J: Kijin) in the outer register.[4] Heavenly music-making hiten are shown at the top, and Chinese-style dragons and a phoenix along the outer borders serve to protect this abstract, yet highly representational, realm. The directional gates provide entrance from the secular to the sacred precinct. The outer borders, painted in red with floral decoration, recall the borders of the Womb World mandala at Tōji.

The meditative containment of the three central figures enhances the devotional quality of the image. The painting is rendered in intense malachite green and azurite blue, to which has been applied patterns in cut-gold foil (kirikane ). The ritual implements, gates, and robes are richly represented in gold pigment over areas raised by a buildup of red-colored shell powder (moriage). These technical features are characteristic of mandalas of the Muromachi period.

The Bosatsu is portrayed seated on a lotus pedestal on the back of a lion. In his left hand is a sutra box, while his right hand is held in the seganin mudra, sign of the fulfilling of the vow. Following the description in the Darani Jūkkyo, he has a white body and wears a jeweled crown; the text does not mention the flaming jewel above his head. The text refers to the Bosatsu as Mother of All Buddhas (Han'nya Butsumo ), and the description is that of a heavenly female.[5] It is often difficult in Japanese mandalas to discern whether Han'nya Bosatsu is male or female, in contrast to the explicit manifestations of the bodhisattva in the Indian and Tibetan Tantric traditions. The iconography of Bonten and Taishakuten in the present work is similarly faithful to the descriptions in the Darani Jūkkyo.

The Sixteen Protectors are identified by their descriptions in the Han'nya shugo jūroku zenjinnō gyōtai (Iconographic Manual of the Appearance of the Sixteen Protectors for the Perfection of Wisdom).[6] They comprise the Four Guardian Kings—Kōmokuten, Tamonten, Jikokuten, and Zōchōten—who guard the west gate, the front gate of the central altar at the bottom of the central square-and twelve additional Protectors, four each guarding the north, east, and south gates. Their names and distinctive iconographic features are listed below in a clockwise sequence, beginning with the Protector at the left of the west gate.[7]

Daitorada Zenjin, also known as Jikokuten, with greenish blue body, large sword, and spear.

Birurokusha Zenjin, also known as Zōchōten, with vajra (thunderbolt) and left fist at hip.

Saifuku Dokugai Zenjin (Subjugator of Evil Impediments), with red body, three-pronged sword, hair standing on end, and left hand at chest.

Zōyaki Zenjin (Increaser of Merit or Bestower of Merit), with four arms, threepronged sword, crescent moon, willow branch, and wheel disk.

Kanki Zenjin (Great Joy), with green body, peacock headdress, halberd, and left fist at hip.

Jo lssai Shōnan Zenjin (Eliminator of Obstacles), with six arms, three-pronged halberd, three-pronged staff, sutra text, stupa, red lotus flower, and conch.

Batsujo Zaiku Zenjin (Remover of Defilements), with red body, five-pronged staff, and right fist at head.

Nōnin Zenjin (Excellence in Endurance), with blue body, hood on head, threepronged sword, and spear.

Yumō Shinchi Zenshin (Wellspring Ground of Fierce Courage), with mudra gebaku ken-in (outer-bonded fist), in which palms join with fingers interlocked.[8]

Shishi Imō Zenjin (Leonine Awe-Inspiring Majesty), with four arms with axes, lionheaded crown, sword, sutra box, and trident.

Nōku Shou Zenjin (Able to Save the Myriad Existences), with mudra of worship (koshin gasshō, Clasp of the Empty Heart).[6]

Shōfuku Shoma Zenjin (Subjugator of the Myriad Evils), with hair standing on end, three-pronged sword, and left hand open.

Kugo lssai Zenjin (Savior and Protector of All Sentient Beings), with mudra of worship and red lotus flower.

Ri lssai Fui Zenjin (Free of All Fear), with three-pronged skull on head, single-pronged vajra, and left fist at hip.

Birubakusha Zenjin, also known as Kōmokuten, with brush and scroll.

Beshiramanu Zenjin, also known as Tamonten, with bluish body, vajra staff, and stupa.

The compositional structure of the mandala describes a gradual shift in the degree of iconic divinity from the center to the outer registers. The symmetrically arranged triad at the center inhabits the most sacred precinct. The Sixteen Protectors are more loosely distributed and their poses are more natural, reflecting their closeness to the secular realm. The seven thousand Demonic Guardians that protect each of the Sixteen Protectors inhabit the outermost register; profane creatures, they are far from the center of divinity. At the bottom center of the outermost register is the figure of a monk at worship, evoking the physical world of time and space. Thus the hierarchical structure of the world of Han'nya Bosatsu.

[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]

[1] Yanagisawa Taka 1982, pp. 123–33.

[2] Another manifestation of Han'nya Bosatsu appears in the Diamond World mandala, where the deity is known as Han'nya Butsumo (Mother of All Buddhas). See Sawa Ryūken 1962, pp. 97–98; and Ueda Reijō 1989, pp. 463–65.

[3] Hayashi On (1988, pp. 75–91) suggests that the two-armed Han'nya Bosatsu was used for the Han’nya Shingyōhō, the ceremonial recitation of the Han’nya Shingyō (Heart Sutra), while the six-armed Han'nya Bosatsu was the main icon for the Han’nya Bosatsuhō (Han'nya Bosatsu Rites). The Burke painting is perhaps an indication of the continuation of the Han’nya Shingyōhō in the Muromachi period.

[4] Daizōkyō 1914–32, vol. 18, no. 901, pp. 804–12.

[5] In the Indian and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Prajnaparamita (Han'nya Bosatsu) is a goddess. See Bhattacharyya 1924, pp. 84–86; and Saraswati 1977, pp. L–LI. I wish to thank Dr. Steven Kossak, of the Metropolitan Museum, for providing me with chis particular iconography.

[6] Daizōkyō 1914–34, vol. 21, no. 1293, p. 378.

[7] A twelfth-century compilation of iconographic drawings, Besson zakki, represents an almost identical iconography of the Sixteen Protectors. Daizōkyō zuzō 1932–34, vol. 3, pp. 311–27. I am indebted to Dr. Frederic Kotas, Asian Studies, Cornell University, for translations of the names of the Sixteen Protectors.

[8] Saunders 1985, p. 119.

[9] Ibid., pp. 40, 72, 78.
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2000; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30, 2000–June 25, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Graceful Gestures: A Decade of Collecting Japanese Art," September 29, 2001–March 10, 2002.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Paintings from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection," October 1, 2002–March 2, 2003.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," July 2, 2005–November 29, 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Spring and Summer," December 17, 2005–June 4, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Autumn and Winter," June 22, 2006–September 10, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Graceful Gestures: Two Decades of Collecting Japanese Art," 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Drama of Eyes and Hands: Sharaku's Portraits of Kabuki Actors," September 20, 2007–March 24, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japanese Mandalas: Emanations and Avatars," June 18, 2009–November 30, 2009.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–January 22, 2017.

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