The Four Deities of Mount Kōya


Not on view

The temple complex on Mount Kōya, south of Kyoto and Nara, has served as the headquarters of the Shingon sect since it was established in the ninth century by Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi, 774–835), who is credited with introducing Esoteric Buddhist teachings from China. This painting shows the four primary deities, or myōjin, of Niutsuhime Shrine, a sacred site at the base of the mountain. The deities are seated on platforms before trifold screens within a shrine building whose entrance is guarded by a pair of lions. The site’s original deities, Niu and her male counterpart, the hunter deity Kariba, are shown at the top. Below them are two female deities, Kehi at right and Itsukushima at left. At the bottom of the picture are two dogs, one black and one white, who, along with their master, Kariba, are said to have originally guided Kūkai to this remote location.

The Four Deities of Mount Kōya, Hanging scroll; ink, color and gold on silk, Japan

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