Memyō Bosatsu (Ashvaghosha Bodhisattva) Mounted on a Horse


Not on view

The Bodhisattva Memyō is represented sitting regally upon a white horse while balancing a scale in one hand and a red disc in the other. Memyō is the Japanese reading of the name of Indian-born Ashvaghosha (circa 80–150 AD), who was not only a scholar of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, but also a renowned poet and dramatist. His name literally means "the sound (ghosha), or neighing, of a horse (ashva)," which we can assume led to the development of the association with equine iconography. The way of representing the bodhisattva is thought to have originated from depictions of a folk deity associated with sericulture in Chinese folk religion. This deity was later assimilated into the pantheon of Buddhist deities in Japan, where he protects those involved with silkworm raising and the production or weaving of silk, and is said to provide clothing for those in need.

Memyō Bosatsu (Ashvaghosha Bodhisattva) Mounted on a Horse, Unidentified Artist, Hanging scroll; ink, color and gold on paper, Japan

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