Exhibitions/ Art Object

Portrait of Shandao Dashi (Japanese: Zendō Daishi)

Unidentified Artist
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
14th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Image: 27 3/16 × 16 7/8 in. (69 × 42.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by John C. Weber Collection
Not on view
The Chinese monk Shandao (613–681) is represented in the formal mode of portraits painted in China during the Song dynasty (960–1279). The style was quickly adopted in Japan following the importation of examples from the continent. Seated and standing images of Shandao intoning the name of the Buddha Amida (Sanskrit: Amitābha) are venerated by followers of Japan’s Pure Land and True Pure Land Schools of Buddhism. Here, each utterance of the Buddha’s name appears in the corporal form of Amida. The iconography relates to a passage from Shandao’s commentary on a central Pure Land sacred text in which the monk indicates that if a person intones the name of Amida “even ten times, or only once,” he will be reborn in Amida’s Pure Land.

The painting shares its iconography with one belonging to Ryūshōji Temple in Gifu Prefecture. Comparison with the Ryūshōji painting reveals that this painting originally would have included ten images of Amida, in keeping with the text of the sutra, instead of the present five. The painting may have been altered to fit a ritual space that was not as large as that for which it was originally intended.