Daiitoku Myōō

Period: Heian period (794–1185)

Date: 12th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Dimensions: Image: 28 1/4 x 21 1/8 in. (71.8 x 53.7 cm)
Overall with mounting: 65 1/2 x 26 1/2 in. (166.4 x 67.3 cm)
Overall with knobs: 65 1/2 x 28 1/2 in. (166.4 x 72.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.268.13


Daiitoku Myōō (Sanskrit: Yamantaka) is one of the five Great Light Kings of Esoteric Buddhism. His Sanskrit name means "one who stops the power of the King of Hell." He is shown with multiple heads, eyes, legs, and arms. Four hands hold a trident, a wheel, a sword, and a jeweled club while two hands join, with only the middle finger extended, in the mudra of restraint (konpon-in). Introduced from China by Kūkai (774–836), the five Great Light Kings became important ritual icons called upon to protect the nation during the Sutra of the Benevolent Kings Assembly, which was performed on special occasions. This drawing is almost identical in form to an image of Daiitoku Myōō that appears in an iconographic scroll of deities from the Sutra of the Benevolent Kings (Ninnōkyō) imported by Kūkai and housed at the important esoteric temple Daigoji in Kyoto. The brief description next to the image probably serves as a record of the attributes of the deity.