Kumano Shrine Mandala

Artist: Unidentified Artist

Period: Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

Date: early 14th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Dimensions: Image: 51 15/16 x 22 13/16 in. (131.9 x 57.9 cm)
Overall with mounting: 86 5/8 x 29 15/16 in. (220 x 76 cm)
Overall with knobs: 86 5/8 x 32 in. (220 x 81.3 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of Dr. Mortimer D. Sackler, Theresa Sackler and Family, 2006

Accession Number: 2006.521


Kumano mandalas represent the Kumano Shrine complex, one of the most sacred sites in Japan. The painting is divided into three sections. At center, Buddhas and bodhisattvas sit on the tiled floor of a temple. In the bottom register, Shinto deities appear against mountains that dip into the Pacific Ocean. The top register reflects the distinctive confluence of Shinto and Buddhism that took place in medieval Japan, depicting deities from both religious traditions standing side by side. At right is Nachi Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Japan, whose tutelary deity—the one-thousand-armed Kannon—is shown in shining gold. Standing against the tallest peak is the three-eyed, blue-bodied Zaō Gongen, the tutelary deity of yamabushi (mountain-dwelling practitioners of a sect known as Shugendō). The sect's legendary founder, En no Gyōja, can be seen seated in a nearby cave, flanked by his two servant-demons.