Aizen Myōō

Period: Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

Date: 14th century

Culture: Japan

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

Dimensions: 53 5/16 x 32 7/16 in. (135.4 x 82.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Mary Griggs Burke Gift, 1966

Accession Number: 66.90


The blood-red body and flaming halo of Aizen Myōō, the Wisdom King of Passion, symbolize how, in Buddhist practice, the violent energies of carnality and desire can be converted in the pursuit of enlightenment. Aizen Myōō is the embodiment of rage: his hair stands on end, a snarling lion rises from his head, and his six arms brandish Esoteric Buddhist weapons and other emblems of power. The bow and arrow in his middle hands are attributes appropriated from Kama, the Hindu god of love. In contrast to this righteous anger, jewels of good fortune forming flaming clusters spill from a vase in front of the deity’s lotus throne. While Aizen Myōō’s appearance may instill fear, the faithful afflicted with problems of the heart address him as a popular intercessor.