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Masters of Mercy: Buddha's Amazing Disciples

Navigating the Six Realms

The rakan look down upon this spectacle of clownish force.
Scroll 32 Zoom
A three-faced, multiple-armed Ashura, deity of wrath, holds red and white orbs representing sun and moon.
Scroll 31 Zoom

The Six Realms: Warring Spirits, Five Hundred Arhats: Scrolls 31 and 32

Kano Kazunobu (1816–63)
Japan, Edo Period, ca. 1854–63
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
Collection, Zōjōji, Tokyo

In the right scroll, a three-faced, multiple-armed Ashura, deity of wrath, holds red and white orbs representing sun and moon. A celebrated eighth-century sculpture of this angry god is held at Kofukuji temple in Nara, which portrays him as a sensitive and melancholy youth. Kazunobu's Ashura could not be more different with his brazen, bellicose countenance.

A slasher film-worthy scene unfolds in the foreground of the left scroll. The stylized action and graphic violence recall the woodblock prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861), a contemporary of Kazunobu. From above, the rakan look down upon this spectacle of clownish force. It appears they have already washed their hands of these hopeless beings.