Sutra of seeing the bodhisattva Fugen

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Historical period(s)
Heian period, late 12th century
Gold and silver on indigo-dyed paper
H x W (overall): 25.4 x 76.9 cm (10 x 30 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Buddhism, cloud, elephant, halo, Heian period (794 - 1185), Japan, Lotus Sutra, mandorla, Samantabhadra, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Mayuyama & Co., Ltd.


Rendered entirely in gold and silver on indigo-dyed paper, the frontispiece painting of this Buddhist sutra, or sacred text, portrays the bodhisattva Fugen descending to earth riding on a lotus-form pedestal borne by a six-tusked elephant. In a cave at lower left illuminated by rays of light emanating from the deity, a monk recites passages from the Lotus Sutra,the larger work to which this scroll once belonged. Buddhists believed that reciting the text of this scroll would invoke a vision of the deity. The precious materials of gold and silver were employed extensively in Buddhist paintings and sculpture to represent the radiant light that emanated from enlightened deities and sacred space. Here gold and silver are the appropriate media to reveal a miraculous vision.

Published References
  • Chuōkōron bijutsu shuppan. Toshodai-ji kokyō sen. entries 72, 73, and 74.
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho (Japanese Art : Selections from Western Collections). 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. pl. 107.
  • Rose Hempel. The Golden Age of Japan, 794-1192. New York. fig. 114.
  • Zaigai hiho (Japanese Paintings in Western Collections). 3 vols., Tokyo. p. 46, pl. 32.
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 20, p. 68-69.
  • Sudo Hirotoshi. Heian jidai no teikei kyokan mikaeshi-e ni tsuite (On Frontispieces of some typical Sutras of the Hei'an period). no. 136 Tokyo, May 1981. pp. 85-118, footnote 33.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 93.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 1, p. 153.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington, D.C. pp. 170-171.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum