Greater Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom (Daihannyaharamita-kyo)

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Historical period(s)
Nara period, 8th century
Handscroll; Ink on paper
H x W (overall): 25.9 x 854.9 cm (10 3/16 x 336 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Harold P. Stern Memorial Fund
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Buddhism, Japan, Nara period (645 - 794), sutra, WWII-era provenance

Colin Franklin, Oxford, England, acquired from Japan [1]

To 1993
Joshua Heller, Washington, DC, to 1993

From 1993
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Joshua Heller in 1993


[1] According to Joshua Heller (see Curatorial Note 1, J. Heller, March 29, 1993, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s)

Joshua Heller
Colin Franklin


Sutras transmit the teachings of the Historical Buddha and other sacred texts of Buddhism. In Japan—which had no written language when Buddhism was introduced from Korea in the sixth century—sutras translated from the Indian language Sanskrit were written and copied in Chinese characters. Chinese has remained the dominant language of Japanese Buddhist scholarship and ritual to the present day. Scriptoria established under governmental sponsorship produced sets of sutras for newly established temples throughout Japan. This sutra, written with a brush and black ink in regulated lines on yellow-dyed paper, is a typical early example from a large set most likely produced in a scriptorium in Nara. The writing reflects the earlier style of Chinese sutras of the Sui dynasty, which may have served as models for Japanese monks mastering calligraphy. The paper also shows signs that it once was folded like a concertina book, which would have been convenient for reading and study. Red dots were applied by the scholar monk Eion, a priest of the Kofukuji in Nara, who annotated sutras in the temple’s extensive library.

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum