Events in the Life of Köbö Daishi

Events in the Life of Köbö Daishi

Object Title:

Events in the Life of Köbö Daishi

Date:

late 13th-early 14th century

Artist:

Anonymous

Medium:

ink and color on paper

Dimensions:

13 x 289 5/8 in. (33 x 735.6 cm)

Credit Line:

Gift of Robert Allerton, 1952 (1689.1)

Geography:

Japan

Object Number:

1689.1

Other Title:

Kanji: 弘法大師行状絵巻

Description:

Executed in the classical Yamato-e technique, this is one of the best-preserved Kamakura-period narrative handscrolls in American collections. The scroll consists of fragments of three sections depicting key events in the life of Kükai (Köbö Daishi, 774-835), founder of the Esoteric Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Originally, the scroll included at least ten scenes, several of which are now in private Japanese collections. The section on display here shows Kükai's mother dreaming of an Indian saint entering her womb, whereupon he was conceived. Born into an aristocratic family, Kükai was a precocious youth. As a young man he studied Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. At the age of seventeen, he wrote a work entitled Indications of the Three Teachings in which he showed the superiority of Buddhism over the other two philosophies. In 804 Kükai sailed to China; upon arrival he went to the great Tang capital of Chang'an, where he studied Esoteric Buddhism with the master Huiguo (746-805). He returned to Japan in 806 and ten years later began the construction of a monastery on Mount Köya (Wakayama Prefecture) that would become the headquarters of the Shingon sect. Kükai introduced many of the key Esoteric texts and rituals to Japanese Buddhist practice. ALT TEXT This painting is one of the best-preserved Kamakura-period narrative handscrolls in American collections. The scroll consists of three sections depicting key events in the life of Kükai (Köbö Daishi, 774-835), the founder of the Esoteric sect in Japan. In its original state the scroll included at least ten scenes, several of these are now in private collections in Japan. Executed in the classical Yamato-e technique, here we see sections one, two and ten of the original handscroll 2002