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Hōnen

Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
18th–early 19th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Wood, with traces of color and gilt and inset glass eyes
Dimensions:
H. 33 3/4 in. (85.7 cm); W. 24 1/2 in. (62.2 cm); D. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1912
Accession Number:
12.37.167
Not on view
Sitting upon a lotus pedestal is an eminent monk associated with the practice of Pure Land Buddhism, Hōnen, of the Kamakura period (1185–1333). He positions his hands one above the other, poised to grip a chain of beads designed for counting recitations of the Buddha Amida’s (Sanskrit: Amitābha) name (nenbutsu). Followers of Pure Land Buddhism aim to experience birth in the realm of Amida, a paradise ideally suited for the pursuit of enlightenment. The sculpture is one of a pair, the other sculpture depicting Shandao (Japanese: Zendō) of Tang-dynasty (618–906) China. Shandao’s religious thought inspired that of Hōnen, and the two are often shown together in paintings. The paintings are based upon a vision of Shandao experienced by Hōnen. In the dream, the Chinese monk validates Hōnen’s mission to spread throughout Japan the belief in Amida’s salvific powers. The two face one another, Shandao floating above Hōnen on a bank of clouds. Sculpted, seated figures of the pair such as this are unusual, although paintings of the two seated facing forward in Chinese-style chairs are known.

Both this sculpture and its mate are identified on their backs in ink.
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