Mandala of Wakamiya of Kasuga Shrine (Kasuga wakamiya mandara)

Period: Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

Date: early 14th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, gold, and cut gold on silk

Dimensions: Image: 29 3/4 in. × 15 in. (75.6 × 38.1 cm)
Overall with mounting: 62 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. (158.8 x 52.1 cm)
Overall with knobs: 62 1/2 x 22 1/2 in. (158.8 x 57.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1997, and Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015

Accession Number: 1997.113


This noble youth is a Shinto deity, the titular god of the Wakamiya (literally, "Young Prince Shrine"), founded about 1135 in Nara within the compound of the Kasuga Shrine, one of the oldest (established 768) Shinto institutions. Although the god is shown in courtly attire, his lotus pedestal and circular mandorla give him the appearance of a Buddhist deity. Poised in midair, the figure radiates an aura of deep mystery.

Depicted as a young man, symbolizing the spirit of renewal, he is also a youthful incarnation of the Buddhist god of wisdom, Manjushri (Japanese: Monju), whose sword "severs" ignorance. He is thus a product of the effort to reconcile Japan's native Shinto beliefs with the imported religion of Buddhism, a conflated image blending Buddhist iconography with the Shinto ideation of its deities.