“Universal Gateway,” Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra

Artist: Calligrapher: Sugawara Mitsushige (Japanese, active mid- 13th century)

Period: Kamakura period (1185–1333)

Date: dated 1257

Culture: Japan

Medium: Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper

Dimensions: Overall with mounting: 9 11/16 in. × 30 ft. 8 1/16 in. (24.6 × 934.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Louisa Eldridge McBurney Gift, 1953

Accession Number: 53.7.3


This scroll illustrates episodes taken from chapter 25, the "Universal Gate" chapter, of the Lotus Sutra. This popular text describes the manifold mercies of the compassionate bodhisattva Kannon, the most beloved bodhisattva in East Asia.

According to the calligrapher Sugawara-no-Mitsushige's inscription, this scroll was made in the first year of the Shoka era (1257) and was modeled after a Chinese Song-dynasty printed book dated 1208. Although the compositions and the figural and architectural motifs of this version reflect Chinese pictorial traditions, it is clear that the anonymous artist inventively incorporated native Japanese (yamato-e) elements, especially in the manner of representing the landscapes and the fantastic beasts and demons.