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


Seated on a pink and white lotus blossom and enclosed in a golden disc, Ame no oshikumone, the deity of Wakamiya Shrine at Kasuga, floats ethereally through space. Placed within the visual framework of a Buddhist deity and attired in the clothing of a noble youth, he holds a sword with his right hand, an allusion to his Buddhist counterpart Monju (Sanskrit: Manjusri), the bodhisattva of wisdom, whose attributes include a sword with which to cut through the illusions of the unenlightened mind. Monju is often depicted as a youthful figure, a visual reflection of his purified wisdom.

A wakamiya, or “young shrine,” is a type of subsidiary shrine usually dedicated to the child of a deity venerated in the shrine’s principal sanctuary and symbolizes youthfulness and rejuvenation.