© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1977.202
Title
"The Former Deeds of Bodhisattva Medicine King," Chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra (Hokekyô)
Other Titles
Title: Section of the Story of the Bodhisattva Medicine King Bhaishajyarâja (Yakuô Bosatsu), from Chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-pundarika sutra; Myôhô-renge-kyô or Hokke-kyô)
Transliterated Title: Myôhô-renge-kyô, Hokke-kyô (Saddharma-pundarika sutra): Yakuô Bosatsu (Bhaishajyarâja)
Classification
Calligraphy
Work Type
calligraphy, hanging scroll
Date
Late Heian period, c. 1150
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Period
Heian period, Late, 898-1185
Culture
Japanese
Location
Level 2, Room 2740, Buddhist Art
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Handscroll fragment mounted as a hanging scroll; ink on dyed paper decorated with ink, color, silver pigment, scattered gold- and silver-leaf, and cut-gold ruled lines
Dimensions
handscroll fragment only: H. 25 x W. 44 cm (9 13/16 x 17 5/16 in.)
mounting, including cord and roller ends: 109.2 x 63.5 cm (43 x 25 in.)
Provenance
Mrs. Donald F. Hyde, New York (by 1977), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1977.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mrs. Donald F. Hyde
Accession Year
1977
Object Number
1977.202
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
Of the numerous sutras (Buddhist texts) brought to Japan, the Lotus Sutra (Japanese: Myôhô-renge-kyô; Sanskrit: Saddharma-pundarika sutra) became the most popular and influential. Revered above all others for the salvation it promised to all who recited, recopied, or even ruminated upon it, the Lotus Sutra became a focus of worship for generations of pious Japanese Buddhists. Reading from top to bottom and right to left, this hanging scroll displays a section of the twenty-third chapter of the sutra, which was originally mounted in the horizontal handscroll format. The extant text lists the disease-curing blessings promised to all who worship the Lotus Sutra and ends with the title. The sumptuous paper on which it is written exemplifies a Japanese fascination with sprinkled gold and silver decoration that found its ultimate expression in maki-e (sprinkled design) lacquer. Delicately painted lotus plants line the upper and lower edges of the composition. The lotus is the international symbol of the Buddhist faith, signifying the beauty and purity of the Buddha's teachings despite their origins in this impure world of illusions.
Publication History

John M. Rosenfield and Fumiko Cranston, The Courtly Tradition in Japanese Art and Literature: Selections from the Hofer and Hyde Collections, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973), Cat. No. 10 / pp. 52-53 (and color plate II & back cover photo)

Yoshiaki Shimizu and John M. Rosenfield, Masters of Japanese Calligraphy, 8th-19th Century, exh. cat., Asia Society Galleries (New York, NY, 1984), Cat. No. 006 / p. 45 and color photo on p. 18

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), Cat. #51 / p. 50, illustrated

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 74-75, illustrated

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 42

Exhibition History

Masterworks of East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/03/1995 - 06/09/1996

Japanese Art of the Heian Period (794-1185), Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 06/06/2002 - 07/05/2002

A Compelling Legacy: Masterworks of East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/24/2004 - 03/20/2005

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

2 - Adequate. Object is adequately described but information may not be vetted