© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Mandala of Mount Kōya (Kōyasan mandara)
Other Titles
Transliterated Title: Kôyasan mandara (Mandala)
Work Type
hanging scroll, painting
Muromachi period, 16th century
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Muromachi period, 1392-1568
Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll: ink and colors on hemp(?)
painting proper: H. 170.9 x W. 74.3 cm (67 5/16 x 29 1/4 in.)
mounting, including cord and roller ends: H. 274.3 x W. 101.6 cm (108 x 40 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Label Text: Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Paintings from China, Korea, and Japan , written 2000
This majestic landscape depicts the environs of Kongôbu-ji, the great Buddhist temple complex on Mount Kôya, near Osaka. Founded in 809 by Kûkai (774–835, also known posthumously as Kôbô Daishi), Kongôbu-ji was the seat of the Shingon sect that he brought back from China. Shingon is a form of Esoteric Buddhism in which elaborate rituals and complex, mysterious works of art are used to assist devotees in a secretive, direct, master-disciple transmission of enlightenment. Because of Kûkai’s great influence, Shingon gained the support of many aristocrats and emperors. Within the Shingon tradition, the term mandara (Sanskrit, mandala) usually describes a pair of cosmic diagrams that together depict over 1,400 deities, in elaborate geometric patterns. Gradually, the foreign (Buddhist) deities of Shingon were equated with indigenous Japanese deities, and a new type of syncretic tradition was formed. Religious landscape paintings like this one are known as sankei, or pilgrimage, mandara because they depict the actual landscape of a specific religious establishment rather than a metaphorical geometric diagram. The organization of this landscape—the layout of mountainous paths that run between the readily recognizable temple buildings and the lively figures that traverse them—creates an almost narrative atmosphere. The mate to this painting is now in the collection of the Tokyo College of Fine Arts.

Exhibition History

Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Paintings from China, Korea, and Japan, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/25/2000 - 08/26/2001

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

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu