Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon

Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon © Metropolitan Museum of Art羅漢図 Ten Rakan Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon
Katō Nobukiyo

The Rakan (Arhat) in this example are shown examining a painting of White-Robed Kannon (Sanskrit: Pandaravasini Avalokitesvara), the Bodhisattva of compassion.

Close looking reveals an extraordinary technical feat: all the pictorial elements — figures, architecture, tree, painted scroll, even facial details and shaded areas — are delineated in Chinese characters.

The characters spell out a section of the Lotus Sutra. The meticulous transcription of this influential text to create the outlines of a religious image is at once an artistic tour de force and a demonstration of religious piety.

 

Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon © Metropolitan Museum of Art

Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon © Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe artist Katō Nobukiyo took lay Buddhist vows in his early fifties.

In 1788, he set out to paint five hundred disciples of Buddha called rakan (Sanskrit: arhat), placing ten figures on each of fifty hanging scrolls.

By 1792 his project was completed and the paintings dedicated to Ryūkōji Temple in Edo (present-day Tokyo).

From the wonderful Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ten Rakan Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon © Metropolitan Museum of Art



Categories: Art, Buddhism

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