female figure in white robes seated on a jagged rock, with PR foot resting on PL foot; elegant headdress; vase with plant on rock at L; waterfall and cliff with foliage above

White-Robed Kannon, 15th century

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Painted images of the Buddhist deity Kannon wearing white robes and seated on a rocky outcropping emerged in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907) and became important in the Zen sect of Buddhism before it was introduced to Japan a few hundred years later. Such images refer to a passage from the Avatamsaka Sutra, a sacred Buddhist text that narrates the story of Zenzai Dōji, a boy who sets out on a journey of truth and consults with numerous teachers, Kannon being one of them. Kannon is a bodhisattva, an enlightened being that forgoes Buddhahood in order to assist humans on the path to enlightenment. According to the text, the boy finds Kannon in Fudaraku, the bodhisattva’s paradise, seated on a boulder in a warm, misty locale. The boy’s journey and his encounter with Kannon can be seen as allegories for Zen practice and the path to enlightenment, so Zen masters hung paintings of white-robed Kannon in the temple hall devoted to the training of novice monks.

Details
Title
White-Robed Kannon
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2015.79.48
Catalogue Raisonne
Murase, Art through a Lifetime, no. 94
Curator Approved

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female figure in white robes seated on a jagged rock, with PR foot resting on PL foot; elegant headdress; vase with plant on rock at L; waterfall and cliff with foliage above