Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Image: 151.2 x 84.1 cm (59 1/2 x 33 1/8 in.); Overall: 261 x 106.6 cm (102 3/4 x 41 15/16 in.); with knobs: 261 x 113.3 cm (102 3/4 x 44 5/8 in.)
Edward L. Whittemore Fund 1938.422
Each of the Divine Generals has an identifying zodiac animal in his hair or headdress.
In the 700s, people in Japan began praying to the Medicine Master Buddha (Yakushi Nyorai) for longevity. Many sculptures of him were made, but there are few painted images like this one. Yakushi is at the center, flanked left and right by the bodhisattvas of the sun and moon, Nikkō and Gakkō, and surrounded by the protective Twelve Divine Generals. Yakushi sits in a meditative pose with his right hand in a gesture bestowing fearlessness, and his left hand holding a medicine jar. Much gold is used in illustrating the patterns of the generals’ clothing, while Yakushi’s robes feature silver in their details. In the upper part of the painting are rectangles painted to simulate colored and patterned paper slips used for inscriptions. They contain excerpts from a sacred text about Yakushi in which he asks that sick people who speak his name should become well, and that all who hear his name might have their purity restored.
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