The Arhat painting at Kōmyōji Temple: Iconography, style, and the worship of Buddha in East Asia

Thursday 25 January, 2024
5:00pm GMT - 7:00pm GMT

Speaker: Rei Maizawa (Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties)

About the talk

Arhats are some of the most popular deities in Buddhism. In Medieval Japan, where arhat worship flourished, many paintings and sculptures of arhats were created.

Additionally, numerous artworks were imported from China and have been treasured in Japan up until the present day. An arhat painting owned by Kōmyōji temple is believed to be an example of those dating back to the Yuan dynasty. The painting displays idiosyncratic iconography not found in other examples, such as an arhat with hands clasped in prayer, attendants, Deva, Jīvajīvaka, Kalaviṅka, and the Mani jewel in the center of the composition.

In this presentation, I will first examine the painting style of this artwork and explain why I regarded it to have been painted in China during the Yuan dynasty. Secondly, I will discuss the meaning of the iconography, including each of the characters depicted and the Mani jewel, with reference to other paintings and Buddhist scriptures. Finally, through the examination of iconography, I will conclude that the subject of this painting is the worship of the Buddha.

This event is organised by the SOAS Centre for the Study of Japanese Religion and Centre of Buddhist Studies.

Open to all. It will take place at SOAS Main building, Room R201


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