Education About Asia: Online Archives

Identifying Buddhist Images in Japanese Painting and Sculpture

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Two of the most significant mandalas in Japanese Buddhism are the Taizokai Mandara, the “Womb-realm Mandala,” and the Kongokai Mandara, the “Diamond-realm Mandala.” Both are displayed at To-ji, a Shingon sect temple founded in 796 in Kyoto, as well as in other Shingon temples throughout Japan. The two mandalas are used in worship and in meditation practice as a means to secure enlightenment. Almost immediately, one is impressed by the sheer number of images in these two works of art. The Taizokai Mandara, for example, contains 414, while its companion, the Kongokai Mandara, has a total of 1,461! Is each of the almost two thousand Buddhist figures in these mandalas an artistic variation of the Buddha? If not, where is the Buddha?