Japanese Version
Nara Women's University
Academic Information Center Image Databse Image Databse,
Nara Regional Resources
Digital Images of
the Gangouji

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Painted Panel, Chikou mandara, Gangouji, Important Cultural Property
Chikou mandara // Pigment on wood panel // framed // height 217 cm, width 195 cm

  The Chikou mandara is enshrined on the rear surface of the central shrine in the inner sanctum of the main hall of the Gokurakubou. A separate panel is attached at each side. Yellow clay has been spread over an undercoat of lacquer. Mineral pigments were then used to depict in detail the Pure Land paradise and a sacred host centered on Amida nyorai (Amitabha).
  The Gokurakubou is said to have been the living quarters of Chikou Houshi (the priest Chikou), a scholar monk of the Sanron sect at Gangouji during the Tenpyou era. In the Nihon joudo gokurakuki, compiled by Yoshishige Yasutane in the fourth year of the Eikan era (984), there is a brief narrative (setsuwa) concerning the vision of paradise that inspired Chikou and Raikou. The name Gokurakubou comes from the fact that Chikou's quarters (bou) contained a painting depicting paradise (gokuraku). From the later-half of the Heian period 100-day long lectures on Amida (Amida-kou) were held there, and the Gokurakubou became a center of faith in Amida's Pure Land. The original painting seems to have been of the henzu (transformed image) of the type popular in Tang China. The two priests depicted on the bridges to the right and left of the jeweled lake in the foreground appear to be later additions, representing Chikou and Raikou from the tale.
  The underdrawing beneath the pigments has been clearly revealed by infrared digital photography. Not only the delicate, fine lines and the ancient style of the instruments carried by the bodhisattvas, but also the strokes depicting the central divinity and surrounding bodhisattvas are seen to be examples of powerful and excellent brushwork. Given the depiction of the ample cheeks, tautly drawn crescent eyebrows, and the intelligent look of the broad eyes, the painting can be judged to be the work of a painter representative of the style of the Kamakura period. Therefore it can be surmised that the painting was created during the revival of the Tenpyou-era style after the restoration of the temple following its burning in the fighting of the 1180s. It is representative of the profoundest tradition of Nara Buddhist painting.

Nariaki, Takahashi (Gangoji Cultural Properties Research Institute)
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