Detail View: The AMICA Library: The Birth of the Buddha

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects

In keeping with his extraordinary destiny, the Buddha was miraculously conceived, said to have entered his mother's side in the form of a bodhisattva riding a white, six-tusked elephant. As depicted here, nine months later his mother, Queen Maya, grasped a tree branch while walking through the Lumbini gardens and the baby emerged from her side. Heavenly musicians played music and threw flowers in celebration as the newborn immediately took seven steps marked by lotus flowers and, raising his right hand, declared, "Among all divine beings, only I am lord, most holy and victorious. The three realms are all sorrowful. I have come here through immeasurable births and deaths for the benefit of men and gods." He was then given his first bath, a heavenly lustration by dragons.

The nativity, with its symbolism of cosmic renewal, is one of the most important events in the story of the Buddha's life and is celebrated as an annual rite on the Buddhist ritual calendar. A reenactment of the first bath, where a small icon of the standing child with arm raised in the gesture of proclamation is placed in a basin and purified with water, is a significant part of this celebration. This rare and unusual fourteenth-century painting most likely decorated a temple hall as part of a complete cycle of events from the Buddha's life used to instruct worshippers.

Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Dates/Places: 
Creator Name-CRT: 
Unidentified artist
The Birth of the Buddha
Principal view
Creation Date: 
Muromachi period (1392?1573), ca. 1400
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Section of a wall panel; ink, color, and gold on silk
29 1/2 x 43 7/8 in. (75 x 111.5 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
New York, New York
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of Alvin Friedman-Kien, 1993
Copyright ? 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
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