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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Name-CRT: Japanese
Title: Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu)
Title Type: Object name
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1300
Creation End Date: 1333
Creation Date: Kamakura period (1185-1333), 14th century
Object Type: Paintings
Materials and Techniques: Hanging scroll; ink, gold, and mineral pigments on silk
Dimensions: H. 79 in. (200.7 cm), W. 74 1/4 in. (188.6 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 12.134.10
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1912
In paintings of the Buddha's nirvana, his passing from earthly life to the ultimate goal of an enlightened being, essential tenets of Buddhism are explicit: release from the bonds of existence through negation of desires that cause life's intrinsic suffering. Facing west in a final trance after a long life of teaching, the golden body of Shaka (Shakyamuni, 'Sage of the Shakyas,' after the northeastern Indian kingdom of his birth) bears the marks of his enlightenment. His short curls indicate his ascetic life, while elongated earlobes adorned with heavy jewelry reflect his regal birth. A cranial protuberance and a circle of light between his brows attest to his penetrating wisdom. Those witnessing the Buddha's passing from earthly life reveal their own imperfect level of enlightenment in the extent of their grief. Bodhisattvas, who have achieved the spiritual enlightenment of Buddhahood, show a solemn serenity not shared by lesser beings. Except for the Bodhisattva Jizo, who appears as a monk holding a jewel near the center of the bier, these deities are depicted in princely raiment, with jeweled crowns, flowing scarves, and necklaces covering their golden bodies. Disciples with shaved heads who wear patched robes like the Buddha's weep bitterly, as do the multilimbed Hindu deities and guardians who have been converted to his teaching. Men and women of every class, joined by over thirty animals, grieve in their imperfect understanding of the Buddhist ideal. Even the blossoms of the sala trees change hue. From the upper right Queen Maya, mother of the prince whose long life of teaching is ending, descends, weeping. This charming vignette made the difficult concept of nirvana more easily acceptable in the Confucian cultures of China, Korea, and Japan, in which filial piety and worldly responsibility conflicted with the asceticism and spirituality of Indian Buddhism.
AMICA ID: MMA_.12.134.10
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights:
Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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