• 1979.209-view-a
  • 1979.209-view-b
  • 1979.209-view-a.jpg

Achala Vidyaraja (Fudō Myōō) with Two Attendants

early 14th century


Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Image only, H. 72 x W. 45 in. (182.9 x 114.3 cm)

Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.209

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Fudō Myōō ("Immovable One") is an emanation of Dainichi (Vairochana), the Cosmic Buddha, and one of the most popular icons of Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhism in Japan. He is the most important of a group of five deities called myōō ("wisdom kings"), each of whom represents the wrathful energies of a Buddha and the power to convince the reluctant to accept the Buddha's teachings. When worship of these deities was first introduced in the late 8th- and early 9th centuries, they were the focus of rituals to ensure the safety of the nation, but over time they were worshiped to provide more worldly benefits. Fudō Myōō's muscled body, dark skin, fierce expression, fangs, and bulging eyes indicate his power to vanquish all demons. His sword cuts through delusion and the lasso he carries pulls even the most recalcitrant beings toward the path of salvation. In this painting, he is flanked by the most frequently depicted pair of his eight youthful male attendants: Kongara Doji (the figure making the gesture of prayer) and Seitaka Doji (the red-skinned figure). A long inscription on the back of this painting states that it was remounted in 1596 and 1780 and that it was once in the collection of the Jizoin at the Kampozan Monastery. A monastery of the Shingon Buddhist sect of that name was built in Nagoya in 1728, and it seems likely that this painting was once in the possession of that establishment.