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Korean Ceramics
Korean Buddhist Painting
Buddha Shakyamuni Preaching at Vulture Peak
Korea; Choson period (1392-1910), 18th century
Hanging scroll mounted as a panel; colors, ink, and gold on hemp cloth
Image only, H. 59 in. (149.9 cm); W. 70 in. (177.8 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Acquisitions Fund
This Korean painting depicts Shakyamuni Buddha preaching the Lotus Sutra on Vulture Peak, a site in eastern India. The gesture of the Buddha's left hand (dharmachakra mudra), which has the thumb and ring finger making a circle, indicates that he is teaching. The Lotus Sutra, one of the most important texts of East Asian Buddhism, addresses universal salvation and the means by which sentient beings can reach enlightenment. Worship and study of this text are believed to bring good health, longevity, and prosperity in everyday life. The Buddha is attended by six haloed bodhisattvas (three on either side of him), six monks (who stand above the bodhisattvas), and the four guardians of the north, south, east, and west (two on either side of the Buddha, at the edges of the painting). Large-scale banner paintings such as this one became popular in Korea during the 17th and 18th centuries, when Buddhism became widespread, in part because of the loosening of government prohibitions against it. The size and iconography of this painting suggest that it was originally an important image in a monastery and most likely hung behind a statue of Shakyamuni. The names inscribed beneath the Buddha's throne are probably those of the donors who contributed to the creation of this painting. The swastika on the Buddha's chest is an ancient Indian auspicious mark; sva-asti in Sanskrit means, "it is well."
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