Temple Hanging


From: Japan | Hiroshima Prefecture

Curatorial Section: Asian

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Native Name Kakemono
Object Number 29-96-493
Current Location Collections Storage
Culture Japanese | Buddhist | Shinto
Provenience Japan | Hiroshima Prefecture
Date Made 17th Century
Section Asian
Materials Metallic Thread | Paper | Silk
Technique Embroidered
Iconography Shinto Spiritual Being | Uga Benzaiten | Ugajin | Torii
Inscription Language Japanese Language

Embroidered silk portrait of Uga Benzaiten (Sanskrit: Sarasvati), consort of the Hindu god Brahma, revered in India as the Goddess of music, poetry, and eloquence by both the Brahmins and the Buddhists. As one of the deities in the vast Tantric pantheon, she is usually depicted with a musical instrument in her hands and mounted on a peacock. When Tantric Buddhism penetrated Tibet, China, and Japan, Sarasvati worship entered as well. Influenced by local traditions, Sarasvati, like many Tantric deities, assumed different functions in each region. In Japan, the majority of Benzaiten images are revered as ones which confer happiness, wealth, longevity, and fame. She is frequently depicted holding eight attributes, including a sword, spear, ax, bow, arrow, lasso, thunderbolt and wheel of the law. According to the inscription on the back of the portrait, it was once housed in the Shinto shrine in Itsukushima, Hiroshima prefecture. The red lacquer Torii gate, sacred symbol of this famed shrine which is depicted on her crown, supports this provenience. The small head placed in Benzaiten's crown, a Tantric iconographic trait, seems to represent a Shinto monk. Thus, this rare embroidered portrait illustrates the Shinto-Buddhist syncretism known as Dual Shinto. The embroidery is gold and colored thread on thin silk mounted on a corded tan silk.

Length 172.7 cm
Width 53.8 cm
Credit Line Bequest of Maxwell Sommerville, 1904

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