Ryokai Mandalas

  • Muromachi period
  • 14-15c
  • Pair of hanging scrolls, color on silk
  • H-138.5 W-122.2
    Transmitted by Kyoo-Gokokuji temple (Toji temple)
Catalogue Entry

Muromachi period, 14th to 15th centuries
Pair of hanging scrolls, color on silk
Height, 138.5cm; width, 122.2cm (each)

The pair of mandalas known as the Ryokai Man-dalas are the central devotional images of the Esoteric sects of Buddhism--namely the Taizokai, or Womb World Mandala (Garbhaknos⇔a-mandala) based on the Dainichikyo sutra, and the Kongokai, or Diamond World Mandala (Vajradhatu-mandala) based on the Kongochokyo sutra. These two sutra texts emerged at different stages of the development of Esoteric Buddhism in India, and it was Kukai's teacher, Hui-kuo (746-805), who combined this pair of mandala images based on these two sutras. Strictly speaking, the formal name of the Taizokai mandala in Japanese is "Daihitaizo Sho Man-dara," omitting the character "kai" for world, but starting around the 9th century, during the lifetime of the major Tendai sect master, An'nen, the "kai" character was added to match the "kai" found in the name of the Kongokai mandala.

Kukai brought back Japan's first images of these two mandalas from China, and these two man-dalas are called the Konpon Mandalas, or root mandalas. The lineage of mandalas based on these Konpon Mandalas are known as "Genzu," or "original image," mandalas. The Takao Man-dalas and the Konpon Mandalas at Toji are considered the representative examples of these Genzu mandalas. Since Kukai, however, man-dala images from other lineages have been brought back to Japan from China. The Sai-in Mandalas of Toji are based on the mandala iconography brought back by Enchin, and they differ slightly from the Genzu iconography. Mandalas considered to be from the Tendai lineage, such as the Shiten'noji Mandala and the Taisanji Mandala, are clearly from a non-Genzu lineage.

In the present work, memorial altars have been placed in front of the Thousand-Armed Kannon (Avalokites⇔vara-sahasrabhuja-locana) and Kongo-zoo Bosatsu (Stottarasata-bhuja-vajra-dhara) on either side of the Kokuzoin section (lower section of the composition), and this is characteristic of a Tendai lineage mandala pair, as opposed to the Genzu lineage. The Tendai lineage iconography, however, frequently exchanges the positions of the eastern directional Buddha and the northern directional Buddha in the Chudai-hachiyo-in (central eight-petal court or center of the composition), and in the present work the deities are placed in their Genzu image positions. While the Kongokai normally consists of ku-e, or 9 precincts, the spikes of the vajra staffs which are supposed to be painted behind the various deities in the Misai-e (the lower right as the viewer faces the mandala) are not visible here, and this may represent an abbreviation of the original iconography over time.

In any event, this pair is unquestionably a Ryokai Mandala pair that differs from the Genzu lineage. In terms of period of production, the rough weave of the ground silk and the relatively rough and formalized depiction of the various deities suggest a date in the first half of the Muromachi period for the pair. TI