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Vimalakirti Scroll Used for a Yuima-e Service at Tônomine Temple, c. 1350


This scroll is divided into three sections. The top register contains small figures of a thunder god, a Buddhist priest, a fox, and a pagoda, and the bottom register depicts two Chinese lion-dogs facing each other. The central section features the large, bearded figure of the sixth-century B.C. Indian sage Vimalakirti, called Yuima in Japanese, a Buddhist layman who was renowned for his superior insight and wisdom. The male figure directly below Yuima, dressed in court robes, is Fujiwara no Kamatari (A.D. 614–669), a famous Japanese statesman and founder of the aristocratic Fujiwara clan. Flanking Kamatari are his two sons, the Buddhist priest Jōe, dressed in monk’s robes, and Fuhito, a government official dressed in courtier garb. While portraits of Kamatari and his sons are not rare, the pairing of the triad with Yuima is unusual and may reference Kamatari’s devotion to the Buddhist sage. In 656, Kamatari was cured of a grave illness after a Korean Buddhist nun recited the Vimalakirti Sutra, in which the Buddhist layman famously debates with Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. Thereafter, Kamatari’s descendants believed the sutra offered special protection to the Fujiwara family. In 706, Fuhito instituted the Yuima-e (Yuima Assembly), an annual lecture and debate ritual held at the Kōfukuji temple in Nara, the Fujiwara family temple, in memory of his father.


Nakamura Gakuryo, Japan, by 1964.

(Takashi Yanagi Object of Fine Arts, Kyoto);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1982.

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