The White Path to the Western Paradise across Two Rivers (Niga Byakudō)

The White Path to the Western Paradise across Two Rivers (Niga Byakudō)

二河白道図

1200s

Hanging scroll; ink, color, gold, silver, and cut gold on silk

Overall: 215.1 x 67.7 cm (84 11/16 x 26 5/8 in.); Overall with knobs: 215.1 x 73.3 cm (84 11/16 x 28 7/8 in.)

Gift of The Norweb Foundation 1955.44

Description

From the 1100s, Japanese Buddhists believed that they were living in a predicted period of apocalyptic cleansing that paved the way for a cycle of renewal to begin. These unlucky times-marked by wars, plagues, and natural disasters-called for straightforward routes to salvation. Prayers invoking the name of the Amida Buddha were popular means to ensure rescue, and images such as Niga Byakudo perfectly portray the perilous escape from the demons of disease and temptation. Here, the tiny figure of a monk-rendered multiple times to indicate movement-flees across the bridge into the Western Paradise, patterns of threatening waves and flames licking at his feet. The painting melds a system of belief with an easily grasped overlay of action; Lee admired the skill in this successful merger.

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