Monju with Five Hair Knots


late 1200s–early 1300s
Overall: 102 x 42.6 cm (40 3/16 x 16 3/4 in.); with knobs: 190.5 x 65.5 cm (75 x 25 13/16 in.)
Location: not on view
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This painting is exemplary of the Kamakura period, known for artworks with special attention paid to the realism of images.


This Buddhist painting shows Monju, Manjushri in Sanskrit, riding a lion. Monju is a bodhisattva, a being who, though enlightened, chooses not to become a Buddha but instead helps others achieve enlightenment. Monju’s youthfulness symbolizes his pure wisdom, unsullied by the world, and his five hair knots represent his vow to keep calamity at bay. The supernatural nature of his lion is emphasized by its hair, every strand painted in gold, as well as by the lotus platforms beneath each of its feet. The boy’s bejeweled body and silk finery is meant to resemble that of an Indian prince.
Monju with Five Hair Knots

Monju with Five Hair Knots

late 1200s–early 1300s

Japan, Kamakura period (1185–1333)

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