Water Buffalo and Herdboys


late 1200s–early 1300s
Painting: 23.7 x 50.5 cm (9 5/16 x 19 7/8 in.); Overall with knobs: 109 x 67.6 cm (42 15/16 x 26 5/8 in.)
Location: not on view
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In southern China, farmers use water buffalos to help plow their fields, which children often tend. In Buddhist teachings, the subject of herding or taming an ox was used to illustrate the 10 steps to enlightenment, or spiritual awakening. A single image may be read as a metaphorical representation of the Chan process of attaining enlightenment, the difficulty of which was likened to that of finding a strayed buffalo. Here, a buffalo is watered by a boy, another takes a bath in the pond. Chan paintings introduced to Japan were often remounted to fit them into niches for display (tokonoma), which explains the painting’s current format.
Water Buffalo and Herdboys

Water Buffalo and Herdboys

late 1200s–early 1300s

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)

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