Kasuga Shrine Mandala

Kasuga Shrine Mandala


early 1300s

Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Overall: 193.6 x 58.8 cm (76 1/4 x 23 1/8 in.); Painting only: 110 x 40.9 cm (43 5/16 x 16 1/8 in.)

Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2015.137


Fun Fact

Sacred deer, the vehicles of the Kasuga deities, move about the shrine compound.


A golden path that begins at the bottom of this painting leads up to four red and white buildings to the left, and then to a fifth building on the right. These are the five shrine halls of the Kasuga Shrine in Nara. Above and beyond the buildings is the sacred Kasuga mountain range––with Mount Mikasa at center, Mount Wakakusa in gold to the left, and the sun or moon rising up behind the mountains. Five figures stand on clouds above the mountains. They are the Buddhist manifestations (honjibutsu) of the five deities, or kami, of this Shinto shrine. A large painting like this would likely once have belonged to a confraternity of devotees of Kasuga, and would have been hung during communal veneration of the shrine’s deities.

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