The Journey

Picture Scroll of the Origins of the Kumano Deities (Kumano no honji emaki)

  • 68
  • Japan
  • Muromachi period, 15th century
  • One from a set of three handscrolls; ink and color on paper
  • H. 9 7/16 x W. 165 3/4 in. (24 x 421 cm)
  • Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation
  • Kumano Shrines (Nachi)
Find it on the Interactive Map

This handscroll is the third from a set of three. It belongs to a genre of illustrated religious literature that describes the Buddhist origins of local Japanese deities (kami). The scroll recounts the genesis of the gods as Indian Buddhist royalty who experience treachery and persecution, fly to Japan, and apotheose as the deities of the Kumano Shrines. The Kumano Shrines were unusual in cultivating, rather than excluding, female pilgrims. Addressed to a largely female audience, this illustrated tale was one of the visual media used by Kumano nuns in their itinerant preaching to attract funds and pilgrimages to their shrines. The handscroll ends by praising the miraculous benefits of pilgrimage. The calligraphic text translates: "If you once travel there, you will be protected from all afflicting boils and painful disasters. The ten evils and the five sins will vanish when you once set foot on that holy site. And peace, in this world and in the next, is guaranteed to whomever makes pilgrimage there."

PHOTO CREDIT: Bruce Schwarz


©2009 Asia Society 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street New York, NY 10021: