The Journey

Fragment from the Illustrated Chronicle of the Great Master from Koya (Koya Daishi gyojo zue dankan)

  • 43
  • Japan
  • Kamakura period, late 13th or early 14th century
  • Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper
  • H. 10 7/8 x W. 21 3/8 in. (27.7 x 54 cm)
  • John C. Weber Collection
  • Mount Koya
Find it on the Interactive Map

The Great Master from Koya (Koya Daishi) is one of the posthumous names of Kukai (Kobo Daishi, 774–835), the founder of the Shingon school of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. This fragment from a much longer scene in a narrative scroll is most likely from a set of scrolls chronicling Kukai's life. In his early thirties Kukai traveled to Tang China as a member of a Japanese embassy. While there, he was initiated into the secret teachings of Esoteric Buddhism. The incomplete scene here shows monks being served food at the temple celebration following Kukai's initiation in 805. About a decade later, the emperor of Japan permitted Kukai to build a temple complex on Mount Koya. The landscape and miraculous tales associated with the site continue to inspire pilgrims to visit Mount Koya today.

PHOTO CREDIT: John Bigelow Taylor

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