The Journey

Kasuga Deer Mandala

  • 70
  • Japan
  • Muromachi period, 15th century
  • Ink, colors, and gold on silk
  • H. 49 1/2 x W. 20 1/8 in. (125.6 x 51.1 cm)
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, Kate S. Buckingham Endowment, 1960.314
  • Kasuga Shrine
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Deer graze freely through the precincts of Japan's Kasuga Shrine to this day. They are protected as the sacred messengers of the gods and also evoke the Deer Park at Sarnath, the site of the Buddha's first sermon. According to shrine legend, the deity Takemikazuchi no Mikoto rode on a deer when he arrived at Kasuga. In this painting, the deity is represented by an evergreen sakaki branch balanced on the deer's saddle. The cloudborne deer stands near the red torii gate that marks the entrance to the shrine. Above a landscape of blooming trees and two small shrine halls is a large golden disk, which is echoed by a smaller disk (either sun or moon) beyond the earthly paradise of Mount Mikasa.

PHOTO CREDIT: © The Art Institute of Chicago

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