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National Treasure Gallery: Gaki zoshi (Scroll of hungry ghosts)

"National Treasure Gallery: Gaki zoshi (Scroll of hungry ghosts)"

Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 2  July 26, 2016 (Tue) - August 21, 2016 (Sun)

  
Gaki zoshi (Scroll of hungry ghosts) (detail), Heian period, 12th century (National Treasure)

Where do humans go after death?
Buddhism has the belief of the six realms in reply to this question. The deceased are confronted by the Ten Kings of the Dead, including Yama, at the entrance to their afterlife. They face judgment for their sins and wrongdoings, which determines their sentencing to one of the six realms. The six realms consist of heaven, the human realm, the Asura realm, the beasts realm, the hungry demons realm, and finally, hell. Life transmigrates in a circle connecting the six realms, which are filled with suffering and agony, and this is called samsara. People yearned to escape from the cycle, and wished to be reborn in the Pure Land. This belief was widely spread by the literature Ojo yoshu (Essential Teachings for Rebirth to the Pure Land) by Genshin, or Eshin Sozu, a monk of the temples at Mount Hiei. Many depictions of the six realms were also created based on the Ojo yoshu.
The work on display portrays the hungry demons realm, one of the three most torturous realms. This is where the greedy, selfish, and jealous fall into. They will constantly suffer from hunger and thirst and will never be content. According to the Meditation on the Correct Teaching Sutra, a hungry demon has 36 different appearances. They are roughly divided into those who secretly roam in the human realm and those who are tortured in the hungry demons realm, which are both represented in this illustrated scroll as well.
Significant works such as the Scroll of Hell and the Illustrated Scroll of Illnesses also appeared in the late Heian period, representing the anguish of the six realms in amazing vividness. This work was presumably created by the people close to the cloistered emperor Goshirakawa, known to have favored illustrated handscrolls, and is also counted as a notable painting of the six realms.

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 1 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
_MD_RECOMMEND National Treasure Gaki zoshi (Scroll of hungry ghosts) Heian period, 12th century A-10476
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