Important Cultural Property

Amitabha Triad of Sanskrit Letters


Period Muromachi period, 15th century
Materials and techniques Hanging scroll, embroidery
Size 106.0×42.0


This is a wonderful example of shubutsu, or Buddhist images embroidered on textile fabrics. Such works were already produced in the Asuka and Nara periods, however they became popular in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods when Pure Land Buddhism became widespread among the common people and they began to donate colored threads for the embroidery as a simple and inexpensive way to form a connection with Buddha, who would lead them to Pure Land. This shubutsu represents the Buddhist deiies using Sanskrit “seed” letters. In the upper portion is a canopy decorated with stringed jewels, and in the lower portion which has a different ground color, is a three-legged table holding a pair of flower vases and a three-footed incense burner. In between the canopy and the table are the Sanskrit seed letters representing Amitabha and two attendants. The large circle in the middle holds the seed letter representing Amitabha, and in the smaller circles are the seed letters for Kannon (Avalokitesvara) on the right, and Seishi (Mahasthamaprapta) on the left. The black color of the letters are embroidered using real human hair. There are lines from “Kanmuryoju-kyo (Amitayur-dhyana-sura), one of the Three Sutras of Pure Land, on both side of the canopy, and Sanskrit letters arranged on all four borders. It is a magnificent piece of which portions of the embroidery are remarkably well preserved.

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