The Bija A, representing Vairocana (Dainichi)

Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, late 14th-early 15th century
Color and gold on silk
H x W (image): 120.7 x 42.4 cm (47 1/2 x 16 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Buddhism, Japan, kakemono, lotus, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), Sanskrit, Vairocana Buddha, vajra

To 1898
Edward S. Hull Jr., New York to 1898 [1]

From 1898 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Edward S. Hull Jr. in 1898 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Reserved Kakemono List, R. 179, pg. 6, as well as Voucher No. 27, June 1898, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Edward S. Hull Jr. was Ernest Francisco Fenollosa’s (1853-1908) lawyer. Hull often acted as an agent, facilitating purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa, as well as purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa's well-known associate, Bunshichi Kobayashi (see correspondence, Hull to Freer, 1898-1900, as well as invoices from E.S. Hull Jr., 1898-1900, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives). See also, Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), pgs. 15 and 34. See further, Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art, (Washington, DC and New York: Freer Gallery of Art and H. N. Abrams, 1993), pgs. 133-134.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Edward S. Hull Jr. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


In Japanese Buddhist art, characters representing syllables of the Indian Sanskrit language occasionally symbolized Buddhist deities. Sanskrit syllables, whether written, painted, or spoken, derived their power from their historical association with India, the homeland of the Historical Buddha and the site of his original teachings. In this image, the syllable "a" is enthroned on a lotus, a Buddhist symbol of purity, and surrounded by a circle representing light. This syllable was the symbol for the Cosmic Buddha (Japanese, Dainichi Nyorai) from whom all other Buddhas and bodhisattvas emanate. The lotus surmounts a second red lotus held aloft by a vajra, an ancient Indian weapon representing the power to destroy defilement. In esoteric Buddhism, the three-pronged vajra shown here also symbolized the "three secrets" (sanmitsu) -the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha-which could be realized by the devout practitioner through forming symbolic gestures (mudras) with the hands, speaking magical formulas (mantras), and contemplating a Buddhist deity.

Published References
  • John Vollmer, Glen T. Webb. Japanese Art at the Gallery of Greater Victoria: The Fred and Isabel Pollard Collection and Other Acquisitions. Victoria, B.C. p. 14.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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