Paradise of Amida Buddha (Amitabha)

Artist: Kasuga Kaishi
Historical period(s)
Heian period, 794-1185
Color and gold on silk
H x W (image): 109.6 x 55.4 cm (43 1/8 x 21 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Amitabha Buddha, apsara, Buddhism, Heian period (794 - 1185), Japan, kakemono, Pure Land, Pure Land Buddhism

To 1904
Yamanaka & Company, to 1904 [1]

From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in 1904 [2]

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


[1] Undated folder sheet note. Also see Original Kakemono List, pg. 90, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. The majority of Charles Lang Freer’s purchases from Yamanaka & Company were made at its New York branch. Yamanaka & Company maintained branch offices, at various times, in Boston, Chicago, London, Peking, Shanghai, Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto. During the summer, the company also maintained seasonal locations in Newport, Bar Harbor, and Atlantic City.

[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)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1917-1965


Devotion to Amida Buddha within Japanese Buddhism reached a crescendo late in the Heian period (794-1185) and continued through the Kamakura period (1185-1333).  Amida's Western Paradise was central to the iconography of Amidist cults, and most specifically to Pure Land Buddhism. Images of the Western Paradise were symmetrically-conceived views of paradisiacal court architecture and gardens populated by deities and souls recently arrived from the earth. Related images, called raigozu, show  Amida Buddha, attendant bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) Seishi and Kannon, and sometimes additional retinue, descending to earth to greet a soon-to-expire believer.

This exceptionally rare painting--only one other like it is known--eschews the common symmetrical format and offers a diagonal composition. The narrative reads from the upper right corner to the center pavilion and then to the lower right and shows a repeated image of Amida and attendants first returning on a cloud with a recently deceased soul, then formally seated in the pavilion, and finally departing on another mission to earth to welcome another soul into paradise.

Published References
  • Matsushita Takaaki. Japanese Art in the U.S.A. nos. 32-33 Tokyo, November/December 1953. p. 10, pl. 2.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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