About This Artwork

Artist unknown

Kobo Daishi (Kukai) as a Boy (Chigo Daishi), 15th century

Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
86.7 x 48.9 cm (34 1/8 x 19 1/4 in.)

Gift of the Joseph and Helen Regenstein Foundation, 1959.552

Kukai (774–835) was an influential religious leader responsible for introducing Shingon Buddhism, a form of Esoteric Buddhism, to Japan in the ninth century. After his death, Kûkai received the name Kôbô Daishi (Great Teacher of the Divine Law) and was revered as a saint.

The inscription at the top of this painting is a quotation from the Goyuigo, a set of instructions believed to have been prepared by Kukai for his disciples. In the passage, Kukai describes a dream he had as a child in which he was carried aloft on an eight-petaled lotus flower to a heavenly realm where he conversed with various Buddhas. The practice of depicting religious leaders as children during miraculous moments in their lives would have been keenly reassuring to Buddhist devotees.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Mayuyama Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo: Mayuyama and Co., Ltd., 1966, fig. 108 page 93.

Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America, 1959.

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