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Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
Painting: 140.2 x 78.8 cm (55 3/16 x 31 in.); Overall: 226.5 x 111 cm (89 3/16 x 43 11/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1973.70.2
The Naga is on the lower right dressed as a king with gold dragons on his blue robe.
The grandest of the Buddhist mortuary rites is the Water-Land (shuilu) ritual. This esoteric ceremony is conducted for the salvation of “all souls of the dead on land and sea.” The ostentatious ritual was performed for imperial ancestors and high officials from the Song (960–1279) to the Ming dynasties and drew large crowds. On the second day of the weeklong ceremony, paintings are hung in the inner altar.
This scroll represents the Eight Hosts of Celestial Nagas and Yakshis as described in the Lotus Sutra. Together with the scroll nearby, it belongs to a set of 36 Water-Land ritual paintings that are the finest works of their types known from the Ming period. With their bright, opaque color and fine-line gilt decoration intact and unfaded, both paintings share a remarkable state of preservation.
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