Sutra of the Great Demise (Mahaparinirvana Sutra) in standard script

citation

Sutra written in standard script on nine pieces of paper with eight seams. The standard length of each sheet is about 19 3/8″ with 29 lines of text; the first and 9th pieces of paper are much shorter. The scroll is not in its original unmounted state. It was mounted in recent times in a standard handscroll format with blank frontispiece paper and silk border.

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Historical period(s)
Sui dynasty, 581-618
Medium
Ink on paper
Dimensions
H x W (image): 20.9 x 380.3 cm (8 1/4 x 149 3/4 in)
Geography
China, Dunhuang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
F1982.2
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Calligraphy
Type

Handscroll

Keywords
Buddhism, China, Mahaparinirvana Sutra, parinirvana, standard script, Sui dynasty (581 - 618), sutra, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Alice Boney 1901 - 1988

Description

Sutra written in standard script on nine pieces of paper with eight seams. The standard length of each sheet is about 19 3/8" with 29 lines of text; the first and 9th pieces of paper are much shorter. The scroll is not in its original unmounted state. It was mounted in recent times in a standard handscroll format with blank frontispiece paper and silk border.

Inscription(s)

There are three collector's seals added to the sutra.The one at the beginning reads "Hsi Hsu Chung-fu yu lung so-te (Mr. Hsu Chung-fu of Anhui obtained this when he traveled to Kansu)." The two seals at the end read: "Pai-yun hung-shu-lou tsang (collected in the study of white clouds and red trees)" and "Pang-nai chen-tsang (treasurely collected by Alice Boney)."

The scroll is neither dated nor signed by the calligrapher.

According the information from the object's file, the title slip on the outside of the box was written by K.S. Wong, from whom Ms. Boney purchased it.

Label

Sutras are sacred texts believed to preserve the actual words of the historical Buddha, the Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama (ca. 563-483 B.C.). The text on this scroll is the thirty-third chapter of the Mahaparinirvana sutra (Sutra of the Great Demise), which contains the teachings given by the Buddha to his disciples just before his death. It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese between A.D. 414 and 421 and quickly gained wide popularity.

Sutras were transcribed by professional calligraphers, either monks or laymen, for donation to Buddhist shrines and temples. Believers often commissoned transcriptions of a selected chapter or group of chapters to acquire spiritual merit. Using a sharp, resilient brush, the calligrapher of this scroll applied great energy and concentration, varying the pressure of his brush, the speed with which he wrote, and the size and form of the characters. All the stokes are vividly written, the square corners are sharp and sturdy, the round turns are smooth and springy, and each character has its own rhythm, composition, and center of gravity. For protection against insects, the paper was dyed with a yellowish liquid prepared from the seeds and bark of the Amur cork tree (Phellodendron amurense).

Published References
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 3, p. 24-25.
  • pp. 156-157.
  • p. 55, fig. 2.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum