Notes: 187 / 1 year ago
Period:Nanbokuchô period (1336–92) Culture:Japan Medium:Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on hemp
Seated atop a white fox on a cloud held aloft by a pair of dragons is a young woman in fluttering, majestic raiment. She grasps a vajra sword in her right hand; in her left palm, she gently cradles a triad of sacred jewels.
The figure is a Japanese vision of Dakini, an ancient Hindu deity. According to Esoteric Buddhist texts, Dakini was originally a man-eating demoness transformed by the Buddha Mahavairocana (Dainichi Nyorai) into a powerful, life-engendering divinity. This icon embodies powers of fecundity that were invoked in imperial enthronement rituals as well as in personal contexts, and it is a telling example of medieval Japan’s complex interaction of Buddhism, Shinto kami worship, and Daoist yin-yang practices. The procreative power of the deity readily led to her assimilation with the ancient Shinto fox deity Inari, and to associations with another Hindu deity, Saraswati, who is associated with all that flows, from water to music.The Metropolitan Museum