The Buddha Entering Nirvana


The Buddha Entering Nirvana

Paintings / Kamakura

Kamakura period, 14th century

Color on silk



This painting depicts the death of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, and his entry into Nirvana. He lies on his right side with his head to the north, surrounded by tathagata, bodhisattvas and disciples. Above the trees, Queen Maya, Sakyamuni's birth mother, descends on a cloud.

Over 50 living creatures are shown in the foreground mourning Sakyamuni's passing. These include a number of people alongside mammals, birds, and insects.

Take a closer look at the expressions of these figures. Their humane features express real emotions. This is a typical feature of art from the Kamakura period, when this work was painted.

The living creatures are portrayed in an extremely realistic manner as well. In particular, take a close look at the small birds and insects drawn on the bottom left of the painting. Notice the intricate depiction of the dragonfly's translucent wings, for example, or the way the details of its each leg are accurately drawn. This subtle, minutely-observed work seems like a sketch of a real-life scene.

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