22 Items in this Learning Collection

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Suiten kyo (Sutra of Varuna, Deity of the Waters)

Accession Number

Suiten kyo (Sutra of Varuna, Deity of the Waters)


Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
circa 1300-1335

Medium & Support
handscroll, ink and color on paper

11 1/4 in x 81 1/8 in (28.6 cm x 206.1 cm)

Subject matter
In esoteric Buddhism and other Buddhist sects, chanting sutras is an important part of spiritual practice. The central deity depicted in this sutra is Suiten, the god of waters known in Hindu as Varuna. In Japan, Suiten was associated not only with the sea, but also with fishermen and a variety of mythical water creatures, including dragons and snakes. Here, Suiten is astride a giant water dragon. The fierce deity on the far left clasps a wheel of dharma (associated with the law but also with the concept of fate) and a sword for vanquishing evil. He also holds a brush and scroll, characteristic of Komokuten, one of the Mantra Kings in esoteric Buddhism, known for their wisdom and responsibility. Komokuten represents limitless vision and is commonly depicted with nagas, or serpents like the ones writhing outwards from his hair.

Physical Description
This is a long horizontal scroll with several calligraphic inscriptions on the right portion of the paper. On the left are 3 figural scenes. The one closest to the writing shows a male figure wearing a large headdress seated in the lotus position within a circle. Next there is a figure with four arms who stands on the back of a dragon. Two people stand on either side- one a short blue-skinned man who holds a bowl and the other a smaller figure who holds a brush and paper. The third scene shows a male figure, seated in the lotus position, who holds a sword, a wheel, a brush and paper in his four hands.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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calligraphy (process)
figures (representations)

6 Related Resources

(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Ink and Realisms
(Part of: Artist Associations and Art Movements)
Su19 Dine: HISTART 393 - Visit 1
(Part of: Resources Made by Isabel Engel)
Classical Japanese vs. Classical Chinese
(Part of: ASIAN 244--Virtual Field trip)

& Author Notes

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