Japanese Art in the Asia Society Collection

Asia Society

Descent of Buddha Amitabha (Amida Raigo)
Kamakura period, late 13th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Within popular Buddhism of medieval Japan, the cult of Amitabha promised easy access to enlightenment and rebirth to the Western Paradise, celestial home of this savior of the masses. The most popular depictions feature Amitabha descending to earth. These "descent images" (raigo) were commissioned and placed before the deathbed of a dying practitioner to help him or her concentrate on Amitabha, who would guide the devotee to rebirth in his paradise. However, translation into this realm was available only to men; female worshippers prayed to be reincarnated as men so that they could hope for salvation in the next life.