Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Section of Chapter 17 from the "Ten Practices" Volume of the Flower Ornament Sutra (J: Daihōkōbutsu kegonkyō; Skt: Avatamsaka-sutra)
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Senpukuji kyō
Work Type
hanging scroll, calligraphy
second half 11th century
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Heian period, 794-1185
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Handscroll fragment mounted as a hanging scroll; ink on light indigo-dyed paper with gold-leaf foil flakes and gold-ruled lines
sutra fragment: H. 22.8 x W. 51.4 cm (9 x 20 1/4 in.)
silk mounting only: H. 105.9 x W. 52.8 cm (41 11/16 x 20 13/16 in.)
full mounting, including cord and roller ends: H. 111 x W. 57.2 cm (43 11/16 x 22 1/2 in.)
[London Gallery, Ltd., Tokyo (by 1999)], sold; to the Harvard Art Museums 2015.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Purchase through the generosity of the David L. Klein, Jr. Foundation in honor of Sylvan Barnet and in memory of William Burto
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This sutra fragment (mounted as a hanging scroll) is a remnant of a set thought to have been originally dedicated to the temple Senpukuji in Osaka. The text comes from the Flower Ornament Sutra (Avatamsaka sutra in Sanskrit, Daihōkōbutsu kegonkyō in Japanese), a Buddhist text that arrived in Japan during the Nara period (710-784). The sutra’s lessons of universal unity personified by the Cosmic Buddha Vairochana proved essential to the Nara court’s establishment of Buddhism as Japan’s state religion.

At some point in the past the sutra was damaged in a fire, which scorched its edges but left much of the text and decorated paper intact. The paper is dyed with indigo to a light blue color and decorated with scattered flakes of gold leaf. Gold pigment was used to create the delicate guidelines within which the text was inscribed in ink. Based on the paper decoration and manner of calligraphy, which is written in evenly spaced, horizontally balanced characters, scorched Senpukuji sutras such as this are considered masterpieces of devotional art from the second half of the 11th century.
Publication History

Buddhist Sutra Fragments, auct. cat. (Tokyo, Japan, 1999), p. 14 and 31, no. 10-A

Scrolls of Faith, auct. cat. (Tokyo, Japan, 2007), pp. 34-35, no. 14

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at