Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Illustrations of Buddhist texts and ritual formulas, 2001

Label: (One of a set of three)

This handscroll contains a painted frontispiece-showing the Buddha preaching to an assembly-and an elaborately decorated cover. Dong-u, the monk who produced these scrolls, executed the calligraphy as well as the paintings. Most Buddhist texts in Korea were copied onto dark blue paper. In a break from that tradition, Dong-u wrote on white paper, and he claims to have selected the blue color of the mounting paper for its resemblance to the color of denim.

The copying of Buddhist texts is an honored tradition that continues to this day, as exemplified by this set of handscrolls. Each contains the same text, though each is written in a different language – Sanskrit, Chinese, and Korean. The popularity of the Great Dharani Sutra of the Spotless and Pure Light soared in Korea after a printed version of the scripture predating 751 was discovered during restoration work of a monastery in Gyeongju. The scripture teaches that long life and the elimination of sins can be achieved by commissioning pagodas and enclosing within them copies of its text.