Lost in Artistic Detective Work: Buddhist Japan

This is what happens to me. I set out to make quick work of some inventory activity and I wind up drawn into the mystery.

I photographed every old Buddhist print on a Japanese handscroll. Some are crystal clear and (it turns out) easily identifiable. Others, like the above left, are obscure. What the heck are we looking at? So I wind up on Photoshop, teasing out the image… adding a little color to clarify.

This is still mysterious — not your typical Buddhist diety. Like Fudo Myo-o, his right hand holds a vertically held sword to help him combat the “three poisons”: greed, anger and ignorance; and in his left hand he holds a lasso to catch and bind the evil forces and to prevent them from doing harm; his halo of flames consumes passions. On the other hand, he appears to have a beak and wings, which makes me think bird — so my investigations lead me to Karura (aka Garuda)… but Karura carries a flute, not a sword. And the dog with snakes wrapped around his ankles? The mystery continues…

Revision 7/17/11. Further  research reveals this to be Izuna Gongen.

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