Loan Object

Sutra of the Vows of the Medicine Buddha of Lapis Lazuli Crystal Radiance (Xingcao shu)

15th–early 17th century

Album with 24 leaves; gold ink on indigo paper with calligraphy in sutra script

sheet: 12 1/4 × 12 5/8 in. (31.12 × 32.07 cm) 12 7/16 × 6 3/8 × 1 in. (31.59 × 16.19 × 2.54 cm)
Collection of H. Christopher Luce, B.A. 1972
With its flared strokes sweeping down to the right, sutra script did not change much from its earliest form centuries earlier (seen in the previous installation). Sutras were hand-copied for dissemination to monasteries, sometimes commissioned by the wealthy elite as expressions of religious faith and to accumulate merit. Temples welcomed such work, as monks considered copying sutras one of their most meritorious deeds, combining worship, literature, and calligraphy. While regular sutras used ink and plain paper, they came to be elegantly written in gold, silver and cinnabar red, which shimmered from rich indigo-dyed paper. The gold exemplified the luminous mind of the Buddha, which shines on all living beings. Gold and silver also enhanced the reading of sutras under flickering candles. This sutra reveals the thoughts of the Medicine Buddha. Popular in China, he cures suffering using the “medicine” of his teachings to overcome mental, physical, and spiritual sickness. He made twelve vows, of which two were medical (for the disabled and sick), two were social (for the poor and starving), and eight were for attaining righteousness. Adherents believed that the Medicine Buddha could dispel diseases, but simply reading this sutra could not.
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Not on view

Sotheby's New York Lot 593; purchased by H. Christopher Luce in September 2015; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.