Memyou Bosatsu 馬鳴菩薩
KEY WORD : art history / iconography
Also popularly known as Manari Myoujin 馬鳴明神 or Sanjin 蚕神 (God of Silkworms). A bodhisattva *bosatsu 菩薩 said to provide the destitute with clothing and revered as a tutelary deity of sericulture. The cult that centered on Memyou Bosatsu is thought to have its origins in a Chinese folk belief in a deity associated with silkworms. The single Buddhist text dealing with Memyou Bosatsu, allegedly translated by Vajrabodhi (Jp:Kongouchi 金剛智; 671-741), was probably composed in Japan in an attempt to legitimize this folk belief within a Buddhist context. Memyou 馬鳴 in Sanskrit is Asvaghosa which is also the name of a renowned Indian Buddhist poet who originally was a forceful opponent of Buddhism, but later became an equally vociferous convert. Memyou Bosatsu is generally depicted with six arms and seated on a horse, although there are also four- and two-armed forms. The objects held in his hands include a reel, thread and scales, all associated with sericulture. There are few surviving statuary images. In paintings he is shown cloud-borne with five attendants, all of whose names are associated with sericulture. There is also a supplicant in the foreground who sometimes stands on a rock. These attendants and supplicant are shown wearing traditional Chinese attire.


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