|KEY WORD : art history / paintings|
|Lit. nirvana painting. A genre of painting that depicts the death of the historical Buddha *Shaka 釈迦, and his full and complete entrance into the state or perfect peace known as nirvana nehan 涅槃. His death is therefore referred to as parinirvana daihatsu nehan 大般涅槃 or complete nirvana. Shaka's death is counted among the eight major events in his life (see *Shaka hassou 釈迦八相), and artistic representations of his death scene show Shaka in a recumbent pose. This reclining position is represented with statues, reliefs, murals, paintings and other forms in all Buddhist countries. In Japan the oldest extant example is a clay statue at Houryuuji 法隆寺 in Nara from 711. Paintings became the preferred form of representation in Japan because they were used for the nehan-e 涅槃会 or nirvana rite performed annually on the fifteenth day of the second month in memory of Shaka's death. These paintings generally depict Shaka lying on his right side on a couch below sal trees sara souju 沙羅双樹 and surrounded by mourners, traditionally said to comprise 52 kinds of beings that include his disciples, bodhisattvas *bosatsu 菩薩, gods, lay people, animals and his mother Mahamaya, Maya bunin 摩耶夫人 hastening down from the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods *Sanjuusanten 三十三天. Although the nehan-e was already being performed in the late Nara period, the oldest and finest extant example of a related painting is that at Kongoubuji 金剛峰寺 (Mt. Kouya 高野 in Wakayama prefecture,1086). Other examples from the Heian period include those at Tokyo National Museum; Shin'yakushiji 新薬師寺, Darumaji 達磨寺 and Souyuuji 宗祐寺 in Nara. There is an enormous reclining Buddha painting from the early Muromachi period at Toufukuji 東福寺 in Kyoto (approximately 14.6m x 7.3m). In a variation of this genre called Shaka hassou nehan-zu 釈迦八相涅槃図 (painting of Shaka's eight-phase nirvana) the remaining seven major events in Shaka's life (or incidents relating to his death) are depicted around the central death scene, while an episode relating to his mother Mahamaya's descent from heaven to Shaka's deathbed is the subject matter of the *kinkan shutsugen-zu 金棺出現図.|
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