sanzenbutsu 三千仏
KEY WORD :  art history / iconography
Lit. Three Thousand Buddhas. One thousand Buddhas are believed to appear in the worlds of the past, present and future aeons respectively, and these are collectively known as the Three Thousand Buddhas, sanzenbutsu. Paintings of these three Thousand Buddhas, called sanzenbutsu-zu 三千仏図, were used in an annual ceremony, held in the 12th month and called butsumyou-e 仏名会, at which their names were recited for the expiation of sins. First performed in Japan in 774 and institutionalized in the 9c, this ceremony was discontinued in the late 14c. Initially the paintings used for this ceremony consisted of two hanging scrolls which between them depicted 13,000 Buddhas ichimansanzenbutsu-zu 一万三千仏図, but from 918 the number was reduced to 3,000. These later 3,000-Buddha paintings usually consisted of three hanging scrolls each depicting one thousand Buddhas surrounding a central Buddha representative of one of the aeons, usually *Amida 阿弥陀 for the future, *Shaka 釈迦 for the present or *Yakushi 薬師 for the past. Sometimes the three hanging scrolls were combined to form a single painting, and the oldest such painting extant is preserved at Kouryuuji 広隆寺 in Kyoto and dates from the late Heian period.

*sentaibutsu 千体仏 

(C)2001 Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. No reproduction or republication without written permission.