|KEY WORD : art history / iconography|
| Also occasionally read rikudou-e. Lit. six
Paintings of the six paths rokudou 六道 of existence are also called the six realms rokushu 六趣 of reincarnation. According to Buddhist thought, all living beings are caught in an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth into one of the six realms being re-born up or down the scale according to the extent or lack of one's purity and good deeds in the previous existence. One can escape only by achieving enlightenment.
Described in numerous texts including the Lotus Sutra HOKEKYOU 法華経, the six realms are: hells jigoku 地獄 (Sk:naraka), hungry ghosts *gaki 餓鬼 (Sk:preta), animals chikushou 畜生 (Sk:tiryasyoni), bellicose demons *Ashura 阿修羅 (Sk:Asura), humans jin 人 (Sk:manusya), and heavenly beings *ten 天 (Sk:deva).
Buddhists provide four additional realms for enlightened beings: sravaka arhats shoumon 声聞, pratyeka buddhas engaku 縁覚, bodhisattvas *bosatsu 菩薩, and Buddhas hotoke 仏. These can be combined with the six realms to form the ten worlds which are also depicted in painting (see *jikkai-zu 十界図). The concept of reincarnation in realms originated with Indian ideas of five realms goshu 五趣 (Sk:gati), which excluded Ashura.
Early Indian depictions of the five realms are found at Ajanta such as cave #17 (late 5c). Illustrations of the six realms from 8-9c survive in China at Dunhuang (Jp: Tonkou 敦煌).
The earliest Japanese depictions consist of hell scenes that are found in Nara period (8c) paintings related to *Kannon 観音, such as the hairline engraving *kebori 毛彫 on the halo *kouhai 光背 (Nara National Museum) of the principal image *Juuichimen Kannon 十一面観音 of *Nigatsudou 二月堂 in Toudaiji 東大寺. From the 9-10c, Pure Land joudo 浄土 theologians vividly write of the torments of the six realms so as to make salvation by *Amida 阿弥陀 Buddha and the rewards of his paradise all the more desirable. Screens showing hell scenes were used in a ceremony called butsumyou-e 仏名会 at the imperial palace. The Essentials of Salvation OUJOU YOUSHUU 往生要集, written by Genshin 源信 (942-1017) in 985, became very popular among Fujiwara nobles and greatly influenced the creation of pictures of the six realms. A set of fifteen hanging scrolls at Shoujuraigouji 聖衆来迎寺 (13c) in Shiga prefecture, visualizes Genshin's description of the rokudou, devoting four scrolls each for the realms of humans and hells. In the turbulent dislocations of the late 12c, religious patrons and artists seemed particularly interested in visualizations of the realms of hells and hungry ghosts. The Hell Scrolls Jigoku zoushi 地獄草紙 (1180's, Tokyo National Museum and Nara National Museum) and Hungry Ghost Scroll Gaki zoushi 餓鬼草紙 (1180's, Kyoto Natioanl Museum) are well known, and sometimes the term rokudou-e in the narrowest sense of the term indicates these handscrolls *emaki 絵巻. From the Kamakura period *Jizou 地蔵 often took the place of Amida, to act as savior from the six realms, and depictions of rescue from hells are often found in the scrolls of stories related to Jizou.
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