Shakyamuni Descending the Mountain

Photo: Susan A. Cole

Shakyamuni Descending the Mountain

late 13th century

Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, endured six years of austerity in the mountains but abandoned ascetic practices after realizing they were not helping to end the world’s suffering. His descent from the mountains became an often-depicted subject in Chinese and Japanese paintings, especially in the Chan/Zen sect of Buddhism.

In this painting, rugged ink strokes delineate his ragged robe and bony body. Thin lines portray his face with two of the Buddha’s special features: ushnisha (bump) on his head and urna (a spiral of hair) on his forehead. The background is reduced to a simple diagonal line that indicates the slope he is descending.

Hanging scroll, (mounted in frame); ink on paper
35 3/4 x 16 1/2in. (90.8 x 41.9cm)
Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection
Photo: Susan A. Cole
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryBerlin, Germany, Staatliche Museum, Berlin Exhibition, 1939.

San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Art, Art in Asia and the West, 1957.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Japanese Art in the Seattle Art Museum, 1960.

San Francisco, California, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, Treasures of Japan, 1960.

New York, New York, Asia House, Tea Taste in Japanese Art, 1963.

Portland, Oregon, Portland Art Museum, Gift to a City: Masterworks from the Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection in the Seattle Art Museum. Nov. 3 - 28, 1965. Cat. no. 118.

New York, New York, Asia Society, Journey of the Three Jewels, 1979. Cat. no. 49.

Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art, Mar. 4 - May 20, 1984 (Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, June 30 - Aug. 26, 1984; Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Museum, Nov. 1, 1984 - Feb. 10, 1985).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, A Thousand Cranes: Treasures of Japanese Art, Feb. 5 - July 12, 1987.

New York, New York, Japan Society, Inc., Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting In Medieval Japan, Mar. 28 - June 17, 2007.

Tokyo, Japan, Suntory Museum of Art, Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art From the Seattle Art Museum, July 25 - Sept. 6, 2009 (Kobe, Japan, Kobe City Museum, Sept. 19 - Dec. 6, 2009; Kofu, Japan, Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Dec. 23, 2009 - Feb. 28, 2010; Atami, Japan, MOA Museum of Art, Mar. 13 - May 9, 2010; Fukuoka, Japan, Fukuoka Art Museum, May 23 - July 19, 2010).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Luminous: The Art of Asia, Oct. 13, 2011 - Jan. 8, 2012.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Boundless: Stories of Asian Art, Feb. 8, 2020 - ongoing [on view Feb. 8, 2020 - July 11, 2021].
Published ReferencesBouthiller, Rose, et al. "Kirk Mangus: Things Love", Cleveland: Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 2014, p. 16.

Edwards, Richard. "The Heart of Ma Yuan: The Search for a Southern Song Aesthetic". Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011, pg. 19,

Kawai, Masatomo, Yasuhiro Nishioka, Yukiko Sirahara, editors, "Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art From the Seattle Art Museum", 2009, The Yomiuri Shimbun, catalogue number 35

Levine, Gregory, and Yukio Lippit, "Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting In Medieval Japan," 2007, Japan Society, Inc., p. 69, plate 2

Rambelli, Fabio. "Muhammad Learning the Dao and Writing Sutras: Early Japanese Representations of Muhammad." In The Image of the Prophet Between Ideal and Ideology, edited by Christiane J. Gruber and Avinoam Shalem, pp. 253-267, reproduced fig. 3.
Brinker, Helmut and Hiroshi Kanazawa and Andreas Leisinger. "ZEN Masters of Meditation in Images and Writings," in Artibus Asiae, Supplementum, Vol. 40, ZEN Masters of Meditation in Images and Writings (1996), pp. 2-14+16-22+24-58+60-80+82-112+114-118+120-269+271-335+337-345+347-368+371-384; p. 134, fig. 94

Toda, Teisuke and Toshio Ebine, "Painting of Muromachi Period I-Ink Monochrome Painting and Medieval Scroll," Tokyo: Kodansha, 1992

Lachman, Charles. "Why Did The Patriarch Cross The River? The Rushleaf Bodhidarma Reconsidered," in Asia Major, Third Series, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1993), pp. 237-267, fig 11, p. 260

Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, "A Thousand Cranes: Treasures of Japanese Art," copublished by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 1987, p. 132, ill. p. 133

Trubner, Henry. "Asian Art in the Seattle Art Museum: Fifty Years of Collecting." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1983, p. 5, illus. b&w

Asia Society, New York, New York, "Journey Of The Three Jewels," 1979, no. 49.

Zainie, Carla M. "Sources for Some Early Japanese Ink Paintings," in The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 65, No. 7 (September 1978), pp. 232-246, illus. p. 237, fig. 6

Mayuyama, Junkichi, "Mayuyama, Seventy Years," 1976, vol. II, p. 179, pl. 358.

Brinker, Helmut. "Shussan Shaka in Sung and Yuan Painting," in Ars Orientalis, Vol. 9, Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Volume (1973), pp. 21-40, cf. 28, 29, (unnumbered) fig. 1

Shimada, Shujiroi, "Japanese Art In The West," 1969.

Mayuyama, Junkichi, "Japanese Art In The West," 1966, no. 96.

"Gift to a City" exhibition catalogue. Portland, OR: Portland Art Museum, 1965, cat. no. 117

Lee, Sherman E. "Tea Taste In Japanese Art," 1963, Asia House, New York, New York, p. 27, p. 95, no. 7.

Fuller, Richard E. "Japanese Art in the Seattle Art Museum: An Historical Sketch." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1960 ("Presented in commemoration of the Hundredth Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and the United States of America"), no. 58

Seattle Art Museum Guild, Seattle, Washington, "Engagement Calendar," 1953

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, "Bulletin, XXXIX," 1952, p. 236, no. 1

"Handbook, Seattle Art Museum: Selected Works from the Permanent Collections." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1951, p. 94

Lee, Sherman E., "Japanese Monochrome Painting at Seattle", Artibus Asiae, XIV, nos. 1-2, 1951, p. 46, fig. 1, 2.

Staatliche Museum, Berlin, Germany, AUSTELLUNG ALTAJAPANISCHER KUNST, 1939, no. 53, p. 74.

Kobayashi, Azumi. Study of Sankei Hara and Kozanji-Temple. Nagoya Bunri University, 2018: pp. 33, fig. 8.

Foong, Ping, Xiaojin Wu, and Darielle Mason. "An Asian Art Museum Transformed." Orientations vol. 51, no. 3 (May/June 2020): pp. 54-55, reproduced fig. 12 (installation view).

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM

Supported by Microsoft logo