Frontispiece to an illuminated manuscript of the Amitabha Sutra


British Museum

British Museum

Buddhism was the official royal religion of the Koryo dynasty, and the aristocracy subsequently promoted the copying of Buddhist sutras. It was considered a deed that would have great spiritual benefit, and copies were commissioned with the aim of earning merit and thus being reborn in a better state or in paradise, released from all wordly suffering. The handwritten copies (sagyong) were made with great skill and care in calligraphy, ususally by monk-scribes.This sutra was written, in silver lettering, by a monk called Ch'onggo for the spiritual benfit of his mother. The manuscript has one illustration, spread over two leaves, and painted in gold. It shows the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, flanked by bodhisattvas and monks preaching to deities and other Buddhas, while two bodhisattvas welcome souls to paradise as they emerge from a lotus pond.Korean sutra writers were in great demand in contemporary China. The sutras were also highly sought after in Japan.This is the only example of a Koryo-period sutra in a European museum, and one of the few outside Korea and Japan.

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  • Title: Frontispiece to an illuminated manuscript of the Amitabha Sutra
  • Date Created: 1341/1341
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 22.00cm; Width: 8.50cm; Width: 17.60cm (Displayed open); Depth: 1.10cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted; dyed
  • Registration number: 1983,1008,0.1
  • Production place: Painted in Korea
  • Place: Found/Acquired Korea
  • Period/culture: Koryo Dynasty
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Previous owner/ex-collection Garner, Harry