Brightly colored mandalas were painted even inside a five-storied temple pagoda, where no one would see them. By decorating it with mandalas, the artist transformed the pagoda into a microcosm of its own.
The five-storied pagoda of Daigo-ji temple was built at the wish of Emperor Suzaku and completed in the year 951. In the interior of its first level, the kongokai (vajra-dhatu) and taizokai (garbha-dhatu) mandalas were painted on wooden panels covering the central pillar, four outer pillars, and latticed windows. Portraits of the eight founders of the Shingon sect and the guardian deities of the eight directions were painted on the wainscot and doors. Of the panels covering the inside of the latticed windows on each of the eight faces of the pagoda, the paintings shown here were on those covering the window on the northern of the two western faces. Ten deities of the western direction of the kongokai mandala were painted there, and four of the deities on two panels are in the University Art Museum collection. The figure with the dragon crown in the upper section is Suiten (Varuna). Seated next to Suiten is the consort of Bichuten (Visnu), while two music-making deities inhabit the lower section. Because these panels have not undergone any restoration since being found, much of the paint has peeled off. This has exposed the underdrawing and ground, however, and has provided us with good evidence of the processes involved in the production of these images. These paintings are also valuable as standard transition from a Chinese to a Japanese style. (Writer : Tamon Takase Source : Selected Masterpieces from The University Art Museum, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music: Grand Opening Exhibition, The University Art Museum, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, 1999)