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Legends of the Yūzū Nembutsu Sect

Long painted scroll, green, brown mountains, wooden house, Amida Buddha on cloud.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Long painted scroll, green, brown mountains, wooden house, Amida Buddha on cloud.


14th century


Artist unknown
Japanese, active 14th century

About this artwork

One of the most important and beautiful records of Amidism, a Buddhist salvation theology, is this rare narrative handscroll. It recounts details from the life of Ryōnin (1073–1132), a charismatic Tendai monk who founded the Yūzū sect. The Buddhist concept of yūzū refers to the interrelationship or initial oneness of all things. The dynamically new approach to salvation that Ryōnin developed from yūzū reasoned that if all things are interrelated, the meritorious action of one individual benefits many. Followers of Amidism registered their names in a tally book, pledging to recite the brief nembutsu prayer, an invocation of the Amida Buddha, at specific times during the day. Contrasted with the dense and elite ritual of Buddhist teachings of the Heian period (794–1185), this simple, more populist approach to Buddhism had enormous appeal. Commissioned and executed in the mid-fourteenth century, during the revival of the Yūzū sect, this lengthy horizontal scroll is unrolled from right to left and intended to be studied in successive sections each approximately the width of the viewer’s shoulders.


On View, Gallery 104


Arts of Asia


Legends of the Yūzū Nembutsu Sect


Japan (Artist's nationality)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Handscroll; ink, colors, and gold on paper


30.5 × 1176.9 cm (12 × 460 in.)

Credit Line

Kate S. Buckingham Endowment

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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