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Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) in a Korean scroll

May 1, 2013

Manus Brinkman sent us this interesting picture and text, which he got from the Virtual Collection of Masterpieces, VCM:

Citrus medica Korean scroll2.72Look at the servant to the right of Buddha, what are the fruits on his tray?

Citrus medica Korean scroll1.72

The red fruit is a pomegranate (Punica granatum), a symbol of supreme power. The yellow fingered fruit is a Buddha hand fruit (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis), a symbol of a learned man. At Dokmai Garden we have selected this fruit as our mascot, since you can literally shake hands with the ambassador of the plant kingdom (see our avatar to the right of this blog). Below is the explanatory text from VCM:

“The ‘Blazing Light’ Buddha and his heavenly entourage (Chiseonggwang Samjon-do)

It is a separate but rare type of Buddhist painting with its figures originating in Daoist folk belief. The colours are vivid, and the overall effect is uniform and impressive. The relatively free style of the figures and the colours employed are characteristic of the 19th century. The theme of the painting represents a rare type in Korean Buddhist painting. In Buddhism the Daoist cult of the Seven Star-Deities changed into the cult of the Seven Star-Buddhas. Later the ‘Blazing Light’ Buddha as a main figure was represented separately and his entourage consisted of the Seven Star-Buddhas. Their special shrine was called the Shrine of the ‘Seven Star’ (Korean: Chilseong-gák) where the picture of the ‘Blazing Light’ Buddha Trinity was given the place of honour, with the pictures of the Star Buddhas (Chilseong-do) being placed on either side of it.

In the centre of this composition sits the ‘Blazing Light’ Buddha, on a lotus flower throne in a contemplative posture, with the golden Wheels of Law on his two palms. Before him on either side appear the Sunlight Bodhisattva (Ilgwang Bosal) and the Moonlight Bodhisattva (Wolgwang Bosal) in a similar posture. They wear the red disk of the Sun and the white disk of the Moon in their diadems. On both sides of the trinity in two rows there are celestial officials (depicted as the Seven Star-Kings) in high-ranking court attire. Above the celestial officials, on floating white balls of clouds sit the seven little Buddhas, in contemplative posture on indigo-blue lotus flower-thrones. They are none other than the Seven Star-Buddhas. Near the ‘Blazing Light’ Buddha a celestial servant is seen carrying a round tray with fruits. A distinctively shaped fruit among them is known as the Buddha’s hand.”

Owner: Hungarian State; property management by the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest; in the Collection of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Eastern Asiatic Arts, Budapest.

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