Artist/maker unknown, Japanese
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Aizen Myōō is one of the Five Kings of Bright Wisdom, the ferocious guardian deities of Esoteric Buddhism. This meticulously executed painting presents this deity in the typical manner, wearing a lion-mask hat while sitting on a lotus throne with a fierce expression. He holds in his richly jeweled arms the symbols of his power—the thunderbolt, a bell, bow and arrow, and a lotus flower. This scroll dates to the fourteenth century, when the worship of the Wisdom Kings was particularly popular as their protection was invoked against the Mongols who were then attacking Japan; the ultimate failure of the invasions served to bolster belief in the efficacy of these deities.