Sherry D. Fowler is Professor of Art History at the University of Kansas. She received her PhD in Japanese Art History from UCLA. Her publications include Muroji: Rearranging Art and History at a Japanese Buddhist Temple (2005) and Accounts and Images of Six Kannon in Japan (2015). She is currently researching the relationship between Japanese prints and pilgrimage practices as well as changing perceptions of Buddhist temple bells.
Abstract: When Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara) appears in multiple manifestations, the compassionate Buddhist deity’s magnificent powers are believed to magnify to even greater heights. The cult of the Six Kannon, which began in Japan in the tenth century, remained strong until its transition in the sixteenth century into the still active Thirty-Three Kannon cult present in paintings, prints, and pilgrimage routes. Although the majority of image sets of Six Kannon have been lost or scattered, some key works survive to tell the tale of the cult’s former vibrancy, magnitude, and distribution. While Kannon’s role of assisting beings trapped in the six paths of transmigration is a well-documented catalyst for the selection of six, there were other significant motivations for sponsorship, such as assistance with childbirth and animal husbandry, and the matching with Shinto kami groups of six.
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