This finely decorated Korean manuscript contains Volume 32 of the Buddhist scripture called the Avataṃsaka-sūtra, in Sanskrit, and popularly known as the Garland (or Flower Ornament) Sūtra.
What is the Garland Sūtra?
The Avataṃsaka-sūtra is one of the major texts of the Huayan school, a branch of Buddhism that flourished in China during the Tang dynasty (618–917) and continues to attract millions of followers, particularly in East Asia. It is known in Korea as Hwaeom and in Japan as Kegon. This manuscript is a section from the translation into Chinese made by a Khotanese monk, Śiksānanda, in 695–699, which consists of eighty chapters in total. Volume 32 forms part of Chapter 25 devoted to the ‘Ten Dedications’, which describes the acts of bodhisattvas as they bestow merits on other beings in order to bring about universal enlightenment.
Why is this manuscript important?
The manuscript, which dates from around 1390, is a luxurious production created for a royal or noble patron, written in gold pigment on thick and lustrous white mulberry paper. The beautifully painted frontispiece depicts the Buddha, seated on a high platform, preaching to an audience of bodhisattvas and monks.
While many Buddhist texts in East Asia were written on long scrolls, this is in a folded, concertina format, which was easier to handle. Reflecting the name of the sūtra, the covers are decorated with traditional floral patterns.