Why Picture a Tigress Gorging on One’s Body? Art of Compassion and What Else?

Hungry Tigress Jataka panel, from the Tamamushi Shrine, c. 650, Hōryū-ji Treasure House, Hōryū-ji, Nara; lacquer on wood.

Eugene Wang
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art, Harvard University
Tuesday, April 23, 2019, 6:00–7:00 pm

807 Schermerhorn Hall

The Tamamushi Shrine at Hōryūji, Japan, features a graphic scene. A young prince throws himself off a cliff to allow a hungry tigress to feed on his body. As one of the scenarios of the Buddha’s former lives and repeatedly pictured across Asia, the scene is all too familiar to students of Buddhism. Less probed is the unsettling question: why did medieval lay patrons support art projects that highlight such harrowing scenes in memorial of their deceased family members?