Home > Exhibitions > Online Exhibition > Masters of Mercy

Masters of Mercy: Buddha's Amazing Disciples

Birds and Beasts

An attendant presents a giant turtle with a luxuriant growth of algae.
Scroll 62 Zoom
A rakan gently cleans the ear of an animal that appears to be a hybrid of unicorn and deer.
Scroll 61 Zoom

Birds and Beasts, Five Hundred Arhats: Scrolls 61 and 62

Kano Kazunobu (1816–63)
Japan, Edo Period, ca. 1854–63
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
Collection, Zōjōji, Tokyo

Animals are regarded in Buddhist thought as sentient beings, with capacity for suffering and potential for enlightenment. This section of ten paintings show the rakan engaged with a variety of animals, both real and mythical. In the right scroll, a rakan gently cleans the ear of an animal that appears to be a hybrid of unicorn and deer. Above, two rakan gleefully take a ride on flying red foxes. In the left scroll, an attendant presents a giant turtle with a luxuriant growth of algae. He points to the carapace design, which the sage attempts to divine. In the background, a rakan makes the "knife" gesture to subdue a dog-headed beast with hooves and tusks.