Heaven and Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism

June 16 – September 10, 2017


Heaven and hell

Image caption: Amida Buddha with Attending BodhisattvasJapan, Edo period, late 18th century, Wood with gold, pigment, metal, and headstones, 22 x 18 x 9 in., San Antonio Museum of Art, gift of Lenora and Walter F. Brown, 2013.38.262, Photography by Peggy Tenison.

Heaven and Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism, will bring together approximately seventy paintings, sculpture, and works of decorative arts to survey the artistic expressions of the Pure Land faith. Pure Land Buddhism is based on belief in Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, who promises salvation in his heavenly paradise after death to all those who will simply call upon his name. The appeal of easy salvation made faith in Amitabhha one of the most popular forms of Buddhism throughout Asia, where it inspired the development of beautiful and diverse works of art.

To introduce the subject, the exhibition will include a selection of works from the continent of Asia, such as the Gandhara region of India, Southeast Asia, China, Tibet, and Korea, which show the endurance of Pure Land motifs across continents for a thousand years. The majority of the show will be focused on Japanese works of art that illustrate how Amitabha will descend to earth from his heaven to greet a dying soul, scenes of hell, the numerous divine beings that are put on earth to guide the faithful and assist those who have fallen into hell escape that terrible fate.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Elizabeth Huth Coates Foundation of 1992, the Theodore and Doris Lee Family Foundation, the Marcia & Otto Koehler Foundation, and the Pilkington Anglo-Japanese Cultural Foundation.