Sermon on Mani's Teaching of Salvation

Sermon on Mani's Teaching of Salvation (Chinese: 冥王聖幀; literally: 'Sacred Scroll of the King of the Underworld') is a Yuan dynasty silk hanging scroll, measuring 142 × 59 centimetres and dating from the 13th century, with didactic themes: a multi-scenic narrative that depicts Mani's Teachings about the Salvation combines a sermon subscene with the depictions of soteriological teaching in the rest of the painting.[1]

Sermon on Mani's Teaching of Salvation
Chinese: 冥王聖幀
Sermon on Mani's Teaching of Salvation. Cathayan Manichaean silk painting, 13th-century.jpg
Year13th century
TypeHanging scroll, paint and gold on silk
Dimensions142.0 cm × 59.2 cm (55.9 in × 23.3 in)
LocationMuseum of Japanese Art, Nara

The painting was regarded as a depiction of the six realms of saṃsāra by Japanese Buddhists, therefore it was called "Painting of the Six Paths of Rebirth" (Japanese: 六道図).[2] After being studied by scholars like Takeo Izumi [ja], Yutaka Yoshida [ja], Zsuzsanna Gulácsi and Jorinde Ebert, they concluded that the painting is a Manichaean work of art.[3] It was probably produced by a 13th-century painter from Ningbo, a city in southern China,[4] and is kept today in the Museum of Japanese Art Yamato Bunkakan in Nara, Nara.


The painting is divided into five scenes, with titles given by Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, a Hungarian specialist on Manichaeism.[5]

  • The Light Maiden's Visit to Heaven: the first section at the top depicts heaven as a palatial building that forms the focus of a narration of events with the repeated images of a few mythological beings: the Maiden of Light visiting the heaven. It shows on the left the greetings by the host of heaven upon the arrival of Maiden of Light, meeting with the host in the palace in the middle and the Maiden leaving heaven on the right.
  • Sermon Around a Statue of Mani: the second scene is the main section and largest among the five, it depicts a sermon performed around the statue of a Manichaean deity (Mani) by two Manichaean elects dressing in white on the right. The elect giving the sermon is seated, while his assistant is standing. On the left seated the layman dressing in red and his attendant, listen to the sermon.
  • States of Good Reincarnation: the third section is further divided into four small squares, each portraying one of four classes of Chinese society in order to capture what seems to be the daily life of the Chinese Manichaean laity. From left to right, the first scene represents itinerant labourers; the second, craftsmen; the third, farmers, and the fourth, aristocrats.
Detail: Maiden of Light on a cloud formation with her attendants.
  • The Light Maiden's Intervention in a Judgement: the fourth scene shows a judge seated behind a desk surrounded by his aides in a pavilion on an elevated platform, to the front of which two pairs of demons lead their captives to hear their fates. In the upper left corner, the Maiden of Light arrives on a cloud formation with two attendants, to intervene on behalf of the man about to be judged. This section is a depiction of the Manichaean view of judgement after death. The French historian Étienne de la Vaissière compared the judgement scene with that displayed on the Sogdian Wirkak's sarcophagus, and concluded that they are strikingly similar.[6]
  • States of Bad Reincarnation: the final scene depicting four fearful images of hell that include, from left to right, a demon shooting arrows at a person suspended from a red frame in the upper left corner; a person hung upside down and being dismembered by two demons; a fiery wheel rolled over a person; and lastly a group of demons waiting for their next victims.


Zsuzsanna Gulácsi states in her article A Visual Sermon on Mani's Teaching of Salvation:



The eight silk hanging scrolls

Eight silk hanging scrolls with Manichaean didactic images from southern China from between the 12th and the 15th centuries, which can be divided into four categories:

Mono-scenic icons
Soteriology scroll
  • Sermon on Mani's Teaching of Salvation
Prophetology scrolls
Cosmology scroll

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Gulácsi, Zsuzsanna (2015). Mani's Pictures: The Didactic Images of the Manichaeans from Sasanian Mesopotamia to Uygur Central Asia and Tang-Ming China. "Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies" series. 90. Leiden: Brill Publishers. p. 245. ISBN 9789004308947.
  2. ^ "「六道図(大和文華館)」をめぐって" (PDF). (in Japanese). 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  3. ^ Ma, Xiaohe (2014). 霞浦文書研究 [A Study of the Xiapu Manichaean Manuscripts] (PDF) (in Chinese). Lanzhou: Lanzhou University Press. p. 35. ISBN 9787311046699.
  4. ^ a b Gulácsi, Zsuzsanna (2008). "A Visual Sermon on Mani's Teaching of Salvation: A Contextualized Reading of a Chinese Manichaean Silk Painting in the Collection of the Yamato Bunkakan in Nara, Japan". Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  5. ^ Gulácsi, Zsuzsanna (2011). "Searching for Mani's Picture-Book in Textual and Pictorial Sources". Heidelberg University Publishing. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  6. ^ La Vaissière, Étienne de (2015). "Wirkak: Manichaean, Zoroastrian, Khurramî?". p. 100. Retrieved 27 November 2018.