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Manuscript of the "Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses", ca. 1160

  • Indian

Ink and opaque watercolor on palm leaf

  • 2 1/4 x 18 1/2 in. (5.7 x 47.0 cm)-sight

Gift of P. Jackson Higgs



Asian Art

This manuscript — considered a physical embodiment of the Buddha's wisdom — is both an object of learning and one of devotion. Devotees study and recite its text, believed to be the Buddha's own words. The illustrations, which depict Buddhist deities and events from the Buddha's life, enhance the manuscript's sacred power. Hundreds of manuscripts like this one were produced in eastern India, an important hub for Buddhist scholars and pilgrims. At some point, a visiting devotee brought this manuscript to Nepal, where the covers were made centuries later.

Scribe Dharaka, from the town Ghoshaligrama

Colophon with donor inscription starts at the second line in the right-most section after the lotus design marker on folio 249, verso. Records manuscript's donation by a nun named Mahashribhadra in the seventeenth regnal year of king Madanapala (ca. 1160 CE). Also records name of scribe, Shri Dharaka of the town Ghoshaligrama. Postcolophon dated Nepal Samvat 807 (1687 CE), probably after restoration, records worship and suggests a re-donation or a re-dedication of the manuscript.

Lee, Sherman E. "A Manuscript and a Bronze from Nepal." Bulletin of the DIA 21, no. 8 (May 1942): pp. 66-70 (ill.). Kim, Jinah. “Emptiness on Palm Leaf: A Twelfth-century Illustrated Manuscript of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā." Bulletin of the DIA 82, no. 1/2 (2008): pp. 76-91. Kim, Jinah. “Unheard Voices: Women’s Roles in Medieval Buddhist Artistic Production and Religious Practices in South Asia.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80, no. 1 (March 2012): pp. 207-213. Kim, Jinah. Receptacle of the Sacred: Illustrated Manuscripts and the Buddhist Book Cult. Berkeley, 2013, pp. 55-56, 67, 78, 86, 263. Kim, Jinah. Garland of Visions: Color, Tantra, and a Material History of Painting. Oakland, 2021, pp. 122-126, (ill. fig. 3.9) p. 124.

Indian, Manuscript of the "Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses", ca. 1160, ink and opaque watercolor on palm leaf. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of P. Jackson Higgs, 27.586.79A.