Painting of the King of Sweet Dew Saving Hungry Ghost

  • Culture / Period

    Joseon Dynasty

  • Materials

    Silk Fabric

  • Dimensions

    200.7×193.0cm(Hanging scroll painting)

  • Accession Number

    Sinsu 13521


This Buddhist painting depicts a ritual in which Buddha ushers all beings to nirvana by giving them “sweet dew” or nectar called gamno (甘露), where the nectar represents Buddha’s teaching of enlightenment. In the Ullambana Sutra (于蘭盆經), one of the Buddha’s closest disciples, Maudgalyayana (目連尊者), found his deceased mother in one type of hell where ghosts are subjected to constant suffering through thirst and hunger. With the Buddha’s help and guidance, he rescued his mother by faithfully following Buddha’s teaching. Paintings like The Nectar Ritual were frequently produced to represent the wish that all the souls suffering from misfortune and disgrace from their previous lives could enlighten themselves by accepting Buddha’s teaching, and thus reincarnate as a superior being in their next life. While most nectar ritual paintings feature an altar filled with food and a scene from a Buddhist ceremony, this painting dispenses with them. Instead, much of the painting is filled with vivid depictions of various types of karma and their resultant sufferings. The large hungry ghost dominating the center of the painting symbolizes the life of all sentient beings suffering from pain and misfortune. The top of the painting shows a group of Buddhas who seem to be descending to the human world to save the people.

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