Japan, Nara period, 710–794; handscroll, ink on paper; 9 x 16 11/16 in.; Princeton University Art Museum, Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund, 2012-99, photo: Princeton University Art Museum/Art Resource, NY.
A renowned painter and calligrapher during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1378), Zhao Mengfu was also a practicing Buddhist. Zhao was famous for his technical mastery of “standard script,” beautifully displayed here in this version of the Heart Sutra. Comparing the earlier Japanese Sumidera Heart Sutra with Zhao’s later rendering of the same text reveals the continuing relevance of this scripture to calligraphers and their patrons. It also gives evidence of how sutra copying remained an enduring tradition among Buddhists in East Asia.