Dharma Wonder Boy


This early-18th century work by an unknown artist is a typical example of Nara-ehon, the illustrated manuscripts or hand-printed scrolls and books produced in Japan from the Muromachi (1333-1573) through the mid-Edo (1615-1868) periods. The Hōmyō dōji is originally an East Indian story with roots in Buddhism. Like many such stories, it begins with the characteristic phrase, “Once upon a time in the land of the Buddha...” It goes on to tell the story of a child who was chosen to become a sacrifice for a giant snake. The child’s father decides to seek a surrogate for his child. A boy named Hōmyō dōji, who could not bear his mother’s sorrow after her husband’s death, sells himself to the man when his mother is not at home. Hōmyō dōji becomes the sacrifice and, while he is reciting a sutra near a grotto, a Bodhisattva suddenly appears and transforms the snake into a boy. When the emperor hears of this story, he calls for the dōji (boy) to be brought to him, and abdicates the throne to the dōji. The dōji then searches for his mother, with whom he lives happily ever after. The work is bound in three volumes, and contains many colorful illustrations.

Last updated: September 29, 2014