Buddha’s Brush, Buddha’s Paste

As a restorer, I was delighted to make the acquaintance of a rather special rarity: a Japanese Taima-Mandala from the 14th century arrived in my workshop. Just as a cocoon slowly unravels when the silken thread is pulled, the picture’s design, its painting techniques and its historical/spiritual background yielded up their secrets to me as the work proceeded.

I recorded the experiential wonders of my voyage of discovery in numerous pictures, which I would now like to share with you. Like a treasure chest, this bilingual book can be used to dip into the mandala repeatedly as a cornucopia of artistically applied craftsmanship and aesthetic delights.

It is divided into three sections: first of all, the reader is invited to follow the restoration work, from the initial planning through to final framing. The European and Far Eastern working methods are shown in many illustrations, presenting both the tools and the materials employed.

The second section explores the mandala’s creation and its teachings, as Buddhism spread along the Silk Road, from its origins in India, to its full flowering in Tang Dynasty China, and onward to Japan.

In the third section the treasure hunt proceeds to the spiritual sources of this Taima-Mandala, examining how it translates the Contemplation Sūtra into visual images.

The sūtra is presented to us as a vivid historical drama. On the first of the three stages, the inspirational story of an Indian royal family unfolds, adumbrating the path to self-cultivation.

On the other two stages, the aim is to purify the consciousness and attain true wisdom.

Finally, in the centre of the mandala, the aspirant reaches the Pure Land of Buddha Amitābha.

This huge painted mandala was restored using modern concepts of technology, intimate knowledge of the materials involved, and due respect for its thematic integrity. In addition,

in etymological faithfulness to the Latin word “restaurare”, and in serene mindfulness of Buddha’s teachings, the picture’s exhilarating vitality was renewed and in a very literal

sense restored. Alleviation of suffering and renewal of the world are the core and

quintessence of Buddha Amitābha´s Contemplation Sūtra.

I hope that reading and browsing in this book will give you hours of pleasure.


Hai-Yen Hua-Ströfer

A scholarly book for

people with diverse interests

art lovers
spiritual journeyers
Asia researchers
art historians
craftspersons and artisans
creative/innovative minds


Rebirth of a Taima-Mandala

Restoration and Origin