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An 11th-century text, “A Tale of Flowering Fortunes,” described the Six Kannon who “filled the worlds in the 10 directions with innumerable rays of light, which manifested in their colors the bodhisattva resolve to benefit all living beings everywhere.”

Sherry D. Fowler’s “Accounts and Images of Six Kannon in Japan” is an art historical study in the form of a journey to recover the scattered archaeological fragments of the past. The generalized subject is Kannon (in Sanskrit, Avalokitesvara), the compassionate and venerated deity of Buddhism. Fowler’s specific focus is its cult of six, the celestial compartmentalization being an expedient directory to “who” can help with “what” in the answering of prayers.

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