Important Cultural Property
Panel; ink and colors on silk
H 74.7, W 44.7
Heian period/12th century
Provenance: Todai-ji Temple, Nara Prefecture
Nara National Museum
There is a story of Zenzai-Doji in Nyuhokkaihon contained in "Kegon Kyo" (Buddhist sutra). In the story, Zenzai-Doji, who had a supple mind and a rich spirit, was determined to become Buddhist after hearing the sermon of Monsyu-Bosatsu and he followed the advice of Monsyu-Bosatsu and visited 53 zenchishiki (good friends who lead us to strengthen our own faith and practice) one after another and finally achieved great enlightenment. The scenes of Zenzai-Doji's visits had already been represented in Kegonkyohen known in the Nara period in Japan. This painting is one of the 53 paintings (or 54 painting including Saiken Monjyu) that separately represent scenes of these visits in the order of places visited. These were originally Kakefuku (hanging scrolls) with Kakibyoso (adornments on the cloth of the painting scrolls). Twenty paintings still remain among them and of which, ten paintings are held in Todai-ji Temple and the other 10 paintings are separately held in the Nezu Museum, the Fujita Museum of Art and the Nara National Museum. Although there are some variations in expressions among these paintings, there is no doubt that they are a set of paintings.
It is presumed that Rekisan-zu drawn as wall paintings existed in the late Heian period in Japan (Kogogu Kondousha Anbutsuzo Ganmon). There are also some examples in the Northern Sung in China and it is presumed that a Japanese Buddhist priest, Jyojin, who went to Sung saw the "Zenzai Chishiki" wall painting at the Daibutsu-den in Kaigen-ji Temple in Lu Chouand Giten from Koraiko (Goryeo) copied "Zaizen Doji Sanzenchishiki 54 Jiku" held at Ein-ji Temple in Hangzhou and went back to their own countries. Therefore, the establishment of this painting should be considered from the perspective of East Asia.
The names, addresses and tributes, etc., are inscribed on the upper part in ink. The tributes vary and are based on either 60 Kegon or 80 Kegon. The style is not based on the one newly established in the late North Sung period, which is known by Takuhon and Hanga paintings and it probably inherits the characteristics of the old form of Chinese Zenzai Doji Rekisan-zu. Various features seen in the Buddhist paintings in the mid Heian period including Gushoku (whitish pale coloring) expression, colored lines and colored shadow painting (irokuma) are applied and the patterns of the landscapes and unique shapes and types of motifs represented in this painting are also old style. This is a thought-provoking painting due to its conservative style.
It is presumed that this painting was hung on the wall of the Chuogoma (break and dining room) of Todai-ji Temple Kaidanin Sanmensobo Kitamuro in the Muromachi period.