Important Cultural Property
Color on paper
Nanbokuchō period/14th century
Tokyo National Museum
This piece is also known as Naki Fudō Engi-e (Story of Crying Fudō) or Shoukū Ekotoba (Illustrated Story of Shoukū). There are parts missing before and after this emaki, but the story is roughly the following. Chikou of Mitsui-ji temple became ill, and his disciple Shoukū decided to take on the illness in his place. The first picture depicts a scene where Shoukū's mother is grieving upon hearing his decision. In the second scene, Chikou and the demon of ill health are in his quarter of the temple, and following that, Abeno Seimei sets up an altar and prays for the substitution of the ill body. There are ghosts in front of the altar. In the third scene, Shoukū, who took on the illness, prays to Fudou Myouou (a powerful deity) for help. Then Fudou Myouou takes on the illness, thereby Shoukū's pain disappears. Fudou Myouou was tied up and sent to the realm of the dead. The ruler of the realm was astounded by that, and released Fudou Myouou immediately. He returns riding on a cloud. After this scene, only the words survived, which says that Shoukū, recovered from illness, meets his mother again, rejoicing.
The story seems to have been popular in the medieval period, as there were a number of versions produced in that period that have survived. Among them, this piece is a rare one for its time of production in the late Kamakura period, which is indicated by its features of the solid lines for the shapes of buildings, and the free and easy style of the landscapes and mists, which is not formalized yet. This piece can be said to be one of the most valuable emaki in the history of Japanese art.