karajishi 唐獅子
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Ch: Tang Shizi. The Chinese lion. Representations of lions were produced by Chinese and then Japanese artists based on versions from India and Assyria that had been assimilated into Buddhist iconography. As guardians , lion images were used to decorate the pedestals of Buddhist icons or placed at the gates of Buddhist temples. Probably the most important iconographic role of the lion was that of the vehicle of the bodhisattva *Monju 文殊, and many pictorial and sculptural Japanese examples of Monju riding on a stylized lion occur from the 13c onwards. Lion *Shishi 師子 masks were used in processions and performances as early as the 8c. See *gigakumen 伎楽面. Lions continued to be popular in dances and festivals through Edo period. The lion also appears in secular painting such as in the second scroll of The Frolicking Animals and Humans, Choujuu jinbutsu giga 鳥獣人物戯画 (mid-12c, Kouzanji 高山寺, Kyoto). Because Japanese artists never saw the real beast, lion depictions were increasingly stylized and came to be called karajishi. The lion was a favorite motif used to decorate screens and doors in mansions and castles during the Momoyama and early Edo periods, as seen in the huge folding screens of The Lions, Karajishi-zu byoubu 唐獅子図屏風 (Imperial Collection) by Kanou Eitoku 狩野永徳 (1543-90).


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