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kousouden-e@m`G
KEY WORD :@art history / paintings
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Sometimes called *eden G`. Pictorial biographies of revered Buddhist priests and patriarchs. Most were produced in handscroll painting *emaki G although some are on hanging scrolls *kakemono | often with scenes laid out in registers to be read like a handscroll. Great numbers of pictorial biographies of famous holy men were produced during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods and deal with both Chinese/Korean and Japanese sect founders and charismatic preachers. These kousouden grew out of a tradition of biographies of important religious figures dating at least from 6c in China. In Japan, such biographies, especially in the Pure Land tradition, were known as oujouden ` and described how exemplary priests or lay believers attained enlightenment and so died with equanimity. The illustrated biographies also focus on religious practices, good works, miraculous benefits of faith, attainment of enlightenment and a peaceful death often amid lotus petals and the appearance of a welcoming *Amida and his retinue. In these works legendary stories and parables are often interwoven with historic facts, but adhering to the nature of biography, most record actual personages and events and many extant examples are dated. An early work is Kegonshuu soshi eden ،@ctG` (The Pictorial Biographies of the Founders of the Kegon Sect :early 13c; Kouzanji R, Kyoto), also known as Gishou Gengyou-e `ÌŊG (The Painting of Gishou and Gengyou/Uisang and Wonhyo) after the names of two central characters who were Korean monks. The pictorial biography of the Chinese monk Jianzhen (Jp: Ganjin Ӑ^, 687-763), who voyaged to Japan with great travails to found the Ritsu sect (based at Toushoudaiji ) is entitled Touseiden emaki `G (Attacking the East) painted by Rengyou @s in 1298 Toushoudaiji, Nara. Other examples of non-Japanese protagonists are Joudo Goso emaki yܑcG (The Biographies of Five Patriarchs of the Joudo Sect :1305; Koumyouji , Kanagawa prefecture); and Genjou Sanzou emaki OG (The Biography of Xuanzhuang [Jp: Genjou , 600/602-664] :early 14c ;Fujita c Art Museum, Osaka) painted at the court atelier under Takashina Takakane K. The Japanese holy men most frequently depicted were generally founders of the new Buddhist sects with their strong outreach in the Kamakura period. Many versions and copies were produced to answer the needs of itinerant proselytizers or temples seeking believers and support. Small groups would be given an explanation or recital of the biographies as the speaker pointed to the illustrations *etoki G and emphasized the unique powers of the founder's or sect's message and the benefits of belief and donations. Notable examples are: *Hounen Shounin eden @RlG` (The Biography of Hounen :early versions 13-14c; Chion-in m@, Kyoto) and *Shinran Shounin eden ealG` (The Biography of Shinran :early versions 13-14c). *Ippen hijiri-e ՐG (The Biography of Ippen :painted by priest En-i ~ and his atelier, 1299, Kankikouji , Kyoto) deserves special mention for its excellent combination of documentary, accuracy and pictorial beauty. Another lineage of Ippen illustrated biography began with a handscroll version by his disciple Taa (1237-1319) which is called Ippen Shounin e-den ՏlG` (two versions with many copies produced in and after the 14c). Another important work is the handscroll pair Yuuzuu nenbutsu engi ZʔON which describes the life of Rounin ǔE (1073-1132) an early advocate of the spiritual (and mundane) benefits of faithfully calling on and praising *Amida by reciting the formulaic prayer Namu Amida Butsu 얳ɕ. The 1314 original scrolls are no longer extant, but an early 14c copy is now preserved in Cleveland Museum and Art Institute of Chicago. The term kousouden-e usually refers to the paintings of famous priests made after 12c in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods. However, there are some works which may be classified as such which date from the earlier Heian period. For example, Shoutoku Taishi eden qG` (The Pictorial Biography of Prince Shoutoku) in its earliest extant version consists of wall paintings (formerly decorating the Picture Hall of Houryuuji @, now in Tokyo National Museum) painted by Hata Chitei `v in 1069. Prince Shoutoku, who is regarded as the introducer of Buddhism to Japan, was never a Buddhist priest although in popular belief he is revered as a Buddhist saint. After the 13c with the growth of the cult of Shoutoku Taishi encouraged by the established Nara sects such as Hossou @ and Tendai V, many versions and copies of Shoutoku's pictorial biography were made. Another famous Heian illustrated handscroll is Shighisan engi emaki MMRNG (The Legends of Mt. Shigi :late 12c; Chougosonshiji 쑷q, Nara). Although classified as a *shaji engi-e ЎNG, because it depicts miraculous annecdotes from the life of a temple/sect founder or reviver, in this case the priest Myouren @, it can also be regarded as a type of illustrated historical biography.
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