shussan Shaka 出山釈迦
KEY WORD : art history / iconography
Lit. Buddha coming forth from the mountains. A scene from the life of the historical Buddha (Sk: Sakyamuni, *Shaka 釈迦), that has been made the subject of paintings especially in the Zen 禅 sects of Buddhism in China and Japan. After having renounced the world to become a mendicant, Shaka is said to have devoted six years to fasting and other ascetic austerities, but realizing that these practices were to no avail, he went to the Nairanjana River (Jp: Nirenzenga 尼連禅河). There he bathed, ate some rice-gruel offered him by a village maiden in order to restore his physical strength, sat down to meditate under a large pipal tree near the town of Gaya, and there attained enlightenment. Shussan 出山 (coming forth from the mountains) refers to his departure from the site of his austerities following his abandonment of asceticism. The mountains in question are generally thought to be the Himalayas. Paintings of this episode, known as Shussan Shaka-zu 出山釈迦図 (Painting of Buddha Coming Forth from the Mountains), depict an emaciated and bearded Shaka coming down from a mountain in tattered robes. The traditions of this genre of painting go back to the Chan sects of Song China, where it was a popular motif of ink paintings *suibokuga 水墨画. It was later introduced to Japan, where it became an equally popular subject of Zen art. Perhaps the most renowned example of such a painting is that by Liang Kai (Jp: Ryou Kai 梁楷; fl. early 13c) of the Southern Song, now preserved at Tokyo National Museum. Although few in number, there also exist some wooden images representing Shaka in the same pose.

*butsuden-zu 仏伝図 

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