douboushuu 同朋衆
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
A title of artistic or cultural advisors in the Ashikaga 足利 shogunate, established about the time of Yosimitsu 義満 (1358-1408). At first the douboushuu were attendants in charge of miscellaneous personal affairs for the shoguns, but they became cultural advisors to the Ashikaga household as well. Duties included acting as curators of Chinese paintings and objects in the shogunal collections, and as experts on the repair and authentication of works of art. In addition, many of them displayed various talents, such as painting, and acting as masters of *nou 能 and kyougen 狂言 drama, the incense ceremony, poetry writing, flower arrangement, various crafts, and garden design. The Chinese characters for "ami" 阿弥, from the name of the Buddha *Amida 阿弥陀, are found quite frequently among the names of douboushuu indicating a connection with the Jishuu 時宗 Buddhist sect (although it would be incorrect to say that all douboushuu were adherents of the sect.) The social status of the douboushuu was not particularly high, and among their ranks were some who were referred to as kawaramono 河原者 (riverbed people, or riverbank riffraff). This derogatory term referred not only to outcasts and beggars but also actors and other entertainers, all of whom belonged to a landless segment of society on which no taxes were levied. They adopted the guise of a buddhist monk by becoming a priest, they were exempt from the caste system. Thus the douboushuu were seen as outside the strict hierarchy of rank based on birth and they could gain uniquely privileged access and influence in the upper reaches of society. Among the early Ami artists, the master garden-designer Zen'ami 善阿弥 (1393-?) who served under Yoshimasa 義政 (1435-90) seems to have come from such a background. Ryuuami 立阿弥 (? ; the flower-arranger) and Chouami (? ; the craftsman) were also early Ami artists. In addition, three generations of painters and connoisseurs of art known in modern times as the Ami school *Amiha 阿弥派 provided a new direction for development in Japanese ink painting during the late 16c and early 17c. In the Edo period the douboushuu had certain advisory and miscellaneous duties in service to the bakufu 幕府 government and various major daimyou 大名, but did not hold the influential positions which they had enjoyed during the earlier shogunate.


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