shaji engi-e 社寺縁起絵
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Often abbreviated to engi-e 縁起絵. Paintings of the origins and history of a temple or shrine, usually amplified with legends accompanied by miraculous stories REIGEN SETSUWA 霊験説話 (explanations and stories of beneficial effects of spirits), added in order to propagate the institution or sect's teachings and to enhance its prestige. Pictorializations tended to require many scenes and so were executed either on handscrolls *emaki 絵巻, in compositions of ten in horizontal registers or incorporating many scenes on hanging scrolls *kakemono 掛物. Although pre-12c written chronicles for temples and shrines founded in the Nara and early-Heian periods exist and may have been illustrated, the oldest extant example of a shaji engi is the Legends of Mt Shigi, Shigisan engi emaki 信貴山縁起絵巻 (Chougosonshiji 朝護孫子寺, Nara) a pair of scrolls dating from the late 12c. In the Kamakura period, as Buddhism with a new salvationist emphasis spread through all levels of society, new Buddhist sects such as the Joudo 浄土 sect developed and produced illustrated biographies of their founders *kousouden-e 高僧伝絵. The new sects needed to elevate their respective charismatic founder and differentiate his message from other sects. Major temples and shrines of the older sects (Shingon 真言, Tendai 天台, Hossou 法相) tended, on the other hand, to commission shaji engi-e. However, the narrative patterns and even the contents of given episodes of kousouden and shaji engi often overlap. Produced in similar painting styles (if not indeed by the same painters) both types served as indispensable tools of propagation in the competition between sects and institutions for followers and funds. The Joukyuu 承久 version of The History of Kitano Shrine, Kitano tenjin engi emaki 北野天神縁起絵巻 (early 13c; Kitano Tenmanguu 北野天満宮, Kyoto) is a representative example of the early period. Around the beginning of the 14c, richly decorated handscrolls of shaji engi-e, such as The Miraculous Stories of the God of Kasuga Shrine, Kasuga Gongen kenki emaki 春日権現験起絵巻 (1309; Imperial Collection), were executed in the workshops *edokoro 絵所 of court painters such as Takashina Takakane 高階隆兼. This scroll set, which is noted for paintings with extensive use of expensive mineral pigments, and time-consuming attention to detail and for distinguished calligraphy, was commissioned and appreciated by aristocrats, but by the end of the 14c and throughout the Edo period numerous copied versions based on earlier scrolls produced with aristocratic patronage were made for to people of all classes. For example, at the end of the 15c demand for *Yuuzuu Nenbutsu engi 融通念仏縁起 scrolls under the energetic proselytization of charismatic preacher Ryouchin 良鎮, was so great that two editions of wood-block printed sets were produced (several extant; 139?, 1411 Dainembutsuji 大念仏寺, Osaka). The printed illustrations served as the basis for further painted copies. Shaji engi in the hanging scroll format, often with scenes laid in horizontal registers (probably based on a handscroll version), could be more easily shown to groups of people visiting a temple or shrine on pilgrimage or festival days, or displayed at meetings of believers kou 講 throughout the region. A priest explained the stories pointing at the illustrations *etoki 絵解. Usually texts for hanging scroll versions were bound separately. The History of Shidoji, Shidoji engi emaki 志度寺縁起絵巻 (early 14c; Shidoji, Kagawa prefecture) is an example of a shaji engi in the hanging scroll format. Put to hard use, shaji engi-e wore out quickly and were copied again, and again usually with cheaper paper and pigments. Shaji engi-e typified by the Kasuga scrolls were painted in a conservative and careful *yamato-e やまと絵 style. However from the early 14c ink-painting techniques of modulated wash and outlines, and compositional elements (i.e. trees, rocks), were incorporated into some shaji engi-e. Kanou Motonobu's 狩野元信 Seiryouji engi 清涼寺縁起 is an example of this tendency. A more general trend can be seen toward a simplification of forms. From the early 15c shaji engi-e displayed fewer compositional elements and greater repetition of figures or background features. With fewer items, details (i.e. flower blossoms) became larger, even exaggerated. Architectural lines were simplified and splayed. As noted, fewer and cheaper pigments were used, leaving more empty or lightly washed backgrounds. There is also a much freer interspersal of text or dialogue into the illustrations. By the late 15c didactic religious stories and histories were picked up in compilations of popular tales called *otogi zoushi 御伽草紙 or illustrated in handsrolls and booklets *sasshibon 冊子本 later called *nara-ehon 奈良絵本. These illustrated tales, painted or often printed, were composed in a relatively naive style and were intended more for amusement or edification than to propagate a particular sect or institution.


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