Important Cultural PropertyTales of Śramaṇa Buddhist Hell: The Hell of Excrement

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  • 紙本著色地獄草紙(沸屎地獄)
  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Ink and colors on silk Hanging scroll
  • H 26.3, W 104.4 (H 123.6, W 114.0 with mounting)
  • Heian to Kamakura period/12th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 1357(絵267)

  This is the fifth chapter of the Tales of the Buddhist Hells (Jigoku Zoshi) with seven chapters in total, which had been handed down to the Masuda Family. The owned by the former Masudas had long been handed down as a set of the Tales of the Buddhist Hells and the Extermination of Evil (National treasure; owned by Nara National Museum). It has been known that the set depicts the hell for monks (shamon jigoku), which is explained in the Medu Rasetsu kyo sutra contained in the Butsu myo kyo sutra comprising 16 volumes and this drawing corresponds to the “hell of excrement (fusshi jigoku)” in the hell for monks. The folding screen on which hell was drawn and which was used at the Butsumyo-e Service that had been practiced at Court since the early Heian period (794–1185), depicts the hell for monks. Since it is possible that the extermination of evils was also drawn on this folding screen, some believe that the Tales of the Buddhist Hells of the former Masudas, including this one and Extermination of Evil originally constituted one picture scroll that was created based on the design of the folding screen with the hell images.
  While this drawing displays the traditional techniques of Yamato-e paintings in the Heian period such as the careful sketches and shading in character drawing and the sentences are written in the style of Jakuren school, it also shows characteristics of a transitional period to the Kamakura period (1185–1333), such as the line drawing of the servant of hell Medu Rasetsu represented in the extremely fat or thin bodies. It can be said, therefore, that this was created during the period from the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period.