National TreasureIllustrated Biography of the Priest Ippen: Volume 7

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  • 絹本著色一遍上人絵伝
  • By Hougen Enni
  • 1 scroll
  • Color on silk
  • 37.8x802.0
  • Kamakura period/Shouan 1(1299)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-10944

This handscroll, also known as the Painting of the Holy Man Ippen (J. Ippen hijiri-e), depicts the life of Ippen (1239-1289), the founder of the Ji sect. The text was edited by Ippen's high-ranking disciple Shôkai, and the handscroll was painted by the monk En'i, who was given the ecclesiastical rank Hôgen ("Eye of the Dharma").

At age thirteen, Ippen left home, took orders, and traveled around Japan as a mendicant. He dedicated his life to spreading Pure Land devotional practices, notably the recitation of the name of the Buddha Amida (J. nenbutsu), and eventually established the Ji sect.

This illustrated handscroll uses a silk ground-quite rare among such works-upon which are drawn, along with the deeds of Ippen, scenes of various places throughout Japan. While the depiction of the human figures is small, the temples, shrines, and landscape in the background are comparatively large. This contrast is characteristic of paintings of famous places (J. meisho-e), which first appeared in screen form in the Heian period (794-1185). While the scrolls display fundamental techniques of Japanese-style painting (J. yamato-e), one can also note influences of Chinese paintings of the Song dynasty (960-1279) in the composition of the landscape and the depiction of trees and rocks.

The seventh scroll, owned by the Tokyo National Museum, depicts Ippen's various activities in Kôan 7 (1284). These include the recitation of Amida's name and the distribution of talismanic slips (J. fuda), as he traveled to Seki-dera Temple in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, to the practice halls of Shijô Avenue and to the marketplace in Kyoto.

In the latter part of the Edo period (1615-1868), the original twelve handscrolls of this set in Kankikô-ji Temple in Kyoto were separated. Scroll seven was at one time owned by the collector Hara Sankei (Tomitarô, 1868-1939). After the war, it was placed in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum.