Important Cultural PropertyBuddhist patriarchs

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  • By Genshou
  • 1 scroll
  • Ink and light color on paper
  • 31.7x1323.3
  • Heian period/12th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-10

This is a picture scroll in light-colored painting, depicting various saints and predecessors centering on the founders of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism in India, China and Japan with sumi lines. It depicts a total of 46 great leaders including the founders of Esoteric Buddhism from Ryumyo, the first patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism, to Kukai; the six founders of Zen Buddhism, including Bodhidharma; the founders of Nanto (Nara) Buddhism, including Ganjin, Gyoki, Prince Shotoku, Kumaraju and Genjo and Chinese saints and predecessors like Wu Wang of the Zhou Dynasty and Confucius.
The illustrations are drawn on quality paper and the founders are depicted with flowing, uninterrupted thin lines. Long lines including curves expressing the pleats at the bottom of their robes are also drawn with one flowing stroke. The soft texture of the robes is expressed through modulated lines drawn with the belly of the brush while their bodies, particularly the hands, are depicted with uniform, thin lines using the tip of the brush to show the hardness of bones. The illustrations demonstrate the artist's high artistic proficiency, which clearly differentiates the texture of each object.
The postscript of the scroll says that the scroll was transcribed by Gensho (1146 - ?). Gensho was a learned priest who made a comprehensive study of various sects of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism and is known as a priest who transcribed and collected a large number of teachings and sutras. Documents written by him and from his collection are collectively called Gensho-bon and his signature monochromatic iconographs are particularly famous for their artistic excellence. This scroll shows his distinguished style and constitutes one of the best among Gensho-bon iconographs.