Important Cultural PropertyKitano Tenjin Engi (legends about the origin of Kitano Tenjin Shrine)

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  • 2 scrolls
  • Color on paper
  • Kamakura period/13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-29, A-227

This is a picture scroll that tells the origin of the establishment of Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, where the deified spirit (Tenjin) of Sugawara no Michizane (845 – 903), who was exiled to Dazaifu due to a false charge and died there, is enshrined. It also describes his miracles. Among the picture scrolls depicting the origin and history of a temple or a shrine, those of Kitano Tenjin were most widely circulated and many of them still remain today. This particular picture scroll is one of those called "Koanbon (Koan version)." The pictures from the third volume that Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine used to possess are currently owned separately by the Tokyo National Museum, Daitokyu Kinenbunko and the Seattle Art Museum.
The name Koanbon is derived from the last sentence of the legend to the second volume possessed by Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, which says that it was created in the summer of the first year (year of "tsuchinoe-uma 〈horse〉") of Koaan (于時聖暦戌午弘安元年夏のころ微功をおふと云事爾也). However, according to the Chinese sexagenary cycle, this year was the year of "tsuchinoe-tora (tiger)." The reason why the legend says "tsuchinoe-uma (horse)" seems that it followed the "Shokabon" version of the Kitano Tenjin picture scrolls that was established in 1258, the year of uma (horse).
Since the Honjibutsu (the original Buddhist identity that corresponds to a Shinto deity) of Tenjin is the Eleven-Headed Kannon, the picture scrolls of Kitano Tenjin are generally compiled in three or six volumes and 33-dan (acts), on the analogy of the 33 forms in which Kannon appears to aid sentient beings. However, most of this picture scroll has been lost over the years and its composition has changed drastically from the original. The existing pictures all feature a serene composition and well-balanced character description, unrolling a fresh view of Tenjin picture scrolls.