Important Cultural PropertyIllustrated Biography of Priest Ippen (Biography of the Traveling Saint, emaki)

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  • 2 scrolls
  • Color on paper
  • scroll 1: 34.3x944.2, scroll 2: 34.1x1054.3
  • Kamakura period/14th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-11795

 This is a picture scroll depicting major events in the life of Ippen Chishin, the founder of Jishu (a sect of Jodoshinshu) and those in the life of Taa Shinkyo, an itinerant priest succeeding Ippen. This series of picture scrolls is based on the ten-volume original compiled by Soshun, a disciple of Shinkyo. The first half of the scroll up to the fourth volume depicts the ascetic practices of Ippen to his death while the latter half after the fifth volume describes the period from Taa's reorganization of the sect after Ippen's death and his pilgrimage with followers up to his withdrawal from the position as an itinerant priest. The picture scroll not only traces the accomplishments of the founder and his successor, but also shows the legitimacy of the succession from the founder to his successor and the teachings, manners and rules of the Jishu sect. According to the fact that the last scene of the picture scroll depicts December of 1303 and that a postscript of one transcription says that part of the scroll was created in 1307, it is estimated that the original scroll was created in the early 14th century. Since this picture scroll was considered to be a sacred scripture of the sect, many copies were made and currently, twenty copies, including this one, are known to exist. In this picture scroll, high quality pigment is used and people are vividly represented in free and easy lines in a traditional manner. The scroll seems to have been copied soon after the original was created. While there is some confusion in the order of scenes in the current scroll, it is organized as follows:
First Scroll
(1) A scene of Taa composing poems in front of people in Nakagawa, Kai (the first half of the legend of Vol. 7, Act 6); (2) Scenes of Bishamonten showing a miracle at Jimokuji Temple, Owari and serving food and beverages to people (the latter half of the legend and pictures of Vol. 3, Act 1); (3) A scene of a talk with Enso, a priest of Mt. Hiei, at Seki-dera Temple related to Ono no Komachi in Omi (the first half of the legend and pictures of Vol.3, Act 2).
Second Scroll
(1) A scene where a person in Kuniike, Echigo was cured after being attended to by a disciple of Taa in a dream (the legend and pictures of Vol. 7, Act 3); (2) A scene where Enkanbo, a profound scholar of Gokurakuji Temple in Echigo, visited Taa, who was staying at Kashiwazaki and became a believer (the legend and pictures of Vol. 7, Act 4. The latter half is missing); (3) A scene where Taa, on his deathbed in Okamura, Musashi, wrote down teachings and instructions for his followers in 1928(pictures of Vol. 7, Act 1); (4) A scene where a man in Hojozu, Ecchu called Nanjo Kuro came to Taa, asked him how he could die a peaceful death and became a reciter of Namu Amida Butsu (the legend and pictures of Vol. 7, Act 2); (5) A scene where Taa and his followers shut themselves in Zenkoji Temple, Shinano for seven days and recited Namu Amida Butsu each day on the main stage (the legend and pictures of Vol.7, Act 5).