Important Cultural PropertyOrchids

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  • By Gyokuen Bonpō
  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Ink on paper
  • 106.5x34.5
  • Nanbokuchō period/14th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-11877

Orchids painted with suiboku (sumi and water), like this painting, are called bokuran (sumi-orchid). It is thought to have been developed by the cultured people in the late Northern Song period, along with bokuchiku (sumi-bamboo) and bokubai (sumi-plum). The title Rankeidouhou (literally, both ran and kei are sweet-scented) came from the use of the phrase as a metaphor for people with excellent natural qualities because of the fragrance of both ran (spring orchid) and kei (autumn orchid). Bonbou (1348–1424) is a distinguished monk who served as the head of Kennin-ji (Kennin Temple) and Nanzen-ji (Nanzen Temple) successively. He preferred the lifestyle of literati, and painted bokuran often. The major feature of his pieces is the abstract beauty of the curves of orchid leaves.