Important Cultural PropertyXuanzang Sanzang

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  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Color on silk
  • 135.1x59.9
  • Kamakura period/14th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-10600

This painting depicts a priest in a traveling outfit, including puttees and zori (Japanese sandals made of rice straw), carrying an oi (a square wooden box with four legs carried as a backpack) filled with sutras on his back. On the oi is a large round woven hat, from which an incense burner is hung. The priest wears a necklace of skulls around his neck and a sword around his waist and he is carrying a horsehair flapper in his right hand and a sutra in his left hand. In the background are the elegant lines of mountains. It is believed that this priest represents Genjo Sanzo, who went over the deserts of central Asia to India in pursuit of dharma and brought back many sutra scrolls to China. There are three types of Genjo Sanzo images: those in a traveling outfit, standing images with a sutra in the style of an Indian accordion book called Bonko in his hand and images seated on a raiban (a high seat where a priest sat to worship and chant sutra). This painting represents one of the best existing Genjo images. The vivid and elaborate representation of facial features, the use of brown outlines for the skin and gradations of the same color along the lines to add depth, the use of cold colors like green, lapis lazuli and brown on the main parts such as clothes and oi on which delicate colored patterns are applied and details are described mainly with white, all strongly reflect the style of Buddhist paintings that were created over the Sung to Yuan periods, particularly the style of those created in Ningbo, China and shipped into Japan.