An exploration of the culture of ancient Japan through the vehicle of service to the Kingdom by creating scroll blanks from tracings of period illustrated scrolls.
It's traditional here in our local SCA Kingdom that court awards at every level are accompanied by a hand-made scroll. Scrolls for higher-level awards like peerages are usually much nicer than those for merit-level awards, but almost everything gets a scroll of some kind. This creates a bottomless need for calligraphy and illumination work, and sometimes the pace set by our beloved ruling class outstrips the pace of production.
The Kingdom scriptorium recently put out a call for more "scroll blanks". These are general purpose, pre-illuminated scrolls to which calligraphy can be added later as needed. For European-style scrolls, this normally means leafy borders and such. I decided to use this challenge as an opportunity to improve my brushwork and teach myself Emaki-style illustrations.
I'm using bottled sumi ink on hosho (mulberry and sulphate) paper. I bought a "sketch pad" of this paper at the art store and it wasn't very expensive. I have an ink stick and suzuri ink stone for making ink from scratch, but I figured until my skills are better there's no sense spending the time making ink for it.
I am working from a few reference books on emaki that I have here at home and some that I have borrowed from the library and others. A bibliography is at the end of this document.
My process of reproduction is as follows. First, I find an image in a reference that I wish to reproduce. Then, I scan the image to a digital file. I enhance the digital image, convert it to grayscale, and print it to a laser printer. (Laser prints are waterproof and not susceptible to bleeding.) Next, I trace the print with a marker to darken the outlines. I place the outlined image on a light table, and cover it with a clean sheet of hosho paper.
I begin my reproduction by tracing the outlines with ink. I use a brush, and bottled sumi ink. Then, if the image calls for it, I use Japanese watercolors to color the image. Typically, the paper distorts as the watercolors dry. I dampen the paper and dry it in a press to flatten it. This process yields attractive handmade results, unhampered by my lack of freehand artistic talent.
In all, I created 60 scrolls blanks from 32 unique images. If you want to use any of these images for anything, please get my permission first. I almost always grant permission to anything not for profit.
The first (of four) Choju Giga scroll begins with the animals bathing in a stream. Then, they participate in archery contests and a meal is brought to them. Then, it appears a priest blesses their beasts of burden, One monkey steals a sacred branch and is chased. Well dressed nobles begin to arrive. There is a bit of dancing. There is a bit of wrestling, and perhaps some betting. Two monkeys leave the scene with a sugoroku set and a full purse. Finally, a monkey appears in court where he amuses some and embarrasses others.
All in all, it looks like an SCA event to me.
I took a little license with this excerpt from the Choju Giga. In the original, the figures are facing left, and the expression on their faces is one of dismay. Hideo Okudaira points out that since these scrolls are read from right to left, a reader progressing through the scroll by unrolling with the left hand and re-rolling with the right hand would see this reaction shot first and the chase scene (next) after. I thought that placing these figures on the left of the page (after the text) and having a pleasant reaction to the words on the scroll would be more appropriate.
The Choju Giga scrolls are drawn in the hakubyo style, which uses only black lines. The first two scrolls are attributed to the monk Toba Soujou who lived from 1053 to 1140 CE. These two emaki show mundane and fantastic animals imitating human beings.
Yes, I know that the Choju Giga emaki is just black and white, but I was in a room full of people who were doing illumination, and I succumbed to peer pressure.
This image from the first scroll shows a rabbit servant carrying gifts (of food?) to a monkey who wears the kesa of a buddhist monk. The monk must be reciting sutras, as he is handling a string of prayer beads. I like this image, as it shows devotion to an ideal, as well as quiet support for the work of others. For the third redition, I actually played with the composition a bit more on the scroll blank than is shown. The two images are in diagonal corners of the paper, leaving room between them for text.
The late period copy of the Choju Giga that is held by the Sumiyoshi family has a fifth scroll that was lost from the scrolls at Kozan-ji temple. [Okudaira] This image from Wikipedia does not appear in the Kozan-ji version, so it must be from that additional "third" scroll. It depicts a monkey who has been armored with leaves, who is receiving a blessing from a monkey priest. A frog holds a lily pad as a parasol to shade the priest from the sun.
Traced from the Dojo-ji Engi ("Legends of Dojo-ji Temple") emaki
The Dojo-ji Engi ("Legends of Dojo-ji Temple") scroll from the Muromachi period tells the tale of a wandering priest and his tragic relationship with another man’s wife. He flees her and is consumed by the fires of her anger while hiding in the bell of Dojo-ji temple. The prayers of the monks of Dojo-ji re-unite the lovers as spirits in the heavens. This late-period scroll is considered to be of poor artistic quality and "awkward" technique, but it shows a development towards real narrative literature. [Okudaira]
Traced from Eshi Zoshi (The Story of a Painter)
The original of this emaki is colored. My first rendition was just the outline, but subsequent renditions have been in various watercolors.
The Eshi Zoshi emaki from the 14th century follows the life of a poor artist in Japan’s Kamakura period. The rest of the tale’s not a pretty one, but in this scene the artist rejoices upon hearing of his appointment as a court painter. [Grilli]
Traced from Heiji Monogatari (Tales of the Heiji Wars)
The original of this emaki is colored. My first rendition was just the outline with a light ink wash to color the bowman's suikan, but subsequent renditions have been in various watercolors.
The Heiji Monogatari emaki from the 13th century tell of the tale of the 30+ years of war between the Heike (Taira) and Genji (Minamoto) clans in the 12th century. Only three scrolls remain, showing various campaigns, battles, and events. [Grilli]
Honen Shonen Eden
Traced from the Honen Shonen Eden (Pictorial Biography of Priest Honen) emaki
Priest Honen is a saint of the Joudo “Pure Land” sect of Buddhism and a proponent of achieving salvation by chanting the name of the Amida Buddha repeatedly. This emaki relates the achievements of this celebrated priest extols his virtues, and portrays important episodes in his life. The version containing this image is 2 scrolls long. A later version is 48 scrolls! In the original, a young priest paints a vision of the priest Shandao that appeared to Honen. [Murase]
Ippen Shonen Eden
Traced from the Ippen Shonen Eden (Pictorial Biography of Priest Ippen) emaki, a National Treasure of Japan. I'm pretty happy with the way this one came out. The images are fairly small in the original, but enlarging them brought out a bunch of interesting detail. The original detail, the physical attitudes and expressions of the people, the way the positions of their clothing shows motion, this is all fascinating to me from a storytelling perspective.
Priest Ippen was the founder of the Amidist sect of Buddhism, and this scroll was created soon after his death. The text was written by Ippen’s direct disciple Shikai. The emaki is dated 1299, and Ippen lived from 1239 to 1289. Despite his relatively short lifetime, his biography stretches across 12 scrolls, each at least 30 feet long and made of silk, not paper. Although here I focus on figures, the scrolls are predominantly landscape and poetry.
Grilli writes that in this scene, Ippen instructs the son of another priest. Wikipedia refers to this scene as Ippen and the Warrior and claims that the warrior is a convert to Ippen's "Pure Land Buddhism". To me, it looks like Ippen is remonstrating the warrior, and the warrior doesn't like it one bit. The warrior is preparing to draw his sword, and so is one of his henchmen. The other henchman looks like he's whistling for backup.
Journey to the East
Traced from The Journey to the East
This scroll details events from the life of the Buddha. [Kidder]
Traced from Kasuga Gongen Reikenki (Miracles of Kasuga Gongen)
This is only one small scene from the Kasuga Gongen Reikenki scrolls that are explicitly dated to 1309. Minister of the Left Saionji Kimihira commissioned this set of twenty (!) scrolls from the painter Takashina no Takakane. They depict the miracles performed by the Shinto divinity Kasuga Gongen around Saionji’s family shrine to Kasuga in Nara. The scrolls were kept at the shrine until the family donated them to the collection of the Imperial Family. [Grilli]
This image shows the master carpenter with his long measuring stick, ready to check the dimensions of a framework. I modified one copy of the image to include a representation of the camp gate that the recipient of this scroll helped create. [Coaldrake]
Kawagoe Miyoshino Tenjin Engi
Traced from Kawagoe Miyoshino Tenjin Engi (Legends of Miyoshino Shrine) emaki
In this scene from the construction of the Miyoshino Shrine, a carpenter adjusts the set of his plane’s blade. Adjustments to the kanna (plane) are made by tapping the dai (block) of the plane with a mallet Tapping at the ends of the plane deepens or lightens the cut. Japanese planes are pulled, rather than pushed like Western planes, and the carpenter often works while seated. Some consider it easier to pull the plane while seated than while standing. [Coaldrake]
Traced from Kegon-engi (Legends of the Kegon Sect) emaki
The Kegon-engi (Legends of the Kegon Sect) emaki is a 6-scroll biography of the lives of the Korean priests who were important in founding the Kegon sect of Buddhism. The text of this scroll was written by the founder of the Kozanji temple, which is today the Toudai-ji temple where the scrolls are still kept. In this scene, the priest Gijyo speaks with Lady Zenmyo in T’ang era China. Variations in artistic style between this scene and others indicate multiple artists worked on the 270 feet of scroll, completing it in the 12th century. [Grilli]
Matsuzaki tenjin engi
Traced from the Matsuzaki tenjin engi emaki, Scroll 4
This set of scrolls shows the construction of the Matsuzaki temple. This scroll in the set specifically shows the erection of the temple’s frame. This images shows the Touryou (chief master carpenter) with his long kensao (measuring stick), ready to check the dimensions of the framework. This scroll shows a great deal of detail about Japanese timber frame construction, the tools used, and the practices of the people who use them. [Coaldrake]
The 36 Immortal Poets
During the Nara and Heian periods (8th to 13th centuries), poetry contests (”uta-awase”) were a popular pastime for courtly nobles. Near the end of the 10th century, two poets argued about who was the greatest poet ever, and decided to record their choices. Thus, competing lists of the 36 Immortal Poets were born.
Traced from The 36 Immortal Poets, Minamoto no Nobukaira
Owned by the Satake family until 1915, the "The 36 Immortal Poets" emaki from the 13th century comprise two scrolls of 18 poets each, and have been declared an important cultural property.
This poet, Minamoto no Nobuakira lived from 909 to 970 CE and his pensive pose matches the subdued mood of his accompanying poem. [Murase]
Traced from 36 Poets, Kintada, by Nobuzane
This image is from the second set of “36 Poets” attributed to Fujiwara no Nobuzane. This set shows the poets seated on mats. Kintada lived in the tenth century, so this “portrait” could not have used the person of Kintada as a model. However, an attempt was made to capture the character of Kintada using a few simple lines, in the “nise-e” style. [Paine]
From the Narikane version of the 36 Immortal Poets in the collection of the Met Museum, from the Kamakura Period (12-14th cent.)
In the late 13th century, Taira no Narikane compiled and calligraphied his own list of the 36 Immortal Poets, and included the poet Fujiwara Kiyotada. The illustration is by an unknown artist.
The original is "hakubyo" monochrome, but I added color for visual interest. I gave the first one colors to be pretty. I gave the second one colors to match the outfit I wore in Kyoto. I gave the third one the colors of an outfit I hope to have.
Nijou Tameshige is credited with one list from the late 14th century. This image of the poet Kiyohara Motosuke is from that version, though some analysts have their doubts about attributing it to Tameshige, placing it up to 100 years later.
I love the expressive nature of this original art. The original even has some pale coloration, which I didn't know was allowed for hakubyo art.
Sakura, "Merry Making Under the Cherry Blossoms"
Traced from “Merrymaking Under the Cherry Blossoms” screen, circa 1600 by Kano Naganobu (1577-1654) now in the Tokyo National Museum
This screen by a nephew of the famous Kano Hideyori (of the “Maple Viewing” screen) shows the inheritance of his Uncle’s style, with some refinements. This detail shows noble youths practicing their fighting. Other sections of the screen depict nobles dancing, eating, and watching performance, thus demonstrating that the SCA is an accurate recreation of Momoyama era Japan. Portions of an accompanying screen were lost to fire in 1923. [hickman
Traced from Seiko-Ji Engi (History of Seiko-ji Temple) emaki
The temple at Seiko-ji houses a statue of the Bodhisatva Ksitigarbha, who is known as Jizou, the savior of children and protector of sinners who suffer in hell. This scroll tells the history and legends of the temple, starting from its foundation by the nobleman Taira Sukechika. [Murase]
In this first scene, Sukechika receives a visit from a priest, who instructs him to reclaim a statue of Jizou that has been abandoned in the wilderness, and build a shrine for it.
Sukechika rides out with his retinue to fetch the statue, but when he finds it, he is unimpressed. It is small, and worn from its time in the wilderness. He desires a more impressive statue for his shrine, and returns home without this one. That night, Sukechika dreams of Jizou who is batching his feet by the well of Sukechika's mansion. The next morning, when Sukechika enters his courtyard there on a stone by the well are wet footprints where Sukechika dreamed Jizou had stood.
Sukechika honors the wet footprints on the stone which confirm his dream of Jizou. The miracle convinces Sukechika to recover the statue. [Murase]
Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase
The term "Shokunin Uta-awase" means "A Poetry Competition among People of Various Occupations". This type of scroll depicts an imaginary poetry competition between various craftsmen. In this type of painting, all the poetry is actually composed by a single poet, but each poem is illustrated with a portrait of a craftsperson with their tools. This kind of scroll should be contrasted with Uta-awase emaki of actual poetry contests, and Kasen emaki that depict famous (immortal) poets possibly of multiple generations.
[From the article utaawase-e on the Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System, retrieved October 22, 2014 (http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/u/utaawasee.htm).]
Traced from the Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase Emaki
This image from the Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase emaki (Muromachi period) depicts an etoki, an itinerant narrator of illustrated stories and explainer of paintings. He is shown with a biwa for musical accompaniment, a box of pictures, and a feathered pointer. This kind of craftsman, or shokunin, was common sight in temples and noble households, presenting narratives and religious stories to those who could not necessarily read them. [Murase]
Traced from the Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase Emaki
These kobiki (sawyers) use an oga (two-person frame saw) to rip a large lumber beam into boards. The kobiki above the beam is the master, who directs the cut according to the markings he has made in ink. The assistant below helps provide the power for sawing. The teeth on most oga face in two directions so that the saw cuts on both the up and down stroke. The presence of this activity in this scroll indicates that by this time, cutting lumber was an important profession. [Coaldrake]
This shokunin is lacing armor panels known as "sode" (sleeves). These panels hang from the shoulders and protect the upper arms. The shokunin suspends a sode from the frame to make sure it is hanging evenly. A box of cut lacing ends shows the shokunin's progress. Beside him sits a completed sode and a "jingasa" (camp hat). This shokunin wears a sword to denote his acceptance into the warrior class and nobility.
Traced from Shigisan Engi (Tales of Mt. Shigi)
There are three scrolls in this set, but only the third one is an emaki. All three relate the miracles performed by the Bishamon, the chief of the four heavenly kings. These miracles were frequently performed through the medium Myouren, who lived as an ascetic on a mountain top. The Chougosonshi-ji temple is built where many of the events are said to have occurred. In this image, a servant attends to the horse of a rich merchant who has come to implore Myouren for the return of a storehouse full of rice which has flown to Myouren’s abode. [Kidder]
Traced from Sumiyoshi Monogatari (Tale of Sumiyoshi) emaki
The Sumiyoshi Monogatari predates the Tale of Genji by about a half century, but it is not as well developed narratively, and only fragments of the original text remain. It is the tale of love between an abused stepdaughter and the middle son of an important family who must go through years of struggle to be together. Here, the young nobleman stands on the white beach of Sumiyoshi, straining to hear the distant koto playing of the princess who will one day be his wife.
One interesting aspect of this emaki is the way both time and space are represented. At one point in the story, the nobleman visits a house where he believes his love to be hiding from her family. The floorplan of the house is presented in its entirety as a single long illustration in isometric view, and the nobleman is represented within that illustration several times to show his journey through the house to where his love waits for him. [Murase]
Traced from “Takaezu” the Jimyoin falconry manual (from a copy made in 1506) by Jimyoin Motoharu (1453-1535) now in the Harvard-Yenching Library.
This manual, bound in accordion-book form, illustrates falconry terms and equipment. It details the parts and behaviors of falcons, and the equipment used by falconers in the sport of falconry. The manuscript I traced is a copy of a manuscript from 1506, which is most likely copied from an earlier earlier manuscript from 1328. Thus, the knowledge from almost 700 years ago is transmitted to the modern middle ages today.
From Takekurabe Soshi ("Story about a poetry contest") in the Tokyo National Museum, from the Muromachi Period (15th century) Traced from a photo by Elliott C. Evans of the original scroll, taken October 2016 in the Tokyo National Museum.
This illustrated scroll portrays a poetry contest consisting of 21 themed matches. Both the themes and the poets are pitted against each other, such as the match between "moonlit night" and "snowy morning". The contest is meant to settle an argument between the Emperor and his Crown Prince, who disagree on whether the spring or autumn is superior.
Most panels of this scroll portray two poets facing each other, and their competing poetry. Some text-only panels are included, however, and some with full-panel illustrations like the above.
Yamai no Soshi
Traced from the Yamai no Soshi (Diseases Scroll)
While the 12th Century Yamai no Soshi (Diseases Scroll) mostly depicts people suffering from afflictions like insomnia and obesity, in the background of one scene was this image of a calm servant faithfully carrying her mistress’ burden. [Murase]
Zen Kunen Kassen
Traced from Zen Kunen Kassen (The Early Nine Year War) emaki
Minamoto Yoriyoshi cemented the reputation of the Genji clan by leading a campaign to quash a rebellion by Northern provincial governors in the early eleventh century. This emaki is based on earlier picture scrolls that are now lost, and shows the battles fought during the first part of what was to become a twelve year war. This scene shows the battle drum of the Genji during a night attack by the rebellious Sadatou clan. Nothing is known of the artist. [Murase]
Traced from a portrait of Daruma in the Tokyo National Museum
The Bodhidarma, called Daruma in Japan, was a legendary Buddhist teacher who brought Zen Buddhism to China. Daruma lived during the fifth or sixth century of the common era, and in Japan has become a patron spirit of those who have a goal they wish to achieve. It is believed that Daruma once sat in a cave gazing at a wall in meditation for nine years. Traditionally, Daruma is depicted wearing the red robe of a high-ranking priest. [From the article Daruma Doll on Wikipedia, retrieved October 18, 2014 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daruma_doll).]
Traced from a portrait of Daruma, by Kei Shoki (died 1523) Muromachi period (1333 to 1573), now in Nanzenji
The painter Kei Shoki was a student of Geiami, founder of the Shubun school of painting. The Shubun style is characterized by its crowded details. Kei Shoki attempts to show the irascible nature of Daruma while suggesting a flash of spiritual realization. Daruma, was a legendary Buddhist teacher who brought Zen Buddhism to China. [Paine]
Traced from a silk painting of Fudou
The deity Fudou is the patron of those who serve as warriors. Fudou is one of the Five Great Kings of Light who were introduced to Japan through the Buddhist traditions of India. Although praised as a destroyer of evil, Fudou is also credited with wisdom, and is invoked to bring rain. He is typically represented as seated on an immovable stone, backed by flames, wielding a sword and a rope. Fudou has sworn to use the sword to destroy evil spirits, and the rope to bind the wicked and coerce them towards good. [Kidder]
Traced from a portrait of Prince Shoutoku, His Brother, and His First Son
Prince Shotoku was appointed regent by his aunt, Empress Suiko, in 593 CE. He is credited with many accomplishments, such as centralizing the government, establishing the 12-level cap rank system for officials, establishing a 17-article constitution, publishing the first Japanese texts (annotated Sutras), and choosing the name “Nihon” for Japan. He is revered today as a protector of Japan, its Imperial Family, and Buddhism. [Kidder]
Winter Landscape, by Sesshu
Traced from Winter Landscape, by Sesshu (1420 to 1506)
The painter Sesshu represents a rebirth in Japan of the painting traditions of China during the Muromachi period. Sesshu visited China in his youth and the school of painting he founded back in Japan influenced the next few generations of Japanese painters. This image is actually a reproduction of a painting by the Chinese painter Hsia Kuei. [Paine]
The Long Scroll, by Sesshu
Traced from the Long Scroll, by Sesshu (1420 to 1506)
This image is a detail from the Long Scroll, that depicts scenes from the four seasons. [Kidder]
Yamato-e traced from a photograph of an antique ivory netsuke, inspired by the hakubyo style drawings of the Choju Giga emaki.
Original artwork is an Albino Hare Netsuke in the collection of the Maridon Museum in Butler, PA
Yamato-e traced from a photograph of an antique ivory netsuke, inspired by the hakubyo style drawings of the Choju Giga emaki.
Original artwork is an Ivory Katabori Netsuke of a Horse lying down, unsigned.
Coaldrake, William H.
Hickman, Money L. (editor)
Kidder, J. Edward
Okudaira Hideo (Kaneko Shigetaka, translator)
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