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Masterpieces of Kosan-ji Temple: the complete scrolls of Choju Giga, Frolicking Animals

Masterpieces of Kosan-ji Temple: the complete scrolls of Choju Giga, Frolicking Animals
Heiseikan Special Exhibition Galleries   April 28, 2015 (Tue) - June 7, 2015 (Sun)

  
Scrolls of Choju Giga, Frolicking Animals (detail), Heian Period, 12th century (National Treasure, Lent by Kosan-ji Temple, Kyoto)
this scene on exhibit : April 28 - May 17, 2015

Known for its depictions of personified “frolicking animals,” Choju Giga, a National Treasure, is Japan’s most famous set of illustrated scrolls. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view Choju Giga in its entirety by bringing together all four scrolls and five fragments, some of which are preserved outside of Japan. It will also introduce cultural properties from Kosan-ji Temple in Kyoto, where Choju Giga was passed down through the ages, as well as beliefs and artworks connected with the priest Myo’e (1173–1232), who revived this temple in the Kamakura period (1192–1333).

Special exhibition "Masterpieces of Kosan-ji Temple: the complete scrolls of Choju Giga, Frolicking Animals", open until 18:00 from Tuesday, June 2 to Thursday, June 4, 2015 (last entry 17:30)

 

Highlights of the Exhibition

General Information

Highlights of the Exhibition

 


*Objects will be rotated during the course of the exhibition period. Objects for which “on exhibit” dates are not specified will be on display for the full term of the exhibition.
 

Chapter 1: The Treasures of Kosan-ji Temple

Kosan-ji Temple was revived by the priest Myo'e at the start of the Kamakura period and subsequently developed as a training center for monks. It also housed many beautiful artworks that have survived to the present day.

These include many thematically-consistent hakubyo, or ink line paintings based on the teachings of esoteric Buddhism. These served as models for Buddhist paintings and also contributed to the rise of new schools of Buddhist thought and teaching. Another feature of Kosan-ji’s collection is a large number of charming animal statues. These are thought to have been made under the influence of Myo'e and were later used in rituals too.
Kosan-ji served as a wellspring of new art and new ideas. It also collected and stored cultural assets from various genres and ensured they were handed down to later generations. As such, it has played an important role as a bastion of Buddhist culture.

 

Puppy
Puppy
Kamakura period, 13th century
Important Cultural Property
Kosan-ji, Kyoto
 

 

Sacred Deer
Sacred Deer
Kamakura period, 13th century
Important Cultural Property
Kosan-ji, Kyoto
 

 

Bonten Kara-Kuyozu
Bonten Kara-Kuyozu (Esoteric Buddhist Text of Astrology)
By Gensho
Heian period, dated 1189 (Bunji 5)
Important Cultural Property
Kosan-ji, Kyoto
(on exhibit : April 28 - May 17, 2015)
 

 

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Chapter 2: Myo'e – The Priest who Revived Kosan-ji Temple

The life of the priest Myo'e, who revived Kosan-ji Temple, was peppered with many colorful episodes. Historical records attest to his strictness as an inquirer into the truth. He developed his own philosophy that combined Kegon and esoteric Buddhism, for example. He also cut off his right ear to prove his dedication to truthseeking, while his yearning for Sakyamuni led him to plan a sea journey to India. At the same time, his humanity shone through in his manifold talents. He recorded his dreams throughout his life, for instance, and also composed a number of classical Japanese waka poems.
This rich life was reflected in the numerous artworks that sprung up around Myo'e and Kosan-ji. With their powerful sense of individuality, these items have carved their own unique niche among the voluminous world of Japanese Buddhist art works.

 

明恵上人像
Portrait of Priest Myo'e (meditating in a tree)
Kamakura period, 13th century
National Treasure
Kosan-ji, Kyoto
(on exhibit : April 28 - May 17, 2015)
 

 

Illustrated History of the Founders of the Kegon Sect, Chapter on Priest Gisho
Illustrated History of the Founders of the Kegon Sect, Chapter on Priest Gisho (Uisang)
Kamakura period, 13th century
National Treasure
Kosan-ji, Kyoto
(on exhibit : April 28 - May 17, 2015)

 

Illustrated History of the Founders of the Kegon Sect, Chapter on Priest Gangyo
Illustrated History of the Founders of the Kegon Sect, Chapter on Priest Gangyo (Wonhyo)
National Treasure
Kosan-ji, Kyoto
(on exhibit : May 19 - June 7, 2015)

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Chapter 3: The National Treasure Choju Giga

The National Treasure Choju Giga, or ‘Frolicking Animals’, is perhaps Japan’s most famous set of illustrated scrolls. Yet it is also a work shrouded in mystery. There is no text, so we don’t know why it was painted or what it is actually trying to depict.

However, although the Japanese title contains the word ‘giga,’ or caricature, it would be a huge mistake to assume the work is merely a playful drawing. If you look really closely, you can tell it is the work of very talented people. Over four scrolls, the artists have masterfully used ink lines to paint scenes based on a cool-headed observation of the world. At the very least, this artistry suggests the work was not just painted ‘for fun.’

This exhibition displays all four volumes of Choju Giga following the completion of a fouryear conservation project that began in 2009. It also brings together several fragments, some of which are preserved outside Japan. As such, it provides a rare opportunity to view Choju Giga in its entirety.

Frolicking Animals
Heian period, 12th century
National Treasure
Kosan-ji, Kyoto

Volume 1
鳥獣人物戯画 甲巻
This scene on exhibit : April 28 - May 17, 2015
 

鳥獣人物戯画 甲巻
This scene on exhibit : May 19 - June 7, 2015

 
Volume 2
鳥獣人物戯画 乙巻
This scene on exhibit : April 28 - May 17, 2015


鳥獣人物戯画 乙巻
This scene on exhibit : May 19 - June 7, 2015

 

Volume 3
鳥獣人物戯画 丙巻
This scene on exhibit : May 19 - June 7, 2015

 

Volume 4
鳥獣人物戯画 丁巻
This scene on exhibit : April 28 - May 17, 2015

 

鳥獣人物戯画 甲巻 断簡
Frolicking Animals, Fragment
Heian period, 12th century
Kosan-ji, Kyoto
 

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General Information

Period Tuesday, April 28 - Sunday, June 7, 2015
Venue Heiseikan, Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30 - 17:00
Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays until 18:00
Fridays until 20:00
Tuesday, June 2 to Thursday, June 4, until 18:00
(Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closed Mondays (Except for Monday, May 4), and closed Thursday, May 7
Admission Adults: 1600 (1400/1300) yen
University students: 1200 (1000/900) yen
High school students: 900 (700/600) yen
Junior high school students and under: Free 
* Prices shown in ( ) indicate advance and group (more than 20 persons) discount tickets.
* Persons with disabilities are admitted free with one accompanying person each.
* Advance tickets will be on sale at the museum ticket booths (during museum opening hours excluding the last 30 minutes) and other major ticketing agencies from February 1 to April 27, 2015.
* Special exhibition "Indian Buddhist Art from Indian Museum, Kolkata" (Tuesday, March 15 - Sunday, May 17, 2015, Hyokeikan) requires a separate admission fee.
Access 10 minutes' walk from JR Ueno Station (Park exit) and Uguisudani Station
15 minutes' walk from Keisei Ueno Station, Tokyo Metro Ueno Station and Tokyo Metro Nezu Station
Organizers Tokyo National Museum, Kosan-ji Temple, The Asahi Shimbun
With the Special Sponsorship of Takashimaya Co.,Ltd.
With the Sponsorship of KANEKA CORPORATION, MITSUI & CO., LTD., TOPPAN PRINTING CO., LTD.
With the Assistance of SHUEISHA Inc., BIC CAMERA INC.,Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Co., Ltd.
General Inquiries 03-5405-8686 (Hello Dial)
Exhibition Website http://chojugiga2015.jp (In Japanese)
The website has closed with the end of the exhibition.