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Legends and Heroes of Asia

This year’s theme of the annual event Journey through Asia at the Tokyo National Museum is “Legends and Heroes of Asia.”

The word “legend” was chosen for its versatile meanings, including both legendary narratives and figures along with more contemporary figures who have inspired legends in their own right through their excellence and achievement.

Under the broad umbrella of this definition, the Museum has selected Asian artworks that embody this year’s theme. These works are classified into three categories: those featuring heroic figures from myths and legends, those created by artists regarded as “legends,” and those collected by a “legend” in the field of art collection.

With a copy of the exhibition booklet as your guide in one hand, and this year’s official event ‘passport’ in the other, embark on a journey of discovery as you search for extraordinary legends and heroes in the Asian Gallery this autumn.

 

Updated Rules and Restrictions for Reopening

 

Highlights

Featuring heroic figures from myths and legends

Created by artists regarded as “legends”

Collected by a “legend” in the field of art collection

Catalogue Journey through Asia at the Tokyo National Museum: Legends and Heroes of Asia

 

 

Featuring heroic figures from myths and legends

 

Heracles

Yotkan, China, Ōtani collection, 2nd-4th century

This image of the Greek hero Heracles traveled all the way to the Iranian-Buddhist Khotan Kingdom (56–1006) through the Silk Road.

Room 3, Art of the Western Regions
 

 

 
Mud Brick with Cuneiform Inscription

Found at Telloh, Iraq, Neo-Sumerian period, ca. 2125-2110 BC (Gift of Iraqi Government)

Room 3, Artifacts from West Asia and Egypt
 

 

 
Bell (Duo)

Presumably found in southwestern China, Western Han dynasty, 3rd–1st century BC (Gift of Yamanishi Yasuta)

This bell was hung around the neck of livestock. On the surface stables, a pond, a horse, and a tree can be seen.

Room 5, Chinese Bronzes
 

 

 
The Eccentrics Hanshan and Shide

Attributed to Yan Hui, Yuan dynasty, 14th century (Important Cultural Property)

These paintings show the Zen poet Hanshan and the former kitchen worker Shide, holding a broom. Note the thick lines used to express the robes of these figures; a characteristic of medieval Zen painting.

Room 8, Chinese Paintings
*On exhibit through September 22, 2020

 

 
Wayang Kulit: Prabu Kresna

Central Java, Indonesia, 21st century (Gift of Mr. Matsumoto Ryō)

The name Kresna is the Javanese equivalent of the Hindu god Krishna. He is a skilled general of the Pandava army in the [Mahabharata]. Like Arjuna, Kresna is an avatar of the god Vishnu.

Room 13, Ethnic Cultures of Asia
 

 

 

(detail)
Krishna Lifting Mount Govardhana

By the Bikaner school, India, Second half of 18th century

After Krishna interfered in a village's ceremony to worship the deity Indra, Indra sent a torrent of rain. Krishna protected the village by lifting Mount Govardhana and holding it aloft with one finger, like a giant umbrella.

Room 13, Indian Miniature Paintings
 

 

 

 

Created by artists regarded as “legends”

 

 (detail)
Steles of the Yan Family Mausoleum

By Yan Zhenqing (709-785), China, Tang dynasty, 780

This album with ink rubbings by Yang Zhenqing is a history of his family. Yang was known as a loyal and filial scholar who revolutionized calligraphy.

Room 8, Chinese Calligraphy
*On exhibit through September 22, 2020

 

 

Collected by a “legend” in the field of art collection

 

Jar, White porcelain

Korea, Joseon dynasty, 18th century (Gift of Dr. Yokogawa Tamisuke)

Korean white porcelain, such as this piece, was prized by the aristocracy for its perceived purity that was believed to embody Confucian ideals.

Room 10, Korean Ceramics
 

 

 

 

Catalogue

 

Journey through Asia at the Tokyo National Museum

Legends and Heroes of Asia

Price: 500 yen (Tax excluded)
24p (All color)

*On sale in the museum shop

 

 

 

 
Updated Rules and Restrictions for Reopening

 

Date
September 8, 2020 (Tue) - October 11, 2020 (Sun)  
Venue
Asian Gallery (Toyokan)