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National Treasure Gallery: Portraits of Zenmui (Subhakarasimha) and Priest Emon Daishi (Huiwen)

"National Treasure Gallery: Portraits of Zenmui (Subhakarasimha) and Priest Emon Daishi (Huiwen)"

Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 2  January 19, 2016 (Tue) - February 14, 2016 (Sun)

  
Zenmui and Emon Daishi, Heian period, 11th century (National Treasure, Lent by Ichijoji, Hyogo)

These two scrolls are from a set of ten, on which ten historical figures from India, China, and Japan are depicted. The ten figures include high priests associated with the Tendai sect of Buddhism as well as Japan’s Prince Shotoku (574–622). Prince Shotoku, among his other achievements, wrote, for the first time in Japan, a book of annotations for the Lotus Sutra, on which the doctrines of the Tendai sect are based. The scrolls here feature Zenmui and Priest Emon Daishi.
Zenmui (637–735) was born into a noble family in India. He became the King of the ancient kingdom of Magadha, but renounced the world following a major battle in which he fought against his own siblings. He later traveled to China, where he translated important sutras for esoteric Buddhism, including the Mahavairocana Sutra, into Chinese. The figures were probably selected from the viewpoint of the Japanese Tendai sect, which respected the doctrines of esoteric Buddhism. Emon (dates unknown) was a high priest who was active during China’s Northern and Southern dynasties period (439–589). The founder of the Tendai sect, Priest Zhiyi, was a second-generation disciple of Priest Emon Daishi.  
At first glance, the large motifs in both paintings look as if they were simply executed, but closer inspection reveals subtle renderings in the depiction of the hair, beard, and eyelashes, as well as the patterns on the garments. Another notable feature is the sophisticated use of light, soft colors, which was achieved by white-tinged hues and white lines. The liberal use of light and gentle colors as seen in these paintings is a feature commonly found in Buddhist art of the mid-Heian period (794–1192). Spontaneous yet gentle and delicate depictions are a highlight of these works.

On Exhibit:
Zenmui and Emon Daishi, Heian period, 11th century (National Treasure, Lent by Ichijoji, Hyogo)

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 1 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
Highlight National Treasure Zenmui and Emon Daishi Heian period, 11th century Lent by Ichijoji, Hyogo