Tsukimine-dera (Geppoji) konryu shugyo engi (History of the Founding of the Geppoji Temple

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Artist: Tosa Mitsunobu (1434-1525)
Calligrapher: Kinnatsu Fujiwara (born 1463)
Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, 1495
Ink, color, and gold on paper
H x W (overall): 34.3 x 1044 cm (13 1/2 x 411 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Buddhism, Japan, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), temple, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

This scroll is one of a pair relating the founding and subsequent history of the Tsukiminedera Temple. According to legend, Prince Shotoku (Shotoku Taishi, 574-622), instructed the Korean Buddhist monk Nichira to select an auspicious site for a temple. After a prolonged search, Nichira was drawn by supernatural signs to a tree in Settsu Province. Shotoku arrived at the site, and when workmen felled the tree the earth trembled, and on the trunk stood a fully formed statue of Senju Kannon (Thousand-armed Kannon). Some workmen were stunned and others died from fright. They were revived by Nichira's prayers. From the mid-sixth century, Paekche, one of the three kingdoms on the Korean peninsula, sought alliance with Japan. Japan was initially exposed to Buddhism as a result. Prince Shotoku became a devout Buddhist and encouraged the assimilation of Korean culture.

Tosa Mitsunobu, head of the imperial painting bureau, was probably the artist; the calligraphy is likely by Fujiwara Kinnatsu (born 1463).  Such formidable talents were seldom engaged to produce histories of obscure provincial temples; it is possible that a prominent noble was given shelter at Tsukiminedera during the Onin War (1467-77), and the painting was commissioned out of gratitude.

Published References
  • Takagishi Akira. "中世やまと絵史論." Reflections on Medieval Yamato-e. Tokyo, Japan, 2020. pgs 191, 196, 204, and 205, figs 69-72.
  • The Selected Works of Japanese Art vol. 9: Ink Painting and Yamato-e Art in Muromachi Period. vol. 9, . .
  • Japan Depicted in Images: Visiting the Spencer Collection. Japan. .
  • Tsuyoshi Kawasaki. The Pictorial Representation of the Pilgrimage to Kumano: The Culture of Shugendo in Muromachi Period. Japan. .
  • Takagishi Akira. Settsu Amagasaki Daikakuji Shiryo [Daikakuji Temple at Amagasaki]. .
  • Mara Miller. Expressions of States of Mind in Asia: Proceedings of the INALCO-UNO Workshop held in Naples. Naples, May 27, 2000. pl. 4.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 72, vol. 2: p. 174.
  • Takagishi Akira. Muromachi emaki no maryoku [Renaissance of the Painting Scrolls in Muromachi Japan]: suisei to sozo no chusei. Tokyo. pp. 3-4.
  • Takagishi Akira. Two Picture Scrolls Telling the Origin of the Tsukiminedera Temple and the Daikakuji Temple. vol. 33, no. 1, September 2003. p. 37.
  • Melissa McCormick. Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan. Seattle and London. p. 101, fig. 43.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 106.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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