The Life of the Priest Kobo (Kobo Daishi Zaito)

View right to left

Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, late 13th century
Medium
Ink, color, gold, and silver on paper
Dimensions
H x W x D: 32.5 x 665 x 728 cm (12 13/16 x 261 13/16 x 286 5/8 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1966.10
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Handscroll

Keywords
Buddhism, eating, Japan, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), priest, work, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Label

Kobo Daishi is the posthumous name given to the monk Kukai (774–835), a revered poet and calligrapher who, as founder of the Shingon school, continues to be revered as a major force in the development of Japanese Buddhism. From 804 to 806, Kukai studied in China under the tutelage of Huiguo (746–805), the patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism. Kukai was Huiguo’s last and most accomplished disciple and became his teacher’s successor as the eighth patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism.

This scroll is one of a pair that offers an imagined glimpse into Kukai’s stay in China. Huiguo’s understanding of Buddhism was more in keeping with its original transmission from its native India, and it thus contained significant elements of yogic practice as well as rich and complex imagery with Indian characteristics. By stressing the potential for spiritual growth through the effective use of iconography, Kukai raised works of religious art to heightened prominence. His influence on aesthetics during the Heian period (794–1185) was considerable.

Published References
  • Zaigai hiho [(Japanese Paintings in Western Collections]. 3 vols., Tokyo. vol. 2., pt. I & II, pp. 86-87, pl. 62.
  • Nihon emakimono zenshu, shinshu [Japanese Scroll Painting]. 32 vols., Tokyo, 1975-1981. pls. 5, 6, 24-31.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 12, vol. 2: p. 155.
  • Miya Tsugio. Remaining scrolls from the scroll painting of the life of Priest Kobo formerly owned by the Inoue family. no. 232 Tokyo, October 1964. pp. 1-26, pl. 1-5.
  • James L. Huffman. Modern Japan: A History in Documents. Pages from History New York. p. 30.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 101.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.

Related Objects