ōhara Donshū, Priest Xuan-zhuang and his attendants from the Xijouji, a hanging scroll painting

Japan
Late Edo period, mid-19th century AD

This unusual work illustrates the Chinese classic, Xijouji ('Tales of Journeying West') (Japanese: Saiyūki). This popular story dates from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), but is set in the Tang dynasty (618-906), when a priest named Xuan-zhuang (Genjō) undertakes a journey to India. Along the way he encounters eighty-one different obstacles and difficulties, but with the help of a water-imp, a monkey and a pig, he reaches his destination. Once there he receives copies of important Buddhist scriptures, and returns safely back home with them.

In this depiction of the story, Xuan-zhuang sits on a white horse in the centre of the picture, with his three companions arranged diagonally in front of him. Each grasps a fearsome-looking weapon.

The tale is thought to have arrived in Japan towards the end of the Muromachi period (1333-1668) and various translations were published during the Edo period (1600-1868). It has been suggested that after it became well known in a serial adaptation by the Edo author Takizawa Bakin (1767-1848), published between 1810 and 1831, the tale was staged in the popular medium of jōruri (puppet drama), and that this inspired Donshū to paint it.

Donshū (died 1857) was a pupil of the Shijō school painter Shibata Gitō (1780-1819), active mainly in Osaka. The signature reads 'Donshū Kon' and the seals beneath read 'Donshū' and 'Hara Shū (?)'.

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More information

Bibliography

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)

Dimensions

Height: 1120.000 mm
Width: 414.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 2561 (1881.12-10.0713)

JCF631

Location

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