Saigyō monogatari emaki ('Illustrated Life of Monk Saigyō'), a handscroll painting

Edo period, 18th-19th century AD

Saigyō was the name by which Satō Norikiyo (1118-90) was known after he renounced his life as a courtier, left his wife and daughter, and joined the Buddhist priesthood. Saigyō monogatari emaki, a mixture of factual biography and fictional elaboration, tells his story. The original text is thought to have been contributed to by several authors over a period of time: the earliest illustrated version dates from the middle to end of the thirteenth century. This scroll includes sections of the tale and suitable illustrations to accompany it.

Saigyō wandered through the provinces of Japan, visiting pilgrimage centres and beauty spots, and composing verses of poetry wherever he went. Here he can be seen in the centre on his first journey after joining the priesthood, with a bag on his back and hat in hand. He is travelling through the hills of Yoshino, near Nara, famed for their beautiful cherry blossom. He has crossed the river to the right, and is progressing towards the pagoda seen in the distance.

This painting appears to be an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century copy of the earliest extant version of the 'Illustrated Life of Saigyō', (Tokugawa Art Museum, Nagoya and Manno Art Museum, Osaka), which is now incomplete, and thus provides valuable information as to the content of the missing sections.

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More information


I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)


Height: 323.000 mm
Length: 15636.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 28 (1881.12-10.0267)


William Anderson Collection


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