Shōtoku Taishi e-den ('Illustrated biography of Prince Shōtoku Taishi'), fragments from a set of hanging scroll paintings

Muromachi period, early 16th century AD

An example of the narrative tradition in Yamato-e style

Prince Shōtoku Taishi (573-622) is regarded as the founder of Japanese Buddhism. Soon after his death he became an object of widespread veneration. For a number of centuries many tales - some true, others fictional - were passed down and illustrated first in large-scale wall paintings, and later, in the more convenient hanging scroll format suitable for illustrating sermons.

This painted scene is one of nine separate fragments from what was probably originally a set of hanging scrolls; scenes from Shōtoku's life would have been arranged in chronological sequence down through the compositions of each scroll. Most of the surviving scenes are from his early life, but with a few also from his later years. The illustration here shows the Prince's birth on the left and on the right the four-year-old Shōtoku praying for his father. This lack of right to left chronology proves that this is an assemblage of fragments.

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More information


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

W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


Height: 325.000 mm (approx.)

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD85 (1931.11-16.01)



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