- Museum number
Netsuke (manju). Mongaku Shonin beneath a waterfall. Made of ivory with metal studs. Signed.
- Production date
- Late 19thC
Diameter: 5.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This outstandingly well-carved manju netsuke depicts the monk Mongaku Shonin in repentance beneath a waterfall, and on the reverse two Buddhist figures looking down at the event from a cloudbank. The design is based on the legend of Endo Morito (1139-1203), the secular name of Mongaku, who was originally a samurai guard of the imperial family in Kyoto. In his late teenage years, he fell in love with Kesa, the beautiful wife of his samurai colleague Watanabe Wataru. She rejected his persistent entreaties until one night she agreed to receive him in her house at night, where she said he would find her husband asleep in a room and could kill him. However, too late, Morito realized that the person he killed was actually the lady herself, who had put herself in her husband's place to save her honour. Morito repented his evil ways and became a monk using the new name of Mongaku. As a harsh penance, he prayed under the waterfall of Nachi in Kumano (present-day Mie and Wakayama prefectures) in the freezing winter for twenty-one days, reciting incantations to the deity Fudo Myoo (Sanskrit Acala) . It is said that at the point of death, Mongaku was rescued by the two attendants of Fudo Myoo, Kongara (Sanskrit Kimkara) and Seitaka (Sanskrit Cetaka), so that he could complete the full three weeks of austerities.
The design is taken from an illustration by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) in Ehon sakigake (Picture-book of Warrior Heroes) published in 1836.
Craftspeople in many fields turned to Hokusai’s published manuals for inspiration. Netsuke were toggles that fastened cords supporting pouches hanging from the sash. Working in three dimensions, netsuke carvers could develop Hokusai’s illustrations in ways not possible for other craftspeople. This manjū netsuke, for example, is carved on both sides. The front shows Priest Mongaku enduring penance beneath a waterfall, based on the illustration discussed above (cat 151). The reverse shows the two Buddhist deities who saved Mongaku at the point of death, based on the previous illustration in the same book. The carver successfully captured Hokusai’s drawing style and composition, and then added an important detail: here Mongaku holds an esoteric ritual bell (kongōrei) clenched in his teeth. Further research may uncover the significance of this detail.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017 25 May - 13 Aug, London, BM, G35, Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave
2017 6 Oct - 19 Nov, Osaka, Abeno Harukas Art Museum
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Ex.76