Popular folk tales for common people: miraculous stories of the monk Myōren, who lived at the Chōgosonshi-ji temple on Mount Shigi

Shigisan-engi

Japan — 1157–1180

Shigisan-engi

Shigisan-engi

Japan — 1157–1180

  1. These stories are based on legends about a real 9th century monk who lived in the region of Nara

  2. The 12th century scrolls are the oldest continuously illustrated legend from Japan

  3. The illustrations are full of precious insights into the everyday lives of ordinary people

Shigisan-engi

Alternative Titles:
  • Legend of Mount Shigi
  • Shigi-san engi
  • Shigi-san Engi Emaki
  • Legends of the Temple on Mount Shigi
  • Shigisan-engi-Bildrollen
  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology
Short Description

These three gorgeous 12th century scrolls are the oldest continuously illustrated legend in Japan and a rare example of the early yamato-e style. Furthermore, they contain the Shigisan-engi or “Legends of the Temple on Mount Shigi” – three popular folk tales beloved by the common people. They consist of three miracles attributed to the monk Myōren, who lived at the Chōgosonshi-ji temple on Mount Shigi near Nara during the latter part of the 9th century. The stories are illustrated in unbroken succession by bright watercolors in a dynamic and unrestrained style known as otoko-e.

Shigisan-engi

Called the “Legends of the Temple on Mount Shigi” in English, the Shigisan-engi consists of three scrolls presenting three popular legends that were favorites of the common folk, not grand tales created for members of the Japanese nobility. Created in the second half of the 12th century, it is an emaki or “picture scroll” in the engi genre, which are narratives concerning the founding of a Buddhist or Shinto temples. The legends detail miracles attributed to the monk Myōren, who lived at the Chōgosonshi-ji temple on Mount Shigi near Nara during the latter part of the 9th century. This combination of stories and what they have to offer, in addition to the fact that they were oriented toward a more “common” audience, are incredibly important artifacts of Japanese literary culture and this historical period in particular.

Three Stories for the Masses

These tales are full of information about the daily lives of commoners in Heian Period Japan that is punctuated by miraculous occurrences like Buddhist gods flying through the air and curing illnesses. First, “The Flying Granary” tells the story of a granary that travels across the sea and up to Mt. Shigi and offers wonderful details of domestic architecture and clothing. Second, “The Exorcism of the Engi Emperor” follows the mission of an imperial messenger looking for someone to cure the emperor on Mt. Shigi and includes many accurate depictions of the imperial palace. Third, “The Story of the Nun” relates the journey of a Buddhist nun seeking out her brother, with whom she is reunited at Mt. Shigi, and is an important source on daily life in 12th century Japan.

A Precious Specimen

The Shigisan-engi is regarded as a prime example of both Heian-era scroll painting and the early yamato-e style, of which precious few specimens survive. It can be classified as otoko-e or “men’s pictures”, a dynamic and unrestrained style of painting characterized by movement and outdoor scenes that is a sub-style of yamato-e. Furthermore, this manuscript is the earliest example of a continuously illustrated legend in Japan. Flexible ink lines and bright watercolors present the action in an unbroken succession of illustration. Main characters are shown repeatedly before the landscape and architectural background is changed.

Codicology
Alternative Titles
Legend of Mount Shigi
Shigi-san engi
Shigi-san Engi Emaki
Legends of the Temple on Mount Shigi
Shigisan-engi-Bildrollen
Size / Format
3 scrolls / 31.7 × 897.0 cm 31.7 × 1280.5 cm 31.7 × 1424.2 cm
Origin
Japan
Date
1157–1180
Language
Content
3 Rolls about the miracles attributed to the monk Myōren:
Yamazaki Choja no Maki or The Flying Granary, size: 31.7 × 897.0 cm
Engi Kaji no Maki or Exorcism of the Emperor, size: 31.7 × 1280.5 cm
Amagimi no Maki or The Nun's Story, size: 31.7 × 1424.2 cm

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Shigisan-engi“

Shigi-san engi Facsimile

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Shigi-san engi Facsimile

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Limited Edition
Not limited
Binding
Wooden Box
Commentary
1 volume by Akio Donohashi
Language: Japanese
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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