Art/ Collection/ Art Object

烏丸光広筆 十牛図歌賛図巻
Ten Oxherding Songs

Karasumaru Mitsuhiro (Japanese, 1579–1638)
Edo period (1615–1868)
ca. 1634
Handscroll; ink on dyed paper with stenciled decoration in gold and silver
11 3/4 x 107 in. (29.9 x 271.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1986
Accession Number:
Not on view
Ten waka (poems of thirty-one syllables) describing the various stages of spiritual awareness, from the initial search to final realization, are couched in the classic Zen parable Ten Ox-Herding Songs, which likens this vigorous human quest to the often comic vicissitudes of a herdboy in pursuit of an elusive ox. The courtier-calligrapher Karasumaru Mitsuhiro rendered the Zen theme in a style that reflects the aristocratic tradition of personally expressive writing on decorated paper.

The poems, Mitsuhiro’s own, are based on a set by a fifteenth-century monk at Tōfukuji, an important Zen temple in Kyoto. Following a common literary practice, Mitsuhiro personalized the poems by making slight changes to their wording, each change alluding to classical sources. Mitsuhiro also subtly altered the standard sequence of accompanying pictures. The style of the calligraphy is influenced by that of Mitsuhiro’s teacher, Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), who with Mitsuhiro was instrumental in reviving the aesthetics of Heian-period (794–1185) art in the early seventeenth century.

Mitsuhiro was a major figure in the circle of the politically enfeebled but artistically influential Emperor Go-Mi zunō-ō (1596–1680).
Related Objects

Two Poems from One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets (Ogura hyakunin isshu)

Artist: Hon'ami Kōetsu (Japanese, 1558–1637) Date: ca. 1615–20 Medium: Section of scroll; ink, silver, and gold on paper Accession: 2015.300.86 On view in:Gallery 228

Beauty of the Kanbun Era

Date: late 17th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on paper Accession: 2015.300.112 On view in:Not on view

The Warrior Asahina Yoshihide Lifting a Puppet of a Courtesan on a Go Board

Artist: Torii Kiyoshige (Japanese, active ca. 1716–1759) Date: mid-18th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color and gold on paper Accession: 2015.300.131 On view in:Gallery 231

Courtesan and Two Attendants on New Year's Day

Artist: Isoda Koryūsai (Japanese, 1735–ca. 1790) Date: ca. 1780s Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color and gold on paper Accession: 2015.300.136 On view in:Gallery 231

“Mount Utsu” (Utsu no yama), from The Tales of Ise (Ise monogatari)

Artist: Painting by Tawaraya Sōtatsu (Japanese, died ca. 1640) Date: ca. 1634 Medium: Poem card (shikishi) mounted as a hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on paper Accession: 2015.300.88 On view in:Gallery 227