Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin engi emaki)

Kamakura period (1185–1333)
late 13th century
Set of five handscrolls; ink, color, and cut gold on paper
a: 11 5/16 in. × 22 ft. 7 7/16 in. (28.8 × 689.4 cm) b: 11 5/16 in. × 25 ft. 3/8 in. (28.8 × 763 cm) c: 11 5/16 x 274 1/8 in. (28.8 x 696.3 cm) d: 11 5/16 x 224 15/16 in. (28.8 x 571.4 cm) e: 11 5/16 x 352 3/16 in. (28.8 x 894.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1925
Accession Number:
Not on view
An ancient Shinto belief that the unpredictable, calamitous forces of nature are animated by tormented human spirits (onryō) underlies the legendary origin of the Kitano Tenjin shrine, dedicated to Sugawara Michizane (845–903). Michizane was a distinguished scholar, poet, and statesman who died in exile, having been slandered by enemies at court.

After his death, a series of extraordinary natural disasters and plagues caused the untimely deaths of his detractors. In an attempt to appease his vengeful spirit, he was posthumously pardoned and promoted to high office, but the disasters continued. In 942, Michizane’s spirit revealed his wish to be honored at a shrine dedicated to the thunder god in the northwestern section of the capital. He was deified as Tenjin, an ancient god of agriculture and patron of the falsely accused. Later, perhaps because poems were offered to him at the shrine, he came to be venerated as the Shinto god of literature and music. Among the more than thirty extant sets of handscrolls recounting Michizane’s life and the events leading to the establishment of the Tenjin cult, this version is second in age and quality only to the early thirteenth-century treasure in the main Kitano Tenjin shrine in Kyoto.
Taisanji Temple, Igawadani (near Kobe). ; Maeda Kenjiro ; Machida Hisanari ; Marquis Inoue Kaoru , Shizuoka (until d. 1915); by descent to family. ; [ Yamanaka & Co. , Kyoto, 1925; as agent sold to MMA]
Related Objects

Wang Xizhi watching geese

Artist: Qian Xuan (Chinese, ca. 1235–before 1307) Date: ca. 1295 Medium: Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper Accession: 1973.120.6 On view in:Not on view

Ten Verses on Oxherding

Date: 1278 Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on paper Accession: 2015.300.10 On view in:Not on view

Emperor Xuanzong's Flight to Shu

Date: mid-12th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk Accession: 41.138 On view in:Gallery 210

Aizen Myōō

Date: 14th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, gold, and cut gold leaf on silk Accession: 66.90 On view in:Not on view

Portrait of Shun'oku Myōha (1311–1388)

Date: ca. 1383 Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk Accession: 2007.329 On view in:Not on view