Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
{{img.publicCaption}}

北野天神縁起絵巻
Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin engi emaki)

Period:
Kamakura period (1185–1333)
Date:
late 13th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Set of five handscrolls; ink, color, and cut gold on paper
Dimensions:
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)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1925
Accession Number:
25.224a–e
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.
Related Objects

Ten Verses on Oxherding

Date: 1278 Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on paper Accession: 2015.300.10 On view in:Gallery 224

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:Gallery 213

Biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru

Artist: Huang Tingjian (Chinese, 1045–1105) Date: ca. 1095 Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper Accession: 1989.363.4 On view in:Gallery 210

Old Trees, Level Distance

Artist: Guo Xi (Chinese, ca. 1000–ca. 1090) Date: ca. 1080 Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on silk Accession: 1981.276 On view in:Gallery 210

Finches and bamboo

Artist: Emperor Huizong (Chinese, 1082–1135; r. 1100–25) Date: early 12th century Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on silk Accession: 1981.278 On view in:Gallery 210