After Ryūshū Shūtaku (Japanese, 1307–1388)
Triptych of hanging scrolls; hand–colored woodblock prints on paper
Signed: Myōtaku Rōjin hitsu
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975 (1975.268.26–.28)
In Japan, the King of Brightness Fudō, the “Immovable,” is a symbol of steadfastness against egoism, passion, and temptation. An important Esoteric Buddhist icon from the early ninth century to the middle of the twelfth, he also captured the popular imagination, retaining significance within the later non-Esoteric Buddhist sects, like Zen, as well as becoming a cult figure among the warrior class. This triptych is an example of how the medieval Zen community actively promoted the printing of Buddhist writings and reproductions of paintings in its efforts to spread Buddhism. The model for Fudō (center), here accompanied by his youthful attendants Seitaka (left) and Kongara (right), was likely executed by the noted scholarly Zen monk Ryūshū Shūtaku (also known as Myōtaku). Shūtaku was one of the first Zen monks to paint this deity, and is said to have painted a picture of Fudō daily for over twenty years. This print resembles Shūtaku’s painting in the collection of the temple Henjōkōin at Mount Kōya. The transformation of Buddhist images into easily reproduced media eliminated the personal interpretation that ink painting allows, but replaced it with a direct and popular expression of religious meaning.