Scroll one from a set of three handscrolls; ink, color, and gold on paper
12 1/8 in. x 41 ft. 2 1/8 in. (30.9 x 1,255.2 cm)
Purchase, Funds from Various donors, by exchange, Fletcher Fund and Dodge Fund, 2002 (2002.459.1)
A Long Tale for an Autumn Night (Aki no yonaga monogatari), Nanbokucho period (1336–92), late 14th century
Ink and color on paper
12 x 18 1/4 in. (30.5 x 46.4 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2005 (2005.312)
In 2002, the Museum acquired a rare set of three handscrolls (emaki) illustrating the romance between a mature Buddhist monk and a young male novice, a type of story called chigo monogatari (love tales of young male acolytes) that became popular in the fourteenth century. The scrolls tell the story of the monk Keikai, from a temple on Mount Hiei, who loved the handsome young acolyte Umewaka from the nearby temple of Miidera. They met secretly until one night Umewaka was abducted by evil goblins. The monks of Miidera accused the monks of Mount Hiei, and in the battle that ensued Miidera was destroyed. The young man, blaming himself for the destruction of his temple, drowned himself as penance. Keikai devoted the rest of his life to praying for him.
The unidentified painter of the scrolls combined the traditional yamato-e technique with the ink-monochrome technique of China, which became popular in Japan in the thirteenth century. His familiarity with the Chinese ink technique is evident in the dark shading on rocks, hills, and mountains and in the strong accents in dark ink on the tree trunks.
In 2005, the Museum acquired a small fragment originally belonging to the first scroll of the set. The fragment, which has since been reincorporated into the scroll by the Asian Art Conservation staff of the Museum, represents the first episode in the complicated and tragic love story of Keikai and Umewaka. In the pictorial method typical of Japanese handscrolls, this scene, showing Keikai sitting in his room gazing at a cherry tree, originally appeared with two others against a single unified landscape. In the second scene, Keikai travels to Ishiyamadera, where he spent seven days in prayer, and in the third he leans against a table and dreams of Umewaka. Reuniting the detached piece with the parent scroll restores the great expressive power of the original composition.