Scene from "Channel Buoys" (Miotsukushi), chapter 14 of the Tale of Genji

Period: Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

Date: late 14th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on paper

Dimensions: Image: 12 3/16 in. x 14 ft. 8 in. (31 x 447 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: 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

Accession Number: 1975.268.33


The absence of an obvious place reference can sometimes make a story all the more poignant. Readers of the text accompanying this scene would have known that Sumiyoshi— renowned for the serene beauty of its pines and seacoast—is the setting for this splendid and colorful procession, whereby Genji (in an oxcart) undertakes a pilgrimage to a shrine to thank the god of Sumiyoshi for granting his prayers and allowing his safe return from exile at Suma. By chance or fate, his pilgrimage occurs on the same autumn day that the Akashi Lady, Genji's lover during the time he was away from the capital and the mother of his only child, chose to make her own pilgrimage. Unable to meet, they exchange poems, lending the scene an elegiac feel. The Akashi Lady's agitation and torment over their vastly different stations is heightened by the scenery, "with the tide flooding in and cranes calling ceaselessly from the shallows."

This handscroll is a rare medieval interpretation of Murasaki Shikibu's novel, part of a set now almost completely lost. One other section is in the Tenri Library in Kyoto.