Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japanese, 1839–1892)
Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2005 (2005.350a–c)
This print illustrates a legend about Yūten (1637–1718), the thirty-sixth abbot of the Pure Land Buddhist temple Zōjōji, the family temple of the Tokugawa shoguns. While Yūten was struggling as a young novice, he had a vision that led him to the temple Shinshōji in Narita, where he prayed before a statue of the deity Fudō Myōō for aid in becoming a wise monk. He subsequently dreamed that the statue jumped down from its pedestal and made him swallow its sword, an implement Fudō uses to slash through ignorance. When Yūten woke up, he became a formidable debater of Buddhist doctrine. In the center print, the statue of Fudō aims his sword at Yūten, while Fudō’s two attendants witness his supernatural power from the two sides. The episode, which appeared in a kabuki play written by Tsuruya Nanboku (1755–1829) and first performed in 1823, was a popular subject for print artists.
The date, the artist’s signature “Yoshitoshi” and his seal “Taiso,” as well as the carver’s seal, “Enkatsu,” appear on the left print. The artist’s name, Tsukioka Yonejirō, and the publisher’s name, Akiyama Buemon, appear in a spade-shaped seal in the corner of the right print.