“Predestined to be born in the country of Min (Fukien),
I lived in Mulberry Heaven;
Silent, silent without one word
a bell seemed to sound.
Twenty years ago I came (to Japan)
over the vast sea,
With my long staff
I examined snakes and dragons.
Inscribed by the mountain monk Toran at Reishu (Spirit of Vulture Peak);”
Seals: Hanken Kōri Sui Un Ten; Shaku Sōtaku in; Tōran.
The venerable monk with shaven head sits quietly in the eccentric root-chair of a type that had been associated with Buddhism for many centuries in China and subsequently in Japan. The design of the brocade draping the back of the chair is also of Chinese origin, appropriate for the subject of the portrait. Toran (1640-1707), original surname Zhang, was born in Fujian province in China, became a monk at the age of sixteen, and was invited to Japan in 1673, where he distinguished himself as an effective leader within the ranks of the Zen Buddhist clergy. The portrait here, with Toran in the regalia of an eminent prelate, might well have been done upon his retirement in 1695 to the Reishu-an, which is mentioned by Toran in his inscription. Such chinso, ecclesiastical portraits of Zen monks, are often inscribed by the subjects of the portraits themselves and such works are held by and large in temples and monasteries in Japan. The painter, Kita Genki, is recorded in the Nagasaki Senmin Gen of 1731 as a portraitist, skilled in Chinese and Nanban (or Western) painting techniques, talents well exhibited here.
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