An artistic Buddhist monk of bygone days in Japan

An artistic Buddhist monk of bygone days in Japan

Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times

Kaō Ninga belongs to the world of the fourteenth century. Thus his art connects with this intriguing period of Japanese history. Therefore, Kaō fused the Buddhist ideals that impacted this esteemed holy monk by elevating religious thought patterns within his art.

The early Muromachi period is said to reflect his art in the realm of high culture and ideas. However, Kaō was equally influenced by the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and how this period altered the Buddhist and cultural landscape.

In another art piece, I state, “Of course, like the mirror of life – and how history is often remembered when glossing over the violent excesses of reality – his world was blessed by peace. However, many ordinary citizens faced war, poverty, and the reality of power concentration during the Nanboku-chō period.”

His minimalist detail to art in a sense mirrors Kaō’s minimalist knowledge of how ordinary people faced hardship outside what he saw in person. Thus, the intriguing quick brushstrokes provide a fascinating backdrop to how this Buddhist monk viewed art and religion.

Kaō was naturally influenced by the Middle Kingdom (China). This concerns Buddhism, Confucianism, high culture, gardens, and an array of other angles emanating from the Middle Kingdom.

Internal Japanese themes and angles were naturally embodied within his art that was outside of the Middle Kingdom. Hence, Kaō’s art flowed between these different cultures just like it flowed between respective periods of history.

Historical convulsions that impacted the Nanboku-chō period – like earlier times of conflict that led to the demise of the Kamakura period – were far from his sheltered lifestyle. Therefore, Kaō represents the artistic, Buddhist, cultural, and philosophical angle that expressed tranquility – compared with conflict and the power concentration of military elites that ruled the day.


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