Japan art and Buddhism: Kaiho Yusho (1533-1615)

Japan art and Buddhism: Kaihō Yūshō (1533-1615)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Buddhism impacted the lifestyle and ethics of the esteemed artist Kaihō Yūshō (1533-1615). Indeed, Yūshō was a lay Buddhist priest. Hence, the world of Yūshō entailed Buddhism, Chinese classics, gardens fused with spirituality, Confucianism, high culture, literature, poetry, Shintoism, Taoism, Zen ideas, and other rich angles related to culture, religion, and philosophy. However, the greatest impact on his life was Buddhism.

When visualizing Yūshō’s art, it is difficult to imagine the warring period that impacted Japan throughout his lifetime. Yet this was the world that Yūshō’ belonged to despite the solace and aesthetics of Buddhism. Therefore, Yūshō’s life was impacted by war because his father died when forces loyal to Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) attacked Odani Castle.

The MOA Museum of Art says, “Kaihō Yūshō was born in Ohmi (present Shiga prefecture) as a son of a military commander who served Lord Asai Nagamasa. His father died in combat when Oda Nobunaga attacked Odani castle. Yūshō was unhurt since he was sent to Tōfuku-ji temple in Kyoto as a child novice. He first studied under Kanō Motonobu, become infatuated with the abbreviated brush technique of Liang Kai, and founded his original style of painting during the Momoyama period.”

The centralization period of Japan that led to the Edo Period in 1603 can be traced to the power concentration of Oda Nobunaga. Hence, his death led to the continuity of his ideas until finally, the Edo Period came into existence. Therefore, one aspect of the life of Yūshō’ is firmly focused on art, Buddhism, and high culture: however, he also understood the internal convulsions that threatened the world he knew.

The Saint Louis Art Museum says, “Kaiho Yusho excelled in the painting tradition associated with Zen Buddhism in which the notion of emptiness is expressed in the tranquil disintegration of the physical world and the opening of a timeless and infinite void.” 


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