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

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

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Kaihō Yūshō (1533-1615) lived and breathed Buddhism, high culture, the arts, and the richness of Chinese culture. Yūshō was a lay Buddhist priest who fused the arts, ethics, faith, philosophy, and other aspects of Japanese high culture that first emerged in Nara to a great extent.

The world of Yūshō was firmly entrenched in the rich environment of Kyoto. Hence, Zen Buddhism, Chinese classics, high culture, the arts, and Buddhist chants flowed naturally throughout his life.

The Kyoto National Museum says, “During his lifetime, the Momoyama period (1573–1615) master painter Kaihō Yūshō (1533–1615) never formed any organized painting establishment like the Kano school. But Yūshō turned out to be the first of several generations of his family to become painters, beginning with his late-born eldest son Yūsetsu (1598–1677). These artists are collectively known as the Kaihō school.”

His artistic and religious upbringing in Kyoto was a far cry from earlier events in his life. This concerns the death of his father, who was a military commander. Hence, his father died during the early centralization policies of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582).

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.”

In a past article, I comment, “Liang Kai (K’ai) and Kaihō Yūshō are separated by several centuries. Also, both hail from different cultures and lands. However, the ticking clock of Buddhism entailed that some binding facts link both individuals – with the onus being on Yūshō. Therefore, Yūshō was inspired by the art of Liang Kai (1140-1210) and the richness of Chinese culture before developing his own artistic style.”

Throughout Yūshō’s life, Buddhism fused with his artistic soul. Hence, like Liang Kai, Buddhism brought solace and awakening.



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