Japan art and influence of China: Sakaki Hyakusen and Buddhism

Japan art and influence of China: Sakaki Hyakusen and Buddhism

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Sakaki Hyakusen (1697-1752) was heavily influenced by the Middle Kingdom (China). Indeed, some believe that he was of partial Chinese descent. Irrespective of this, this notable Japanese artist focused on a broad array of art forms. This includes the Kano School of Art, Nanga, Haiga, and Yamato-e.

However, he is especially known for Nanga art (Bunjinga – literati painting). Hence, his move to Kyoto when young further enriched his cultural soul. Thus during his early life, he studied art concerning the Kano School and wrote haiku (poetry).

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) says, “…A pivotal figure in the history of Japanese art, Hyakusen served as a hinge between two artistic traditions: working from close observation of Chinese painting, he played a key role in the transformation of painting in eighteenth-century Japan. Much like the literati painting tradition in Ming dynasty China, where painting was appreciated as an expression of the learned gentleman with deep knowledge of literature, poetry, philosophy, and art, the Nanga school artists used painting as a means to express their own deep thoughts and feelings.” 

Hyakusen developed a love of Chinese art concerning the Yuan and Ming dynasties in China. Likewise, he also painted in the style of Yamato-e that was influenced by Tang Dynasty art. Yamato-e was fully developed during the Heian Period in Japan.

Hyakusen was a devout Buddhist. His Buddhist faith provided a spiritual angle to his life that equally enriched his art. Therefore, he was given the esteemed title of “Hokkyo” (“Bridge of Buddhist Law”).

The title Hokkyo was given to artists who practiced Buddhism. Initially, Hokkyo was solely bestowed on Buddhist monks. However, this esteemed title, in time, was also given to artists who were devout Buddhists.

It is easy to imagine Hyakusen visiting countless Buddhist temples during his lifetime and feeling the richness of art, culture, literature, poetry, and other angles concerning high culture.



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