Japan art and Soami: Buddhism, China, and landscapes

Japan art and Soami: Buddhism, China, and landscapes

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The artist Sōami created stunning art many centuries ago. His exact birth isn’t known. However, it is widely accepted that he died in 1525. Uniquely, for this period of art history in Japan, Sōami focused on the Southern School of Chinese art. Therefore, it shows that Sōami had an individual artistic spirit.

One of his most famous pieces of artwork is called the Landscape of the Four Seasons. This relates to the eight delightful views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers.

The Princeton University Art Museum says, “The eight paintings in these scrolls are thought to be the oldest surviving complete version of the Eight Views, a landscape theme that became popular in the late eleventh century. Xiao-Xiang refers to the region in present-day Hunan province where the Xiao and Xiang rivers converge.” 

Throughout his life, Zen Buddhism guided Sōami. The spiritual angle enabled him to feel the flow of continuity concerning art and spirituality. Hence, the world of art, Buddhist meditation, Zen-inspired gardens, literature, poetry, and various other angles to high culture blessed his world.

The National Gallery of Victoria says, “Sōami would have gained much of his knowledge of karamono from his father Geiami (1431–1485) and more notably from his grandfather Nōami (1397–1471), both of whom were advisers to the Ashikaga shoguns.”

Karamono refers to Sōami being the keeper – or guardian – of Chinese works of esteemed art. These works were preserved throughout the centuries and treasured. Therefore, Sōami utilized his privilege and created amazing pieces of art during his lifetime – with the Buddhist spiritual angle blessing his individualistic approach.


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