Japan art by Sakai Hōitsu and Buddhism

Japan art by Sakai Hōitsu and Buddhism

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The esteemed artist Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1829) became a holy Buddhist monk in the last few decades of his life. It is easy to imagine Hōitsu reading holy Buddhist scriptures, followed by contemplating his next art piece.

The Met Museum says, “Hōitsu was born into a wealthy, influential samurai family and had all the advantages of the finest education, including the opportunity to study many of the painting styles available to artists in Edo Japan. He became a monk in 1797 and adopted the priestly name Monsen Kishin, which appears in the seal and signature on this screen.”

In the art piece focused on the persimmon tree and the fruit it provides, it is easy to believe that the simplicity of the crow is meant to depict a more significant meaning. This concerns the “tree of life” and how nature nourishes naturally. Of course, the delightful crow enjoying the fruit provided by nature could hint at darker meanings – for example, how human greed can’t accept the basics of this world.

Buddha said, “Those who cling to perceptions and views wander the world offending people.”

Of course, the art piece might merely signify the simplicity of this world – or solely aimed at art and how it interconnects with the soul. Irrespective of the meaning to Hōitsu – or no meaning – viewing the crow enjoying the persimmon fruit is a joy by itself because of the intricacy of this delightful art piece.

I state, in another art piece, “Turning back to the persimmon tree facing the cold wind of autumn, it is interesting to note another autumn exists. After all, it was now the autumn of his life. Therefore, with Hōitsu now belonging to the Buddhist world and living in solitude, one can relate the persimmon tree to his own personal thinking.”

Overall, Hōitsu produced countless delightful art pieces. Hence, in the last few decades of his life, the wisdom of Buddhism nourished him to a higher degree than before – just like the persimmon tree nourishes the crow.



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