Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga

Hear about the Chōjū-giga on Bonus Episode 17 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.


Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga

The Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga (鳥獣人物戯画 – Scrolls of Frolicking Animals) Chōjū-giga (鳥獣戯画) are a group of 4 emakimono scrolls with varying animal and human depictions, many of the animals having human characteristics. They are also notable as they contain no text.12

Chōjū-giga
1st Scroll – Animals Wrestling

The scrolls measure 31cm high and are around 1 metre long2, with the main scrolls that survive; dating between the Heian and Kamakura Period, originally housed in Kōzanji in Kyoto.1 There are some smaller fragments held in private collections.2

Originally it was thought a man by the name of Toba Sōjō was the creator of these scrolls, but now it is thought several may have worked on them.12

The scrolls use of only ink and fluid lines were a prefigure to the rise of the ink monochrome style (hakubyō) as a major mode of Buddhist painting.

Scroll A is the most famous depicting animals burlesquing as well as monkls and laymen in various activities. Scroll B show animals in a more or less continuous landscape. These two are thought to date to the later Heian Period.

Scroll C has a date of 1253 upon it depicting a sequence of games and contests between monks and laymen. The scrolls ends with depictions of animals competing.

Scroll D, thought to date to the 13th Century, shows human clerics undertaking rituals and amusements.1

Chōjū-giga
1st Scroll - Frog holding lily pad over monks head.
Chōjū-giga
1st Scroll - Monkey Thief.
Chōjū-giga
1st Scroll - Swimming and bathing animals
Chōjū-giga
2nd Scroll - Roaring lions.
Chōjū-giga
3rd Scroll - Monkeys attacking a cart.
Chōjū-giga
3rd Scroll - Tug of War.
Chōjū-giga
4th Scroll - Samurai listening to their master.
Chōjū-giga
4th Scroll - Monks smoking their pipes.
Chōjū-giga
4th Scroll - Wrestling match.

Footnotes

1. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
2. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.

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Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga