Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage


The Forefront of Research on Sesshu – The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Organizes a Workshop

Landscape “Haboku-sansui” by Sesshu (partial) owned by TNM (picture provided by TNM)

 Sesshu Toyo went to China (Ming) and made a serious career of ink brush painting. Materials on Sesshu’s entry into Ming include “Tenkai togaro ki” by Baifu Ryoshin and Sesshu’s painting “landscape” including his inscription (commonly called the Painting “Haboku-sansui” owned by the Tokyo National Museum (TNM)). Mr. Yu HASHIMOTO (Hokkaido University) presented his theory that Sesshu proactively went to Ming from the standpoint of Japan-Ming history research in his papers titled “Reexamination of Sesshu’s Travel to Ming China” (Studies in Art History 33, March 2017). Regarding “之” of “向者、大明国北京礼部院、於中堂之壁、尚書姚公、命公令画之” in “Tenkai togaro ki,” he pointed out that it was the theme of the painting drawn by Sesshu in the interior wall of lǐbu(礼部) in Beijing and assumed that it was an image of Zhôngkui(鍾馗) and as collateral evidence, and he discussed the relations between Zhôngkui and Chinese higher civil service examinations and lǐbu. Furthermore, the part “於茲長有声并李在二人得時名、相随伝設色之旨兼破墨之法兮” of Sesshu’s inscription in “Sansuizu” was read as the fact that Zhang Yousheug and Li Zai learned the traditional painting style by following each other unlike the traditional interpretation of “Sesshu’s studying under Zhang Yousheug and Li Zai.”
 In response to this discussion, Mr. Minoru WATADA, Cultural Affairs Agency, scrutinized Hashimoto’s views of “Tenkai togaro ki” and Sesshu’s inscription in “landscape” in a presentation entitled “On the Occasion of Yu HASHIMOTO’s ‘Reexamination of Sesshu’s Travel to Ming China’” at a workshop organized by the Department on August 7th. We invited Mr. Arata SHIMAO, Gakushuin University, as the moderator, Mr. Koji ITO, Kyushu University, Mr. Hitoshi YONETANI, Waseda University, Ms. Makiko SUDA and Mr. Makoto OKAMOTO, Historiographical Institute, The University of Tokyo, as commentators and views and opinions from the perspectives not only of art history but also of historiography and philological history were exchanged in the workshop.
 Mr. Watada read in the past “命公令画之” in “Tenkai togaro ki” as “之に画く” in the book titled “Sesshu and Japanese Kanga Painters (Brücke, 2013) and if it is “之を画く” as traditionally interpreted, he raised a question as to Hashimoto’s view that “之” is “墨鬼鍾馗” right before it. Many of the participants in the workshop expressed their views that there was no way to determine what “之” points to only through interpretation based on grammar and pointed out that there was room for restudy of the validity of making the theme of the painting an image of Zhôngkui. Based on the collateral evidence shown by Mr. Hashimoto and other evidence, some noted that the possibility of the theme of the painting being an image of Zhôngkui cannot be denied categorically, either. The participants concluded that seeking a possible interpretation and the theme of the painting that is appropriate for lǐbu would be future challenges to be addressed.
 Furthermore, regarding the subject of “相随伝” written in the inscriptions, Mr. Watada read it as Sesshu, considering the fact that the subject after “余曽入大宋国” was supposed to be “余,” namely, Sesshu. So he took the position of reading Sesshu’s studying under Zhang Yousheug and Li Zai as traditionally interpreted. As opposed to this, many of participants in the workshop expressed views that there was a contradiction in terms of the structure of a sentence in the traditional theory and ended up supporting Mr. Hashimoto’s interpretation. It remains unknown why Sesshu illustrated two painters, that is, Zhang Yousheug and Li Zai , but if you pay attention to “数年而帰本邦地、熟知吾祖如拙周文両翁製作楷模,” as “長有声并李在” and “如拙周文” become paired, it is safe to say that Sesshu intended to make “如拙周文” stand out. Mr. Watada pointed out that unless you make the one that did “相随伝” Sesshu, it did not agree with the description of “至于洛求師,” namely, Sesshu sought a teacher in China. Mr. Shimao, who served as the moderator, suggested clichés be distinguished in text and it was an opportunity to share the recognition that studies are needed from an extensive perspective that is not confined to reading or interpreting of historiographic materials.
Thanks to the question raised by Mr. Watada, the participants were able to share the possibility and amplitude of interpretation of historiographical materials yet again. We can look forward to future developments in research on Sesshu.


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