Detail View: The AMICA Library: Portrait of the Zen Master Hotto Kokushi

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Dates/Places: 
Creator Name-CRT: 
Japan, Kamakura Period
Portrait of the Zen Master Hotto Kokushi
Title Type: 
Full View
Creation Date: 
c. 1286
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
wood with hemp cloth, black lacquer, and iron clamps
Overall: 91.4cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund
In Japan, portraits of revered spiritual leaders have been produced since the eighth century. First in life-size sculptures of clay, wood, or dry lacquer and, later, in painted versions, these austere images of Buddhist priests demonstrate the early Japanese mastery of realistic portraiture. Hotto Kokushi (1203 ? 1295), known as Kakushin, journeyed to China twice to study Zen, a sect of Buddhism. He became renowned in Japan for his lectures and as a masterful interpreter and teacher of Zen doctrine. Away from the more doctrinaire centers in Kyoto and Kamakura, he founded a small number of temples in western Japan where his reputation attracted serious students of Zen as well as common parishioners. Three chinso (sculpture portraits) of Kakushin exist today at these monasteries, which continue to serve as icons of faith in the search for spiritual enlightenment. Such sculptural images were traditionally displayed only for special occasions, usually in a space such as a founder's hall specifically designated for that purpose. Memorial services marking the anniversary of the priest's death are still the most important observances each year. Each of the four extant chinso of Kakushin depict him slightly differently, corresponding either to his age or perhaps to how his physiognomy was transmitted posthumously to the sculptor. Traditionally this was done by sketch or finished painted image. Here the master is presented toward the end of his life, with prominent cheekbones and hollowed cheeks as well as the large ears and clean shaven pate that characterize his appearance in all four chinso. The weathered condition of the image's surface reveals the iron clamps holding the thinly carved pieces of wood together and the sculpting grooves normally hidden by layers of hemp cloth and black lacquer. The determined, meditative expression of Kakushin's aged face and his monk's robe seem particularly sympathetic to these materials. The sculpture separates where the torso meets the lower robes, at the elbows. The handsare carved as one piece but are not secured into the arm sleeves. They, like the monk's slippers and bench, are independent elements that allow for ease of transport and installation. These were matters of some concern to medieval temples and their patrons since damage from insects and fire was well known to them. In addition, fabrication by the joined wood system allowed for greater flexibility and detailing. M.R.C.
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