京のキー Where the frogs battle and the rabbits frolic

Where the frogs battle and the rabbits frolic

Many years ago I saw a cartoon of frogs and rabbits fighting one another. It came as a shock to discover that the strange depiction of animals in human roles was more than a thousand years old and is considered the origins of Japanese manga. The small strips are as fresh today as ever they were, a distant cousin of The Wind in the Willows. What is more surprising than the fact they have survived fire on their frail pieces of parchment, is how small the pictures are, stored in glass cabinets, without explanation nor spectacle.

Kozan-ji is known as the treasure house of North-West Kyoto, storing ancient cultural objects from the Heian Period (794-897) and Kamakura Period (1185-1392). The set of four Chojugiga ('Picture Scrolls of Frolicking Birds and Animals') is perhaps the most well-known of these priceless objects. The original artwork is attributed to the Priest Kakuyu (1053-1140), known by his honorary title, Toba Sojo (this is more assumed than proven). These humorous ink-painted picture scrolls (e-maki) were executed in the 12th and 13th centuries. The long scrolls, almost 13 inches high, depict birds and animals behaving like people and are clearly satirical although, uncharacteristically, no text accompanies the drawings.

Really great to see these images.I found out about them a couple of years ago and have been fascinated by them ever since. They look so fresh, especially compared to European art from the same period. I’m an animator and cartoonist, and these scrolls are an international treasure for me. Cheers.
Mark - 28 08 08 - 08:10

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