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The Diety Fudō and the Priest Mongaku from Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu

Fan design sample print, Kneeling Nudes

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The Diety Fudō and the Priest Mongaku

from Woodblock Print Supplements

to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu

by Nishimura Goun, 1922-1923

Fan design sample print, Kneeling Nudes

IHL Cat. #147A

About This Print

The icy white spray from the waterfall is created
with hand applied gofun (ground seashells)
and the god Fudo's robes and sword are
highlighted with gold mica.
This print by Tomita Keisen (1879-1936) depicts the priest Mongaku atoning for his sins by standing under Nachi waterfall in winter.  About to die, he is rescued by the god Fudō Myō-ō (Buddhist Diety of Fire.)

The Story of the Priest Mongaku and the God Fudō

The priest Mongaku is referred to in Chikamatsu's 1714 bunraku play Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards (Kaoyo Utagaruta).  The character Takeguchi, who wishes to atone for his sins, invokes the story of Mongaku as follows:

"Well, let me follow the example of Mongaku, who took to the priesthood in consequence of the great love he bore a lady and in time was enabled to lead all his relations to the Pure Land. Life is after all but a dream; reputation and infamy illusions; hatred and compassion but reflections quivering upon the water.  Let me hope that my mistake in love will prove to be but a first step on the path of spiritual enlightenment."1

The story of the priest Mongaku is told in the unattributed play Nachi-no-Take Chikai no Mongaku, “The Priest Mongaku at the Waterall of Nachi".

Endo Morito, the son of a minor courtier became infatuated with the beautiful Kesa Gozen, the faithful young wife of Watanabe Wataru, a palace guard. She rejected his advances but he was so persistent that she pretended to agree to his proposal on the condition that he first kill her husband.

Kesa concocted a plan where Morito was to steal into Wataru’s room by night. That night, Kesa cut off her long hair and lay down in the darkness in her husband’s bed. At midnight Morito arrived and felt in the darkness until he found the sleeping figure. He immediately cut the head off and ran off. He was horrified to find that he had cut off the head of Kesa Gozen.

He renounced the world and became a monk. For three years he attempted to atone for his crime by the harshest austerities, standing under the icy Nachi waterfall in winter. He was frozen and about to expire, but was saved by Fudō Myō-ō (Buddhist Diety of Fire, depicted with a sword in one hand and a rope in the other) and his Acolytes, Kongara and Seitaka.2

Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu

One of 18 prints published from 1922 to 1923 as part of the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the death of Chikamatsu Manzaemon (1623-1724), perhaps the greatest dramatist in the history of the Japanese theater. Each design illustrates a scene or character from one of Chikamatsu’s famous works.  For more details on this series go to Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu.

1 Masterpieces of Chikamatsu: The Japanese Shakespeare, Miyomori, A, Kegan Paul, London, 1926; p. 129
2 Robyn Buntin of Honolulu gallery website  http://www.robynbuntin.com/Articles/PDFs/KesaGozen.pdf

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #147A
 Title or Description  The Diety Fudō and the Priest Mongaku 
 Series  Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu
 Dai Chikamatsu zenshu furoku mokuhan 大近松全集 付録木版
 Tomita Keisen (1879-1936)
溪仙 Keisen
 Seal  unread red artist's seal
 Publication Date  between 1922-1923
 Edition  likely first edition, but the number of editions issued is unknown
 Publisher  Dai Chikamatsu zenshū kankōkai 大近松全集刊行会 (the Complete Work of Chikamatsu Publishing Association)
 Carver  Yamagishi Kazue 1893-1996
 Printer  Nishimura Kumakichi
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent
 Miscellaneous  all prints from this series printed on a light tan-colored paper
 Genre  shin hanga (new prints)
 Format  dai-oban
 H x W Paper  17 3/4 x 11 1/8 in. (45.1 x 28.3 cm)
 H x W Image  15 1/8 x 10 5/8 in. (38.4 x 27 cm) measurement includes gray border
 Collections This Print  The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-0393
 Reference Literature