Zen Sage Bukan

18th Century
Maruyama Ōkyo (円山応挙), 1733-1795

Format, Size: Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper
Signature: Ōkyo (應擧)
Published: Cute Edo Paintings (かわいい江戸の絵画), #159
Exhibited: Fuchū City Museum, Tokyo

“Maruyama Ōkyo changed the course of Japanese painting in the late 18th Century through his adaptation of naturalism into compositions with a decorative feel that appealed to all levels of patronage. Within the scope of Ōkyo’s work, this portrait of Bukan is loosely drawn. However, it is not brushed in the quick, expressive manner of paintings of Zen monks. Instead, much concentration is laid upon the still face of the figure as he and his tiger nap.

Bukan (Ch: Fenggan) lived on Mt. Tiantai in China, behind the temple Guoqingsi, where he had appeared one day riding a tiger. He is often portrayed napping with Kanzan and Jittoku. The theme of the “four sleepers” represents the tranquility of enlightened minds. It was Bukan’s spiritual awareness that gave him the peace of mind to befriend a tiger.”

— Hollis Goodall, Curator, Japanese Art, LACMA