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Qin Gao and Other Immortals; right scroll

Sesson16th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum

Sesson was born in Hitachi province (now Ibaraki prefecture) and was a member of the Satake clan, which governed this region. He became a Zen monk at a young age and traveled around Aizu, Kamakura, Odawara, and other areas before settling in Miharu in Mutsu province (now Fukushima prefecture) in his final years
of life. While greatly admiring the style of Sesshū (1420–1506?), Sesson also studied a wide variety of Chinese and Japanese paintings and established himself as the painter with the most individualistic style in the painting circles of his
day.
This triptych is one of the representative paintings of figures by Sesson. The central figure is the legendary Chinese Zhou-dynasty immortal Qin Gao (Kinkō), who wandered throughout various regions for two hundred long years. One day, he told his disciples he would return with a small dragon and jumped into the lake. On the promised day, he appeared riding an enormous crimson carp (usually painted black). Here, Qin Gao appears in the central scroll, flanked by his disciples in the left and right scrolls. Their facial expressions and postures are humorous in this scene, which gives the optical illusion of a single frame from an animation. Moreover, the jellyfishshaped wave crests are without precedent, being nothing less than Sesson’s unique expression.

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