Ashi Kyōdō (1808-1895)

Jizō and Enma Playing Music Together

Inv. Nr. #19.041
Date Late Edo period, between 1853-67
Material Ink and light colors on paper
Dimensions H 122 x W 69,7 cm (30,9 x 57,8 cm)

Comes with fitted wooden box.

EUR 22.000

Hanging scroll by Ashi Kyōdō (1808-1895) with a painting of Jizō and Enma playing music together. Jizō and Enma are two antagonistic figures from the Asian mythology. Enma, more associated with Daoism and known in Chinese as Yanluo, is the King of Hell, who is understood as the judge and warden of the death. Jizō, instead, known in Sanskrit as Kshitigarbha, is a Buddhist Bodhisattva often depicted as a common monk with Buddhist robes and shaved head. He is understood as the savior of the souls, who helps the death to find their safe way into the afterworld. He is also able to travel to King Enma's empire to rescue kids and sinners from hell.

In this fantastic and profound painting, these two antagonistic figures are playing leisurely music together and the Zen priest Ashi Kyōdō described the scene in his inscription:


Jizō and Enma playing music together on a flute and a lute. Both, heaven and hell took a day off to enjoy the music regardless of demons and saints. They really enjoy the time. A new wave of civilization comes over heaven and earth as it comes over the secular world. Hanazono, given purple, written by Kyōdō


In his inscription, Kyōdō is using the expression bunmei kaika 文明開化, which can be translated as either 'enlightenment and opening' as well as 'developing cultural civilization'. It has been a central term used by the forces of the Meiji restoration in Japan. In the unstable political times of the late Edo period (1603-1868), the painting Jizō and Enma playing music together is a wonderful symbol for both, the Zen Buddhist approach of the liberation of dual distinction as it is for the overcoming of the antagonistic political forces in late Edo/ early Meiji period. It is therefore a wonderful symbol for pacification.


The depiction of Jizō playing a flute wearing an overturned lotus leaf on his head is an exceedingly rare and innovative portrayal that may have been created by Kanō Tan’yū (1602-1674). The few similar paintings known of a flute-playing Jizō are by Tan’yū (for example in the MET or MIA) or his followers. None of the known examples are, however, paired with Enma playing a lute. Since the brushwork of the painting extremely fine and precise, it is most likely that this painting was not created by Kyōdō himself but painted by a 19th century Kanō school master as a remittance work for the famous Zen master.


Ashi Kyōdō, born 1808 in Izumi (today part of southern Ōsaka province), has been a famous Rinzai Zen monk of the late Edo and early Meiji period. He became 290th abbot of the Tōfuku-ji in 1877 and then 544th abbot of the Rinzai school's main temple Myōshin-ji in 1889. Died 1895.