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.

Price on request

Hanging scroll by Ashi Kyōdō (1808-1895) with a painting of Jizō and Enma playing music together. Jizō and Enma are two antagonistic figures in Asian mythology. Enma, more closely associated with Daoism and known in Chinese as Yanluo, is the King of Hell, understood to be the judge and overseer of death. Jizō, on the other hand, known in Sanskrit as Kshitigarbha, is a Buddhist bodhisattva, often depicted as an ordinary monk in Buddhist robes with a shaved head. He is regarded as the savior of souls, helping the dying to find a safe passage to the afterlife. He can also travel to King Enma's realm to rescue children and sinners from hell.

In this fantastic and profound painting, these two antagonistic figures play 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 is coming over Heaven and Earth, just as it is coming over the secular world. Hanazono, Given Purple, Written by Kyōdō

In his inscription, Kyōdō uses the expression bunmei kaika 文明開化, which can be translated either as "enlightenment and opening" or "development of cultural civilization". It was 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 image of Jizō and Enma playing music together is a wonderful symbol of both the Zen Buddhist approach of liberation from dual distinction and the overcoming of the antagonistic political forces of the late Edo/early Meiji period. It is therefore a wonderful symbol of pacification.


The depiction of Jizō playing the flute with an upturned lotus leaf on his head is an extremely rare and innovative depiction that may have been created by Kanō Tan'yū (1602-1674). The few known similar paintings of a flute-playing Jizō are by Tan'yū (e.g. in the MET and MIA) or his followers. However, none of the known examples are paired with a lute-playing Enma. Since the brushwork of the painting is 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 in 1808 in Izumi (now part of southern Ōsaka province), was a famous Rinzai Zen monk of the late Edo and early Meiji periods. He became the 290th abbot of Tōfuku-ji in 1877 and the 544th abbot of Myōshin-ji, the main temple of the Rinzai school, in 1889. Died in 1895.