Chinese Statesman Lu Shang and King Wen


Chinese Statesman Lu Shang and King Wen

Paintings / Muromachi

Attributed to Kano Motonobu (1477-1559)

Muromachi period, 16th century

Ink and light color on paper


Important Cultural Property

This series of four large paintings once adorned sliding doors at Daisen-in, a Zen sub-temple of Daitoku-ji temple in Kyoto.
At first it appears to be a landscape painting of a riverbank where time seems to pass at a leisurely pace. However, it is actually a painting of two historical figures. The man on the left with the fishing line is Lu Shang, a military strategist from ancient China. The other man on the middle is King Wen of Zhou.
There is a famous story about the time the two men met. A fortune teller had told King Wen he would make a big catch at the river bank, but the catch would be a man, not a fish. When the king travelled to the river, he came across Lu Shang fishing. He recognized Lu Shang's genius and chose him as his sage advisor. The picture is probably depicting this encounter. Lu Shang later served under King Wen as a military strategist. During the reign of King Wen's son, King Wu, Lu Shang contributed to the fall of the Shang dynasty and the rise of the Zhou dynasty. Two boys are drawn behind King Wen. One of them is holding some scrolls and these are thought to be the six volumes of the Rikuto, a book of military tactics said to have been written by Lu Shang. This literary masterpiece was also admired by Japanese military commanders.
Daisen-in is a smaller temple attached to a larger one. It was established by the celebrated monk, Kogaku Soko, who lived from 1465 to 1548. He built it in 1513 as a place for him to retire within the confines of Daitoku-ji temple. Zen priests at the time were knowledgeable about studies of China and also used to keep company with the powerful generals of the day. This probably explains why sliding doors with themes like this were installed in temples.

Related Works

Search items related to work chosen