Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/130

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Japanese Colour-Prints

date of the year 1325;[1] a denjio daishi (figure of Buddha), which, according to the inscription, was cut about the year 1400, reproduces a painting of the founders of the monastery of Heiyan (about 800 a.d.)—the Buddha stands on a lotus flower over a rock, and his outlines are well executed (Jaekel Collection in Greifswald, black and white). Indeed many of these monastic woodcuts are notable for their delicacy of contour. This industry was intended for the edification of pious pilgrims, by turning out cheap copies of famous temple pictures.

The beginnings of wood-engraving proper, which took the shape of book-illustrations, are connected, like the revival of painting and the rise of the popular Ukiyoye school towards the end of the sixteenth century, with the revolution caused by the rise of the Shogunate at this time. The more elevated standard of popular education, combined with the enforced leisure to which the nobles saw themselves reduced after they had lost their political power to the Shoguns, created a large demand for entertainment by romances of chivalry and stage plays, which was assiduously catered for by the popular authors; and the popular draughtsmen were not slow to decorate such productions with illustrations, which were multiplied in simple outline by means of wood-engraving.

The earliest known illustrated book is the Butsu y wo kyo (the book of the Buddhist Canon or the Ten Kings of Hell), published in 1582, which is an exact reprint of a Chinese work.[2] Here, therefore, as elsewhere, China supplied the model for the new branch of art. It is embellished with rather coarse woodcuts.[3] Another work which goes back to the sixteenth century, Tengu dairi (the World of Tengus, i.e. monsters), in three

  1. Reduced reproduction in Anderson, Japanese Wood-Engraving, No. 4.
  2. Duret Cat., No. 1; also in the Vever Collection, Paris.
  3. The assertion in the first edition that woodcut illustrations only began in the year 1608 must therefore be corrected in accordance with these facts.