Page:Japanese Wood Engravings.djvu/17

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Pictorial Engraving in Korea.

The Koreans, who appear to have drawn their civilisation direct from China, were able to second the Middle Kingdom in conveying instruction to Japan; for numbers of Korean priests, artists, and men of learning are referred to in the early Japanese records as having settled in the country, and the traditions with respect to a painter named Kawanari, who lived in the ninth century, are of much interest. That they practised the art of printing from an early date, not only from engraved wood blocks, but also from movable metal types, has been shown by the researches of Mr. W. G. Aston, whose paper on the subject will shortly appear in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society; and an illustrated volume entitled Sam-Kang-hèng-sil, bearing the date of 1481, forms a part of the collection in the British Museum. In the cut reproduced in Fig. 2 it will be seen that the work is less skilful than that of the Kwanyin Sutra, but the technique seems identical with that of the older Japanese blocks. The later engravings of the Koreans do not appear to have been any better, and there is no reason to believe they ever attained any remarkable proficiency in the art.

Pictorial Engraving in Japan.

The date of the earliest pictorial engraving in Japan cannot yet be fixed. The first examples were probably executed within the precincts of certain Buddhist temples, where in old times the custom prevailed of printing copies of Sutras for the use of the priesthood and lay devotees. Some of these institutions were also wont to issue slips of paper bearing characters or figures of divinities as mementos to pilgrims who visited the shrines, and a number of pictorial slips of the kind are still in existence, some of which are signed with the names of famous priests of the seventh, eighth, and later centuries. One in the British Museum is ascribed to the famous Abbot Kukai, better known by his posthumous title of Kōbō Daishi (b. 779, d. 835); but this, like most of the others, can hardly be accepted as genuine. Many, in fact, are undoubtedly of modern manufacture, and were designed merely to stimulate the