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Japanese, 17th century, male.

Born c. 1628, in Gifu Prefecture; died 1695, in Miroku-ji temple, Gifu Prefecture.


Little is known about the birthplace and life of Enku, a Tendai Buddhist monk, except that he travelled the country widely, sculpting on popular demand, and that his works are in fact a form of devotion. The immense amount of work he produced (he vowed to produce 120,000 pieces) stands apart from traditional Buddhist sculpture of the time. His prolific output was fired by a deep faith; he worked with great speed using a billhook and knife, taking into account the veins in the wood in order to respect its true nature. His works exude an undeniable serenity. They are to be found in numerous temples, most particularly in the regions of Mino and Hida (Gifu province) where he often stayed, but also on the northern island of Hokkaido, where he was to be found between ...



Donald F. McCallum

Japanese sculptor and Buddhist itinerant monk (hijiri). He was active during the early Edo period (1600–1868). He entered the priesthood of the Tendai sect (see Buddhism, §III, 10) at an early age, this being one of the few means of advancement within feudal society for individuals of the lower classes. Enkū began sculpting images in the early 1660s for both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in his home province. In the later 1660s he made an important missionary expedition to the Tōhoku region of Honshu and to the northern island of Hokkaido, which had only recently come under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate, introducing Buddhism and Buddhist imagery to that still remote island. Thereafter he travelled extensively, carving icons for rural temples and wayside shrines in Honshu, especially in the Kantō and Chūbu regions. He also carved images on living trees on mountain-tops. For more than 300 years his works were little known outside their localities; to local people they were objects of worship, imbued with magical powers to heal and protect....



Japanese, 17th – 18th century, male.

Born 1648, in Kyoto; died 1710.

Sculptor, monk.

After having been a sculptor of Buddhist statues in Kyoto, Genkei became a monk in 1669, at the age of 21, and a disciple of Tetsugen Zenji. He then went on a long preaching tour of Japan during which he conceived the vast project of carving statues of the Rakan (the Arhats, or disciples of the Buddha). He went to Edo (now Tokyo) to seek the assistance of Tetsugyu Osho, a priest of the Gufuku-ji at Ushima, through whose good offices he was permitted to stay at the monastery attached to the Senso-ji (Asakusa-dera) at Edo. There, at the beginning of the Genroku period (...


Norihisa Mizuta

Chinese Zen monk, seal-carver, calligrapher, poet and Musician, active in Japan. He left his family at the age of seven and entered the Buddhist order, first training in Jiangxi Province and eventually in Hangzhou. In 1677 he emigrated to Japan, at the invitation of the monk Chin’i Dōryō of Kōfukuji, an Obaku-sect Zen temple in Nagasaki. He took up missionary work but found himself at odds with Ōbaku monks and for a short time was held in temple confinement. In ...


Elizabeth Horton Sharf

Chinese Ōbaku Zen monk, calligrapher, poet, seal-carver and medical expert, active in Japan. Dokuryū was one of many learned men from south-east China to emigrate to Japan during the political turmoil following the collapse of the Ming dynasty in 1644. He arrived in Nagasaki in ...



Japanese, 17th – 18th century, male.

Born 1629; died 1716 or 1718.


Edo period.

The founder of the Hozan-ji temple in Nara Prefecture, Tankai made a considerable number of Buddhist statues, of which the Fudo Myoo (Acala or Acalanatha, the Immutable) statues in Horyu-ji, preserved in the Toshodai-ji, Nara, are a representative example. Unlike most of his professional contemporaries, who made up for a lack of talent with an excess of technical skill, Tankai produced work remarkable for its power....