Sliding Door Panels
Shunkōin temple houses various Eigaku Kanō's silding door panels. Eigaku Kanō belonged to the Kanō school of painting, or Kanō-ha. The Kanō school of painting was a school of professional Japanese artists and founded Masanobu Kanō and Motonobu Kanō, who was a son of Masanobu Kanō. The art works of the Kanō school appealed to the taste of samurai. In the early period, the Kanō school specialized Chinese-style ink-paintings. In the late 16th century, however, Eitoku Kanō started the new style of painting in the school.
He painted Japanese landscapes, birds, flowers, and animals with brilliant colours on gold leaf screens. In 1612, Tanyu Kanō, a grandson of Eitoku, was appointed an official painter of the Tokugawa shogunate. Thus, many feudal lords, or daimyō, also hired artists of the Kanō school to decorate their castles, temples, and shrines. When Shunkōin was rebuilt in the 17th century, Eigaku Kanō was hired by Noriyoshi Ishikawa, who was a patron of this temple and the feudal lord of Ise-Kameyama, in present-day Mie Prefecture.
Chūgoku-bunjin-no-ma, or the Room of Chinese Confucians shows four requirements to become a Confucian. A man must practice music, chess, painting, and writing to be qualified as a Confucian in China. Confucianism was very important to samurai, or warriors, during the Edo period because Confucianism taught samurai about honor, loyalty, and honesty. Thus, the Tokugawa shogunate established many government funded schools to educate young samurai. Many feudal lords, or daimyō, also chose Confucians and their life style as the themes of sliding door panels at their family temples and castles to show the importance of Confucianism for the way of warriors, or bushidō.
Tsuki-to-kari-no-ma, or the Room of the Moon and Geese, is the center of the ceremonial building, or hondō, at Shunkōin. This room's theme is a Japanese landscape in the early winter.
Kachō-no-ma, or the Room of Flowers and Birds, shows the typical style of the Kanō schoo. Eigaku painted birds and flowers with various brilliant colours. He also painted two Christian symbols in this room. Those two symbols and two other Christian objects show that this temple had connections with hidden-Christians.
- A pair of ducks and Japanese maple (south)
- A pigeon and pine tree (west)
- A pheasant and pine tree (east)
- A gold pheasant and peonies (north)
Bun-ō-no-ma, or the Room of King Wen(or Wen Wang of Zhou shows the famous story of King Wen and Lu Shang or Jiang Taigong. When King Wen came to a river and saw an old fisherman. King Wen immediately noticed that this old fisherman was not an ordinary man. This fisherman was actually Lu Shang (or Jiang Taigong), a legendary political thinker and military strategist. King Wen could have asked Lu Shang to come and to kneel before him. However, in order to show his respect to Lu Shang, King Wen waited for Lu Shang to finish fishing. When Lu Shang finished fishing, King Wen kneeled to Lu Shang and asked him to join his court. Lu Shang accepted the king offer and supported King Wen and his son Wu to create the Zhou dynasty of China. This story was one of the most popular themes for screen paintings of Japanese castles and temples. There are two reasons: 1. the story shows an ideal relationship between a master and his/her vassals. 2. Zhou Dynasty was the longest dynasty in Chinese history. Thus, many feudal lords, or daimyō, wished for the long-lasting prosterity of their clans like the Zhou dynasty of China.