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HASUI Japanese Woodblock Print - Evening Snow at Hoodo, Byodoin Temple 1951

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HASUI Japanese Woodblock Print - Evening Snow at Hoodo, Byodoin Temple 1951

KAWASE HASUI

Evening Snow at Hoodo, Byodoin Temple


Date: originally published by Watanabe 1951, this is a Heisei edition from original blocks 
Size: oban, with full margins, approx. 10.5" x 15.5"
Condition: Fine, no flaws, uncirculated print, never framed
Impression: Fine, solid key lines, nice surface texture, tight registration
Color: Fine, deep saturated color and bleed through to verso
Documentation: Kawase Hasui: The Complete Woodblock Prints, Hotei, 2003
About Byodoin Temple
Byodoin is one of the few surviving examples of Heian era (794-1185) architecture left in Japan. Its Phoenix hall was constructed in 1053 by the Fujiwara regents. It is all that remains of an enormous Buddhist temple of the Pure Land sect that has all but vanished. Surviving Pure Land paintings from the 11th century often portray buildings like the Phoenix hall, suggesting Byodoin is a literal representation of the Buddhist "Western Paradise".

Pure Land is a part of Mayahana, a branch of Buddhism that believes people should work for the enlightenment all sentient beings, not just themselves. Mahayanans place great emphasis on Boddhisatvas, enlightened beings of infinite compassion and boundless Karma, who have vowed not to enter Nirvana until all sentient beings are saved from samsara, the world of suffering. Having seen past the world of form, the boddhisatvas are nearly eternal and omnipresent. One of the more famous boddhisatvas is Amida. Faith in his mercy reached Japan around the middle of the seventh century from Korea, where Amida and Matreiya (the Buddha of the future) were worshipped simultaneously. Though Japan received the greatest cultural impetus from the Korean kingdom of Baekje, it seems that Silla, Baekje's sometimes-rival, sent an envoy that first introduced Amida worship to Japan around 639 AD. Faith in Amida centered on the belief that at the instant of death, Amida would descend to earth to carry the soul to the "Western Paradise", a Buddhist Heaven of (near) eternal bliss. Certain branches of the faith became so simplified that uttering praise to Amida became the only prerequisite to birth in the Pure Land, a faith so simple that even the peasants could understand it.

The Phoenix Hall at Byodoin is a vision of the Western Paradise made into architectural reality. Sitting at the western edge of a kidney-shaped pond, its golden Amida statue within catches the first rays of the rising sun. Housing the statue is the only function of the entire structure. The wings and tower pavilions are purely ornamental, giving a buoyancy to the central structure appropriate to a place that represents the lofty Heavens.


ABOUT KAWASE HASUI
Kawase Hasui (1883 – 1957) was a Japanese woodblock print maker in the early 20th century. He and Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) are widely regarded as two of the greatest artists of the shin hanga style, and are known especially for their excellent landscape prints. During the forty years of his artistic career, Hasui worked closely with Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962), publisher and advocate of the shin hanga movement. His works became widely known in the West through American connoisseur Robert O. Muller (1911-2003). In 1956, he was named a Living National Treasure in Japan.

Hasui worked almost exclusively on landscape and townscape prints based on sketches he made in Tokyo and during travels around Japan. However, his prints are not merely meisho (famous places) prints that are typical of earlier ukiyo-e masters such as Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Hasui’s prints feature locale that are tranquil and obscure in the then-urbanizing Japan. The dreamlike quality in Hasui’s prints epitomizes a yearning for the past and a preservation of the past in the midst of rapid modernization.


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