KAII’s Thoughts for GANJIN
Led by the unspeakable emotions and excitement that I had during the visit to the art exhibition of KAII HIGASHIYAMA as mentioned in the last article, I somehow became interested in the background of these pictures on the room partitions made for the “MIEI-DŌ hall (御影堂) of “TŌSHŌDAIJI Temple (唐招提寺)”.
KAII had already been over 60 when the project was offered to him by the temple which was looking for a landscape artist who could realize the spirits of GANJIN WAJŌ (鑑真和上, 688–763), a Chinese monk (also called JIAN ZHEN) who helped to propagate Buddhism in Japan and founded the temple in 759.
GANJIN decided to be a monk at the age of 13 by a strong emotions he had, looking at a Buddhist statue when his father took him to DAIUN-JI Temple in China.
After years of training, he became a high-ranking monk.
Hearing his reputations, two Japanese monks visited GANJIN, under then Emperor’s order, to ask him to come to Japan.
At that time (1,250 years ago), it was not so easy to cross the ocean from China to Japan by a ship.
He failed 5 times and it took 12 years for him to finally reach Japan.
The time was not only what he lost during this challenge, GANJIN had totally become blind when he arrived in this land of rising sun.
“Even when losing the lights, GANJIN didn’t give up coming over to Japan…”
Thinking of it, KAII sit alone in the “SHINDEN Chamber (宸殿の間)” of the MIEIDŌ hall of TŌSHŌDAIJI Temple, and deeply considered what and how to paint on all the white partitions in front of him, then, the images were gradually obtained which were the waves beating the rocks standing on the vast expanse of ocean and the clouds and mists laying throughout the deep mountains.
Later he says: “When looking at the statue of GANJIN placed in the purified MIEIDŌ hall, I felt being guided by his unyielding spirits and so I swore myself that I would complete this mission with all my best”.
Thinking of the GANJI who was already blind when he landed in the archipelago, KAII thought the objects of the works should be Japanese mountains and seas as the nation’s symbol because GANJIN must have been longing for seeing its beauties too while he had a strong will to complete his mission to express the “discipline of Buddhism”.
Finally, the project was done with 68 pieces of pictures on the room partitions and the doors of cabinets of MIEIDŌ Hall.
Taking almost 10 years from 63 to 73 years old, KAII finished painting the Japanese landscapes that GANJIN couldn’t see.
The long-lasting efforts and fights finally saw the light, as the works titled “TŌSEI (濤声)”, English title is “The Sound of Waves” and “SAN-UN (山雲)”, English title is “Mountain clouds”. (see the photos on the last article)
Besides these representative works featuring Japanese nature, there included also landscapes of Chinese cities “GUILIN (桂林)”, “HUANG SHANG (黄山)” and “YANG ZHOU (揚州)”, all are indispensable places when talking to GANJIN.
KAII HIGASHIYAMA, this is a person who gave a great impact on me, even in my later life.
His works were living so was the spirits of GANJIN…
His power to deeply understand one’s thoughts, to express it by the means of paintings and to move other’s hearts beyond the time…
I believe that the KIMONO could become such means.
Not simply as a wear, it could be a tool to express the love and bond of family assuming that it is worn in the important events of life, like the rites of passage.
It could also be a tool to express the thoughts of craftsman who makes it by almost unimaginable efforts.
KAII newly made me realize that as a KIMONO professional, my mission is to pass down the meaning of existence of KIMONO and to make people happier with it.