Gessen (月僊)

Gessen (1741 - February 25, 1809) was a priest and artist painter living between the mid and late Edo Period.
His name was Genzui (玄瑞 or 元瑞.)
His azana (adult males nickname) was Tamanari.

Biography and Achievements

He was born in a merchant family manufacturing miso (bean paste) in Nagoya of Owari Province, but after he became a priest of the Jodo (Pure Land) Sect, he resided at Zojo-ji Temple in Edo and studied painting under Sekkan SAKURAI. Meanwhile, he went to Kyoto to live in Chionin Temple, and was inspired by Okyo MARUYAMA about his realistic painting style as his teacher. He was also influenced by YOSA no Buson and after studying various styles, he established his own painting style. He was good at drawing Sansui (landscape, hills and rivers) and figures, and his artistic feature is that of shadows added to a target figure that feels sad and lonely.
Whoever the customer was, he requested drawing fees, and was widely known as 'beggar Gessen.'
At the sincere request of the chief priest of Chionin Temple, he entered the mountains in order to reconstruct Josho-ji Temple in Uji Yamada, Ise Province (present-day, Ise City, Mie Prefecture) in 1774. As he became famous for his painting, he received constant requests for drawing, and since he furthermore attempted to make excessive profits over accumulated enormous wealth, there were a lot of people who were criticizing him for that. However, afterwards, he constructed a Buddhist temple and Sanmon gate (temple gate), bought Buddhist scriptures to put in storage, reconstructed mountain trails, donated rice in the Tenmei Famine, constructed a bridge over the Miya-kawa River and helped victims in the Great Fire of Ise between 1804 and 1817, and all people who saw his sincere attitude working for others respected and appreciated his merits. He left a will at his death and donated 1500 ryo (currency unit) to Bugyosho (a magistrate's office) as Kyushin Eidai Kyusai (fund for saving poor people). His products are kept at Myoho-ji Temple in Kyoto, Shokoritsu-ji Temple in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture and Josho-ji Temple.

He produced 'Ressen zusan' (Ressen Zenden ('Collected Biography of Chinese Hermits' written by Seitei O.) illustrated by Gessho), 'Koshokuzu' (painting of cultivation and sericulture), 'Gessen Gafu' (picture book of Gessen), and so on.

[Original Japanese]