Kenjo no shoji (賢聖障子)

Kenjo no shoji (sliding screens of the 32 Chinese sages) are sliding screens that were placed at the main housing of the Shishin-den Hall (hall for state ceremonies) to be separated from the kitakata kitabisashi (northern eaves) in the Imperial Palace. Kenjo no shoji are also called 'Kita no shoji' (northern sliding screens) or 'kinu shoji' (silk shoji), according to the "Gokeshidai" (the Ritual Protocol of the Oe House).

The top of the shoji is made of shikishigata (colored, square-shaped paper inscribed with verses, then cut and pasted onto the upper portion of large screens and sliding door panels), and the Kenjo sages are pictured on the bottom portion of the screens. On the back side of the screen facing north, arabesque designs are painted. 負文亀 and komainu (a pair of stone-carved guardian dogs) are painted in the top center and bottom, respectively. On the both sides of the above mentioned paintings, there are four slide screens each, and the pictures of four sages are painted on each screen; in total, 32 sages are painted.

These shoji began to be painted during the Konin era. It is said that paintings were completed in the period of Emperor Yozei (according to the "Konendairyaku") or the Emperor had KOSE no Kanaoka to paint them in 892 (according to the "Kokon Chomon ju" [a Collection of Tales Heard, Past and Present]).

In 1789 during the Edo period, at the time of building Imperial Palace, the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) ordered Kunihiko SHIBANO, a Confucian scholar, to conduct the historical investigation of kanpukuko (apparel in the painting).
The bakufu had the 'Horaizu' painting in the top center restored to the ancient style, '負文亀.'
Among the 32 sages, Zhou MA, Xuanling FANG and Ruhui DU had been restored based on the Tosa family's ancestral paintings. Similarly, 8 sages from Yoyu through Geikan had been revived based on the "Nenju Gyoji Emaki" (Picture Scrolls of Annual Functions), and Boyu QU and Shinan YU as well based on the paintings of Confucian student and the 18 graduates of literature museum, Bungakukan. The other 13 sages had also been restored based on the information found in historical documents. The bakufu had Sumiyoshi-naiki Hiroyuki to paint the sages and Yasumasa GAMO to write the letters on the shikishi.

In 1854, however, some of the shoji had been destroyed when the Palace went up in flames. The bakufu had Sumiyoshi-naiki Hirotsuna to repair the paintings, and Yasumasa GAMO to correct the letters on the shikishi.

The size of the shikishi was 57.30cm x 28.17cm.

[Original Japanese]