Higashiyama gyomotsu (東山御物)

Higashiyama gyomotsu (Higashiyama gomotsu) refers to the paintings, chaki (tea utensils), kaki (flower vase), stationery and other items collected by Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, the eighth seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the eastern barbarians") of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). The term 'Higashiyama' was taken from the name of the place Higashiyama where Yoshimasa kept a mountain villa. However, the whole collection of the successive shoguns of the Muromachi bakufu is sometimes called 'Higashiyama gyomotsu,' as opposed to the collection of the successive shoguns of the Edo bakufu, which is called 'Ryuei gomotsu' (the works of art for the tea ceremony passed down from the Tokugawa family).

Before the Meiji period, names such as 'Higashiyama dono gyomotsu' (東山殿御物), 'Higashiyama dono no gyomotsu' (東山殿之御物), and 'Higashiyama dono goshoji' (東山殿御所持) were used, and the four-character name 'Higashiyama gyomotsu' (東山御物) came into being during the early Meiji period. According to a theory, the name 'Higashiyama gyomotsu' became familiar largely due to "Sado Zenshu" (complete collection of Japanese tea ceremony) published by Sogensha (in 1936).

As the successive shoguns including Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA (Yoshimasa's grandfather) and Yoshinori ASHIKAGA (Yoshimasa's father) had a strong taste for Karamono (things imported from China), they collected Chinese paintings (Karamono) of Sung (dynasty), Yuan (dynasty), etc., through trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty, and the paintings were affixed with the seal of Kanzo in (a collector's seal, which was impressed on Sung and Yuan period paintings) such as 'Tenzan' and 'Doyu'
During the period of reign of Yoshimasa, Noami, the doboshu (the shogun's attendants in charge of entertainment), who was responsible for the maintenance and appraisal of Karamono, compiled 'Gomotsu One Mokuroku' (an inventory of selected Chinese paintings in the Ashikaga collection) (280 sets, owned by Tokyo National Museum), sorting the works by materials and styles, and recording the names of the painters, the subjects of the paintings and sanja (person who appreciates the work and writes appraisal in it). Noami also wrote "Kumidaikansochoki' (book of secrets about zashiki-kazari or decorations of a room or study with shoin - one of Japan's most important residential architectural styles, established during the Momoyama era).

However, quite a few works were moved to various provinces or gone missing, because they were scattered and ultimately lost during the Onin-Bunmei Wars, given away to territorial lords, or sold to doso (pawnbrokers and moneylenders) due to the economic difficulties of the bakufu. In the early Azuchi-Momoyama period, a trend to revere Yoshimasa as the 'founder of tea ceremony' started among the masters of tea ceremony, and the chaki of Higashiyama gyomotsu came to be valued. Many of the existing Higashiyama gyomotsu are designated as national treasures or important cultural properties.

Existing works

Shunkei Sansui-zu (a drawing of spring landscape) (a national treasure, owned by the Konchi-in Temple)

Kakei Sansui-zu (a drawing of summer landscape) (a national treasure, owned by the Kuon-ji Temple, deposition, Tokyo National Museum)

Tokei Sansui-zu (drawings of winter landscape) (a national treasure, owned by the Konchi-in Temple)


[Original Japanese]