Shigisan Engi (信貴山縁起)

Shigisan Engi (Legends of Mt. Shigi) is a set of picture scrolls made in the late Heian period, and was designated as a national treasure in 2006. It is referred to as one of four great picture scrolls, along with "Genji Monogatari Emaki" (Illustrated Handscroll of the Tale of Genji), "Choju Jinbutsu Giga" (Caricatures of Frolicking Birds, Animals and Humans), and "Ban Dainagon Ekotoba" (The Story of the Courtier Ban Dainagon). It is possessed by Chogosonshi-ji Temple (but the original is housed at the Nara National Museum and its replica is displayed in the treasure hall of the temple).
It is also known as 'Shigisan Engi Emaki.'
As described below, the title falls into the genre of Jisha Engi-e (literally, illustrated origins of shrines and temples), but the story itself belongs to the genre of Kosoden-e (illustrated biographies of notable Buddhist monks).


Unlike other Jisha Engi picture scrolls, which generally depict origins of shrines and temples, it depicts stories related to Myoren, the restoration patriarch of the mountain, who trained himself in Mt. Shigi in the middle of the Heian period. The picture scrolls consist of three titles: Yamazaki Choja no Maki (literally, a rich man in Yamazaki), Engi Kaji, and Amagimi (literally, a Buddhist nun). Although the authorship is unclear, this is a masterpiece of emaki, depicting people's faces and dynamic movements in a light and easy style, and along with "Choju Jinbutsu Giga," it is considered to be an origin of Japanese manga culture.

Yamazaki Choja no Maki (Flying Granary) 31.7 cm X 879.9 cm
Myoren uses his supernatural power to make a bowl used to ask for alms fly to the granary of a rich man in Yamazaki and return to the mountain. The rich man appeals to Myoren to just give him back rice bags in the granary, and then Myoren makes a rice bag on the bowl, followed by a string of other rice bags, fly back to their original place.

Engi Kaji no Maki 31.7 cm X 1290.8 cm
Emperor Daigo recovers from his illness with the power of incantation and prayer by Myoren. Ken no Goho' (a child acolyte of Buddhism) flies in the air, rolls the gold ring of Tenrinjo-o (literally, wheel rolling holy king), and then comes Seiryoden, the Emperor's residence, leaving a long, narrow contrail-like cloud behind.

Amagimi no Maki 31.7 cm X 1424.1 cm
Amagimi, the older sister of Myoren, comes all the way from Shinano Province (now Nagano Prefecture), the birth place of Myoren, to Mt. Shigi to see him. It depicts Amagimi praying while half asleep before the Great Statue of Buddha of Todai-ji Temple, and this part of the picture is known as the highlight depicted by Ijidozu-ho Method (a compositional method used to show successive events in a single picture). The end of the scroll shows the dilapidated granary of the Flying Granary, which implies the death of the main character, Myoren.

[Original Japanese]