Suibokuga is a type of painting drawn with ink and brushes using mostly monochromatic color. It uses ink to draw not only lines but also to describe a three dimensional space by applying a brushstroke technique of shading to create a sense of depth with light and dark.
Ink painting that does not use graduated shading, blotting or blurry style is called Hakubyou and is regarded as a separate style from Suibokuga.
The origin of Suibokuga dates back to the end of Tang Dynasty in China and was established as one of the techniques of Sansuiga, Chinese-style landscape painting. It was during Sung Dynasty that Zen Buddhism began being broadly accepted and the fact that Buddhism fables and phrases and portraits of priests were usually drawn with black ink helped Suibokuga to become widely known to the general public in China.
Suibokuga was introduced in Japan along with Zen Buddhism in Kamakura period. As Zen Buddhism was protected and promoted by Ashikaga Clan, a ruler of Japan during Muromachi period, Japanese Suibokuga saw its golden age.
During that time, Suibokuga had gradually developed and serious landscape paintings started being drawn. Toward the end of Muromachi period many prominent artists emerged such as Josetsu, Shuubun and Sesshuu whose work still fascinates people today and are evidence of the excellence of Suibokuga.
A monochromatic world expressed only with black and white is simple yet possesses a sense of infinite profundity. It captivates viewers and brings them to a simpler graphic world.
Choju Giga (Caricature Painting of Birds and Beasts) is a scroll painting in Toganosan Kozanji Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.
The official name of the scroll is 'Bird Beast Human Scroll'. It consists of four volumes and is designated a National Treasure.
From the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period, a monk of the Tendai Buddhist sect, Toba-soju-kakuyu is supposed to have painted the scroll, but many people believe it to be executed by several painters.
In the caricature, animals are depicted as humanlike; rabbits, monkeys, frogs, cattle, dogs, giraffes and so on. The scroll is an ironic description of the world at that time. but some parts of the scroll have been lost or are hard to understand.
The depiction of animals as humanlike and drawn with an emphasis on quickly-painted line to suggest movement is said to be the origin of comic drawing and animation in Japan today.
The Sesshu Garden at Sho'okuji Temple in Sao, Hiji, Hayami County, Oita Prefecture, was reputedly built by the famous Zen monk and artist Sesshu.
Sho'okuji Temple belonged to the Kinoshita family, who were the Hiji domain heads. This family continued for 16 generations and there are more than 40 gravestones at the temple, including that of Asahi-no-kata, mother of Kita-no-Mandokoro.
The temple garden includes the Manryu Garden, which Sesshu is also reputed to have built, and which contains the largest cycad in Japan, designated as a national natural treasure.
After his return from Ming China in the first year of the Bunmei period (1469), Sesshu set up his studio somewhere around Oita. He later moved to Yamaguchi, then Shimane, and so on. His fame has never diminished and even today, he continues to be admired as a god of painting.
Sesshu Garden features a nearby mountain as a 'borrowed landscape' and has a pond shaped like the Chinese character '心' for 'heart'. Sesshu's artistry and sensibility continue to astonish us today.
Chinda Waterfall, located in Oita Prefecture, is made up of a male waterfall which diverges from the main streams of the Ono River, and a female waterfall which branches off the Hirai River tributary.
The male waterfall measures 17m in height and 93m in width, and the female waterfall measures 18m in height and 4m in width. Due to the steepness of the drop and its great width, Chinda Waterfall is called 'the Niagara Falls of Bungo'.
During the Muromachi period, Sesshu, one of the most prominent masters of suiboku (ink painting), stayed in Bungo, Oita, on his return from Ming China. He painted a picture called 'Chinda-bakuzu', which took Chinda Waterfall as motif and inspiration. 'Chinda-bakuzu' is one of the most famous and renowned landscape paintings of Japan, with its strong, yet magnificently beautiful brushstrokes.
Chindai Waterfall Fellowship Park, located alongside Chindai Waterfall, was created by local citizens themselves: the cutting and planting took about 3 years to complete. The view of the waterfall from the observatory tower is simply astounding.
Iyama Hofuku-ji is a temple of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect, and is located in Soja, Okayama Prefecture.
The Sangharama monument here is said to be very rarely seen in this area. Within the temple precincts is the second oldest three-tiered pagoda in the prefecture and it is designated as an important cultural asset.
Iyama Hofuku-ji is associated with a legend about a 'rat' and Sesshū, a famous ink-landscape artist. Sesshū was put in the temple for ascetic training when he was young. However, he only liked to draw pictures and did not like to recite sutras. One day he was punished and tied to a column by a senior monk. When the monk decided to forgive Sesshū and untie him, he saw a large rat. The monk tried to chase the rat away, but it stayed still. Staring at it closely, he saw it was a rat drawn by Sesshū using his foot and his tears. The priest began to understand that the boy had an extraordinary talent for drawing and later he did not reproach Sesshū from drawing any more.
Ikou Temple is located in Masuda, in Shimane Prefecture.
Sukanji Temple, built in the year 1363, was the predecessor of this temple. Later, Souken Masuda combined the two into the new Ikou Temple.
The big gateway remaining at the entrance to the temple originally came from Masuda Castle after the battle of Sekigahara. During the Edo period, the temple reformed its roof in Ryugu style. The temple became affiliated with the Masuda clan.
The garden, created by the 5th resident priest, Sesshu, is still there. The garden’s samurai-manor style, with its crane shapes and the turtle rock inside the lake, has Muromachi-period characteristics. The garden follows the shape of the pond. It is designated as a historical spot of national importance.
There is a sense of Sesshu’s ink painting here in the garden, from the trimmed ericaceae on the slope at the back, to the linear stone arrangements, and the groupings of the cherry trees that blossom in the spring.
It is a garden that has different faces for each season.