Daily Life, Five Hundred Arhats: Scrolls 1 and 2

The opening section of this exhibition offers windows into the daily life and rituals of the rakan. At right, a gaunt and elderly rakan gossips with a youthful rakan holding a peacock fan. Before them, an acolyte hashes medicinal herbs while another turns out ground powder from a boat-shaped vessel. A rakan in a chair seated in half-lotus position is about to sample the freshly prepared incense. While the motif of acolytes working a mortar and pestle was frequently seen in medieval rakan painting, Kazunobu’s treatment is remarkable for its vivid coloring, intricate detail, and vigor of expression.

To the left, a rakan with overgrown eyebrows stands with his palms together before a pink-robed rakan reading a sutra scroll. In the middle ground, a rakan offers a white garment to a beggar in rags. In the distance, a rakan with the head of a bull reposes by a river. He has removed his shoes to wash his feet, which appear to be hooves.

Kano Kazunobu (1816–63)
Japan, Edo Period, ca. 1854–63
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
Collection, Zōjōji, Tokyo