West, Five Hundred Arhats: Scrolls 97 and 98

The final ten paintings are dedicated to the Four Continents, the lands that lie in the four cardinal directions of Mount Sumeru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. The Western Continent, said to have circular contours, is a land of smiling people with moon-shaped faces living in round dwellings, peaceably raising cows and sheep. When creating the preparatory drawings for this painting, the ailing Kazunobu perhaps conflated the Western Continent with the Western Pure Land paradise. The paintings were completed by his wife, Myoan, and his disciple Kazuyoshi after Kazunobu’s death on September 22, 1863. The faint hue of vermilion casts a sunset glow, announcing the approaching end of his epic work.

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