Sōtatsu: Making Waves

The Gods of Wind and Thunder

The Gods of Wind and Thunder

Depictions of the gods of wind and thunder circulated in Asia a millennia before they were depicted by Sōtatsu. With their respective attributes—a bag (wind) and drums (thunder)—these figural representations of natural forces were widely available in seventeenth-century Japan. Two wood sculptures from the Kamakura period (1185–1333), housed at the Sanjūsangen-dō temple complex, were likely accessible to Sōtatsu, who worked nearby. The thunder god figure also appears in narrative scrolls that describe the founding of Kitano Tenjin Shrine in northern Kyoto, which Sōtatsu may have known as well. The Gods of Wind and Thunder were revered by generations of painters, most notably Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) and Sakai Hōitsu (1761–1828), who created their own versions in homage to Sōtatsu. The original paintings are now at theKyoto National Museum, just a few blocks from the Kenninji temple where they once resided.

The Gods of Wind and Thunder
Digital image printed on washi with gold leaf applied
Kenninji, Kyoto
High-resolution facsimile of The Gods of Wind and Thunder
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, 1600s
Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper
Designated National Treasure
Kyoto National Museum (long-term loan from Kenninji, Kyoto)

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