Gama Sennin (Chinese Hou Xiansheng) and his three-legged toad

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Artist: Soga Shohaku (1730-1781)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 18th century
Ink on paper
H x W: 200.8 x 55.2 cm (79 1/16 x 21 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono, toad

To 1904
Bunshichi Kobayashi (circa 1861-1923), Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Yokohama, to 1904 [1]

From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunshichi Kobayashi in 1904 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, pg. 131, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Kobayashi Bunshichi (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1861-1923


Hou Xiansheng, known in Japanese as Gama Sennin, was one of many Chinese Daoist immortals who were assimilated into the repertoire of Japanese popular legends. Like the eccentric Zen Buddhist sages Kanzan and Jittoku (Chinese, Hanshan and Shide), Gama Sennin is portrayed in disheveled garments and is always accompanied by his three-legged toad, who rides nestled in his unkempt hair. Soga Shohaku, one of the important individualist painters who emerged in the eighteenth century, created this lively rendering. Shohaku cultivated a deliberately rough, spontaneous painting style that was full of energy and boldness. Here he sketches the cloak with just a few strokes of black ink while defining the details with swift strokes of lighter-toned ink.

Published References
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 61, vol. 2: p. 172.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 137.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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