The Tale of Shuten Dōji

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Artist: Kano Shoun (1637-1702)
Calligrapher: Nakayama Atsuchika (1656-1716)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1700
Ink, color, gold, and silver on silk
H x W (overall): 37.6 x 2334.6 cm (14 13/16 x 919 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by the Friends of Asian Arts
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, Shuten Doji, Tale of Shuten Doji

To 1998
Deborah and David Chodoff, Katonah, NY, by descent, to 1998 [1]

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Deborah and David Chodoff in 1998


[1] The object came from the estate of the owner's mother, who had owned them since acquiring them in Japan during her residence there in the 1960s (see Curatorial Note 2, Ann Yonemura, March 4, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Deborah and David Chodoff


This scroll from a set of three portrays the tale of the killing of Shuten Doji, a giant who lived in a mountain fortress and periodically kidnapped and devoured young noblewomen from Kyoto. Set in the tenth century, the story celebrates the exploits of the warrior known as Raiko. With his band of warriors disguised as Buddhist monks, Raiko locates and enters Shuten Doji’s fortress. There they kill the giant after he falls asleep from drinking a wine potion.

This lively tale was often reproduced in paintings and in woodblock-printed books. Painted on silk rather than the usual paper, this set of scrolls is a particularly luxurious example of a work by a professional artist of the Kano school. The participation of an imperial prince and high-ranking imperial courtiers as calligraphers indicates that the commission for this scroll must have come from a person of high rank. These handscrolls enhance the museum’s holdings of Japanese narrative paintings of the Edo period (1615-1868) and complement other paintings of the same story in folding screen and fan formats.

(see also F1998.26.1 and F1998.26.3)

Published References
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. cover, pp. 156-157.
  • Quitman Eugene Phillips. The Price Shuten Doji Screens: A Study of Visual Narrative. vol. 26 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 1-21.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 310-311.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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