This set is a copy of the famous thirteenth-century illustrated scrolls in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 1 There are over thirty sets of handscroll paintings of the legendary founding of Kitano Tenjin Shrine in Kyoto. They relate the story of Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), scholar, poet and government minister. The Metropolitan Museum version includes a unique emphasis on depictions of the tenth-century monk Nichizo's journey through Hell. In the scene reproduced here Nichizo is shown with his demon-guide standing at the gate of the fiery inferno, which is guarded by a horrifying animal with four legs and eight heads, each with four eyes.
1. The Metropolitan scrolls are illustrated in Akiyama Terukazu, ed., Emakimono, Zaigai Nihon no shiho, vol. 2 (Tokyo: Mainichi shinbun, 1980), pls. 65-66. See also Miyeko Murase, The Tenjin-engi Scrolls -- A Study of Their Genealogical Relationship, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 1962.