This screen belonged to Kankikoji, a temple in Kyoto founded by Shokai, younger brother and pupil of the monk Ippen (1239-1289). In 1299 Shokai drafted and edited Ippen hijirie (Illustrated life of Ippen), a set of 12 handscrolls still in the collection of Kankikoji and registered as a National Treasure.
The sixteen rakan (lohan in Chinese and arhat in Sanskrit) are advanced disciples of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni who epitomize the ideals of self-discipline and meditation. They have postponed Nirvana in order to remain in the world to protect the Buddhist law until the coming of the future Buddha, Miroku. The aged Indian recluses are given individual portrait-like representations that draw on Chinese models. Pindola, the first disciple of the Buddha, is seated in a grotto by the sea at the far left of the screen shown upper right, holding a small pagoda. Others hold rosaries, Buddhist ritual implements or whisks, or they are shown with the various creatures that always accompany them, including a dragon, tiger, lion, ram, sparrow and mandarin ducks.