common definitions in various fields of art

Japanese-style painting

Paintings chiefly painted in water soluble pigments and mineral pigments
blended in a glue solution. It was originally introduced from China and
has been practised in Japan since ancient times.


Sho is the art of writing characters with fude (brush) and sumi. It has
developed in the East, especially in China and Japan.


To mount a painting or calligraphy work in the form of a kake-jiku,
kansu, jou, byoubu, etc. ; the mounting. Also termed hyousou and
soukou. Generally it is performed in the speciality shop (hyougu-ten).

signature and seal

The date, location, title, explanation, pseudonym, and name and seals
of the artist, usually found in a corner of a painting or calligraphy work.
Works of the ancient periods rarely have rakkan, but after the middle of
the Kamakura period, they were common.

accompanying box

The inscription on the top or back cover of the box for a work of art or
craft certifying its value is known as hako-gaki. When signed by the
maker, the box becomes even more highly valued and known as tomo-

inscription on the box

A work's title, history and the like written by the artist or a related
person on the box in which it is preserved. Using this one can
authenticate that it is a genuine work or sometimes discover that it was
the property of some famous collector.

main subjects

Daizai; subject

Japanese-style painting has many subject matters.

Buddhist painting

Buddhist images have the four classes by Nyorai (Tathagata), Bosatsu
(Bodhisattva), Myou-ou (vidya-raja) and Ten (Deva).

portraits of patriarchs

Buddhist paintings and statues which depict portraits of the founder and
his successors, mostly the high ranking priests, in a lineage of a Buddhist
sect. Portraits of Zen masters are popularly called chinsou or chinzou.

Suijaku painting

Paintings based upon honji-suijaku-setsu (Shinto-Buddhist unity
concept) that Shinto divinities are manifestations (suijaku) of Buddhist
ones and that Buddhist ones are their original forms (honji).

landscape painting

This is one of the three major subjects of Oriental painting together with
jinbutsu-ga and kachou-ga.

figure painting

Human figures have always been the main subject matter of paintings
both in the East and the West.

flower-and-bird painting

A type of Oriental painting whose subject matter is flowering plants, birds,
insects, etc.

The others

Zen-ga (Zen painting), Monogatari-e (narrative painting), etc.

main schools

Ryuuha; school

Schools of art can be distinguished by their style and also by master-apprentice relationships.

sumi painting

It is a way of painting which is original to the East. Pictures with dark and
light and tone, drawn in only sumi. Boku-ga (sumi-e) is the same,
though strictly the two are different. It is based on the idea that there are
all colors in sumi, an idea deeply connected with Zen. It has developed
mainly in landscape painting.

literati painting

Paintings not by professional painters but by literary people for whom
painting is a hobby. Same as nanshuu-ga in Japan.

Chinese-style painting

Hasegawa-ha (Hasegawa school), Kaihou-ha (Kaiho school), Soga-ha
(Soga school), etc.

Japanese-style painting

Tosa-ha (Tosa school), Sumiyoshi-ha (Sumiyoshi school), Fukko-
(restored Yamato-e school), etc.


A school of Japanese pictorial art which came into being during the Edo
period. Ukiyo means this present world, or the mode of life in
contemporary society. Ukiyo-e, therefore, are a type of genre pictures.
They found their subject matter in the red light districts and theaters in
the cities first, then later on, came to deal also with landscapes and
kachou motifs. They were disseminated in the form of wood-block prints
rather than as nikuhitsu (painting).

Kano school

In the history of Japanese painting, no other school has ever dominated
the art world over such a long period of time as the Kano school.
Masanobu Kano (1434-1530) founded this school and it continued into
the 19th century. It was the school of academic court painters for over
400 years through the regimes of the Ashikagas, Nobunaga Oda,
Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Tokugawas. Though started as kan-ga-ha, they
inherited and preserved the traditions of Japanese style including those of

Sotatsu-Korin school

A school of painting created by Sotatsu Tawaraya (15??-16??), brought
to perfection by Korin Ogata (1658-1716). It achieved a purely Japanese-
style of decorative beauty and contributed not only to painting but also to
all the crafts.

Maruyama school

A school of painting which continued from the late Edo period until recent
times. Okyo Maruyama (1733-95) was the pioneer of this school and his
school put importance not on a traditional study of copybooks but on
sketching based on painting from nature. They also made works which
were welcomed by the citizens of the Kyoto-Osaka area by cleverly
compromising with the traditional ways of painting.

The others

Bujin-ga (warrior painting), Unkoku-ha (Unkoku school), Shijou-ha
(Shijo school), Kishi-ha (Kishi school), etc.

main forms

Keijou ; form

General term indicating the form of a work, as in scroll, frame, folding screen, pamphlet, etc.


A general term for maki-mono and kake-jiku. Both are similar in the sense
that they have the axis made from wood or bamboo and paintings and
calligraphic works are rolled up around it. The one which is rolled sideways is
maki-mono and the one which is rolled vertically is kake-jiku. However,
when the term jiku is mentioned singly, it usually refers to kake-jiku.

hanging scroll

Synonymous with kake-huku, kake-mono and jiku. A painting, calligraphy,
etc., mounted on paper or cloth as a scroll for hanging in toko-no-ma
(alcove), on a wall, etc.

hand scroll

A long, narrow scroll rolled onto a wooden, bamboo, or ivory axis roller.
Such scrolls usually consist of calligraphy or paintings executed on paper or
silk. Same as kansu (kansu-bon).


Although framing a work of art developed in the West, recently many
Japanese-style works are also framed.

folding screen

A type of screen used for protection from the wind or for privacy. Early
folding screens consisted of six or four panels with wooden frames; metal
fittings were affixed on the upper and the lower parts of the frame and were
connected by strings. The panels were connected with paper hinges
afterward. The panels were decorated with paintings or calligraphic writings.

The others

Sasshi (book), Jou (folding book), Sen-men (fan), Hanga (print), etc.

main materials

Sozai; material

The material used as a means of expression.

paper base

Paper base for painting or calligraphic writing, as contrasted with kenpon.
Used in terms like "shihon, sumi" (sumi on paper).

silk base

Silk cloth used for painting or writing. Used in terms like "kenpon-saishoku"
(color on silk) which is the antonym of shihon.

carbon ink

A black coloring agent made by soot solidified by a mixture of glue. The
quality of material and the way of burning affect the fineness or roughness
of the carbon particles, subtly influencing the quality of the ink, or the tone
of black color.

mineral pigment

This is a type of color used for Eastern painting. It is a powder made from
pulverized stone. Iwa-enogu do not dissolve in water. They are usually
used in conjunction with kou-sui (glue solution).

water pigment

Refers to all water-soluble pigments used in all oriental painting.
Mizu-enogu are usually made of organic vegetable substances.


A sheet of gold or silver beaten with a wooden mallet into a paper-like thin
leaf. When gold is used it is referred to as kin-paku, while with silver, it is
called gin-paku.


A material made by dissolving gold or silver powder in nikawa (glue). When
gold is used it is referred to as kin-dei, while with silver, it is called gin-dei.

The others

Asa (hemp cloth), Ita (wooden board), Kirara (mica), etc.

chronological table

Japanese History

World History

Jomon Period (ca. 10,000 B.C.-ca. 300 B.C.)
The period when the peoples of Japan followed a hunting and gathering way of life, so called because pottery of this period is decorated with jomon (cord making).

ca. 1700 B.C.
Code of Hammurapi issued by King Hammurapi of Old Babylonia.

334 B.C.
Alexander the Great begins his conquest of the East.

Yayoi Period (ca. 300 B.C.-ca. A.D. 300)
The first period of intensive agriculture and bronze and iron use, so called because of certain characteristic pottery discovered in Yayoi Town (Tokyo).

221 B.C.
Beginning of the Qin dynasty (221 B.C.-206 B.C.) in China.

Kofun Period (ca. 300-710)
The period when the culture was symbolized by kofun (tumuli) of emperors or clan chieftains.
The Rulers: The Imperial Family

Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, deposed by the Goths under Odoacer.

Beginning of the Sui dynasty (589-618) in China.

Asuka Period (593-710)
The period when the capital was located in the Asuka area (the present Nara). During this period Buddhist culture was firmly rooted in Japan. As Buddhist culture flourished most in the reign of Empress Suiko (554-628), this period is also called the Suiko period.
The Rulers: The Imperial Family, The Sogas

Prophet Muhammad arrives in Medina; the Islamic Era begins.

China unified under the Tang dynasty (618-907).

Silla unifies Korea with the assistance of Tang China.

Nara Period (710-794)
During this period the capital was in Heijo-kyo (Nara).
The Rulers: The Imperial Family, The Fujiwaras

The Rebellion of An Lushan and Shi Siming (755-763) begins in China.

Heian Period (794-1185)
During this period the capital was in Heian-kyo (Kyoto) which become the political and cultural center of Japan at first. These 400 years are generally divided into two periods, namely the Jogan period (the early Heian) and the Fujiwara period (the late Heian). In the Jogan period, Chinese influence remained strong, and some artists gave birth to excellent works of Esoteric Buddhist art. The biggest characteristic in the field of art in the Fujiwara period is the illustrated narrative hand scroll which depicted in elegant color the world of the Tale of Genzi.
The Rulers: The Imperial Family, The Fujiwaras, The Tairas

Charlemagne crowned by Pope Leo III as Charles I, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Koryo unifies Korea.

Beginning of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1126) in China.

William, duke of Normandy, is crowned king of England.

Beginning of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) in China.

Kamakura Period (1185-1333)
During this period the shogunate was in Kamakura (Kanagawa). Influenced by the styles of Chinese art in the Song dynasty, Japanese art tended toward realism, and the element of movement became conspicuous.
The Rulers: Yoritomo Minamotono (1147-99), The Hojos

Magna Carta issued, under duress, by King John of England.

Marco Polo sets out on his journey to the court of the Mongol emperor Kublai Kham.

Kublai Khan conquers the Southern Song and establishes the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) in China.

Muromachi Period (1333-1568)
During this period the Kamakura shogunate was defeated and the new shogunate by the Ashikagas was established in Muromachi (Kyoto). As the family that held the position of shogun from 1338 to 1573, this period is also called the Ashikaga period. Japanese-style gardens, sumi paintings, the way of tea and Noh in the period are worth notice.
The Rulers: The Ashikagas

Hundred Years' War begins.

Zhu Yuanzhang founds the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in China.

Yi Songgye founds the Yi dynasty (1392-1910) in Korea.

Christopher Columbus lands in the Bahamas.

Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600)
The period under the rule of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi in the second half of the 16th century. During this period, a short but spectacular epoch, Japanese society and culture underwent the transition from the medieval to the early modern era. It is named after the sites of two castles, Nobunaga's palatial fortress at Azuchi (Shiga) and Hideyoshi's headquarters at Momoyama (Kyoto). This period's most important artistic commissions were large-scale wall paintings and paintings on folding screens.
The Rulers: Nobunaga Oda (1534-82), Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-98)

The Dutch War of Independence (1568-1648) begins.

The Reforms of Zhang Juzheng (1573-82) begins in China.

British East India Company incorporated by royal charter.

Edo Period (1600-1868)
During this period the shogunate was in Edo (Tokyo). The Edo period, also called the Tokugawa period, dates from 1600, when Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616) defeated his principal rivals in the Battle of Sekigahara, to 1868, the year of the Meiji Restoration. Many developments in painting are characteristic of this period.
The Rulers: The Tokugawas

Manchus establish the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) in China.

English Bill of Rights enacted.

Continental Congress issues the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

French Revolution begins.

Modern Japan

Modern age