Overview of Literati Painting (Bunjinga)



This genre includes paintings produced by intellectuals as a hobby or a complement to their literary interests. In China, too, such works were always distinguished from those of professional painters.

The term "bunjinga" was first used by Chinese Ming-dynasty scholar Dong Qichang as a synonym for the term "Southern painting" (nanga). During the Muromachi period, the Zen monks of Kyoto's "five mountain monasteries" imitated Chinese scholar-officials in producing ink paintings as a kind of hobby. Sesshu, too, produced works that consciously took their inspiration from literati paintings produced in China during the Yuan dynasty. Literati paintings were not, however, produced in Japan in large numbers until after the middle of the Edo period, in the 18th century. Such scholars of Chinese studies as Gion Nankai and Yanagisawa Kien studied works of this genre that had been brought into the country through the port of Nagasaki, and made similar ink depictions of landscapes, bamboos, and the like. Artists such as Ike no Taiga, Yosa Buson, Kuwayama Gyokushu, Uragami Gyokudo, and Tanomura Chikuden adapted this tradition to Japan's environment and landscapes, with the result that a specifically Japanese bunjinga genre came into being.

Literati Paint.