City Rei Shoujo (Ling Zhaonu)

By Ono Tsūjo
Momoyama–Early Edo period (16th–17th century)
Donated by Arai Kiyoshi
Designated Cultural Property of Sakata

Ono Tsūjo was the attendant to the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Equally skilled at waka poetry, koto (japanese harp) and painting, she was well-known as a fine Noh calligrapher. She particularly excelled in the nyohitsu (woman’s brush) technique, a style created by nobles in the Heian period and popularised during the seventeenth century, which was a type of fluid yet refined calligraphy.

Ling Zhaonu — known as Rei Shoujo in Japan — was a legendary figure from the Tang Dynasty. She was revered as a deity in the world of Zen thanks to her filial devotion. One famous anecdote involves her going into town to sell bamboo baskets to support her aged parents.

In this painting, the Buddha-like eyes are quiet and graceful. The figure is concisely drawn with thick lines, and the unique green colour of the mineral paint, and the intense red seen on the kimono’s collar and sleeves, express the beauty and strength of Ling Zhaonu. The inscription on the painting is attributed to Tamamura Sōhaku, the 147th abbot of Daitoku-ji Temple in Kyoto.