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Temple Gardens, Nippori, No. 14 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

In the mid-eighteenth century three Buddhist temples in Yanaka, an area on the outskirts of Edo, entered into a friendly competition of creating unusual gardens to lure visitors from downtown Edo every spring. They became collectively known as the "Flower Temples" or the "Temple Gardens" of Nippori. Hiroshige has depicted one temple, Shūshōin, that was famous for its curious arrangement of artificial mountains and fantastically shaped rocks and trees.

What identifies this scene as that site? Against the right margin, above Hiroshige's signature, is a topiary boat, a well-known attraction of Shūshōin. This telltale clue would have immediately identified the place to an Edo audience.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 2nd month of 1857
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Image: 13 3/8 x 9 in. (34 x 22.9 cm) Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS No publisher, censor or date seal visible, probably lost when left edge was trimmed.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.14
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1930, provenance not yet documented; by 1930, acquired by Anna Ferris of Summit, NJ; 1930, gift of Anna Ferris to the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION "The extension of the Ueno bluff northwest beyond Kan'eiji leads into the area known as Yanaka - today, as in the Edo period, a quiet area dense with Buddhist temples and their cemeteries. It was in this area that three temples from the mid-eighteenth century entered into a friendly competition to create unusual gardens to lure visitors from downtown Edo. In time these came to be known collectively as the "Flower Temples" (Hanimidera) or the "Temple Gardens" (Jiin Rinsen) of Nippori, and in the spring many visitors came from the city to enjoy the flowering landscapes. Hiroshige has here depicted the middle of the three temples, Shushoin, which together with Myoryuji to the south (out of sight to the right in this view) was known particularly for the curious arrangement of artificial mountains and fantastically shaped rocks and trees in its gardens. Against the right margin, just above Hiroshige's signature, there is a topiary boat pointing leftward, an evident attraction of Shushoin that also appears in views of that temple in Hiroshige's Ehon Edo Miyage (vol. IV) and in the Edo Meisho Zue. In the middle distance, at the top of the bluff, a gate leads out onto the ridge road, beyond which Suwa Shrine lay. To the left of the gate appear the roofs of a shrine lying within the temple's precincts, identified in the Edo Meisho Zue as dedicated to "Banjin." Literally "Watch God," this curious syncretic deity was an assembly of Shinto gods whose duty was to guard the Buddhist sutras in rotation, one for each of the thirty days of the lunar month. In the Tokugawa period, Banjin shrines were to be found mainly in the precincts of Nichiren temples such as this one, where they were charged with guarding the Lotus Sutra, central focus of worship in the Nichiren faith. The coloring of the print combines, with a certain seasonal liberty, the pink cherries and the red azaleas for the Nippori Temple Gardens were known (see also pl. 68)." (H. Smith, in Braziller 1986 No. 14)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858). Temple Gardens, Nippori, No. 14 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 2nd month of 1857. Woodblock print, Image: 13 3/8 x 9 in. (34 x 22.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.14 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.14_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.14_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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