Priest Shunjobo Chogen. Kamakura period, early 13th century. Nara, Japan.
The end of the twelfth century brought with it civil war to Japan, ending the imperial courts and introducing the shogunate (military government). During this time period, the Japanese were greatly influenced by the neighboring Chinese.
After the war, a priest named Shunjobo Chogen was an important figure in the reconstruction of Nara. He was also well versed in modern Chinese architecture. This very realistic portrait of him shows the lines in his aged face and the Buddhist prayers beads in his knobbly hands, coursed through with veins. The beautiful, simple piece is a work of the Kei school, which traces its teachings back to the eleventh century.