Antique Korean Scroll

Water-Moon Avalokiteśhvara (Guanyin) | A Korean Buddhist Masterpiece


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: Overall - 22-0" x 77-0"; Image - 16-5/8" x 44-3/4"

To start off, this is a “VERY RARE AND EXQUISITE GORYEO BUDDHIST SCROLL PAINTING”. Depicted is a painting of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśhvara in typical Goryeo fashion as “Water-Moon Avalokiteśhvara.” He is shown standing on lotus pods protruding from the sea with his feet accentuated in gold. His expressive eyes look down in reverence while he stands with his hands crossed with extended fingernails. He is dressed in dazzling robes and sashes in intricate gold details throughout the figure and on his jewelry draped down his robes. This Goryeo Buddhist painting is executed with delicate details and sumptuous execution, which include exquisitely drawn garments created through the ample use of gold line-work, and illusionary effects seen in the depiction of delicately flowing veils. Here, the veils extend from Avalokiteśhvara’s crown to the pond in the lower portion of the painting filled with flowing patterns of water motifs, and his body and head are surrounded by a large luminous mandorla and a nimbus, or halo, to represent his divinity. This diminutive moon depicted around the top of his head is from where the name “Water-Moon Avalokiteśhvara” name originates. On the center of his crown is a miniature jewelry piece called a Chenrezig. 

This Goryeo, Buddhist painting was made by applying color, and in this case, Indigo with Gold line-work on front of a course-grained handmade paper, (similar to canvas) which is covered on the front with a patterned gold brocade that frames the artwork. The artist created subtle effects, intensifying and contrasting with the primary indigo painted background with the figure, facial, hand, and feet outlined with gold ink to delineate the figure and to accentuate the decorative patterns of robe and jewelry. The roller bar on the bottom of the scroll has ends covered with a rare and intricately engraved copper. The interpretation of the script on the right of the figure says Tian Huidao, Buddhist nun, so we are unsure if this is an indication that she was the artist. This piece is identified on the back and translates to say Korean Buddha (hangug bucheo). The box translates as Korean Scroll (hangug seukeulol). The piece was purchased at a private auction in Kyushu in 1985.

Condition: Very Good Condition, "as is" and commensurate with age. The image itself is in excellent condition while the decorative trimming/boarders are worn and in some cases missing. The brocade framing the drawing is in like-new condition with minimal wear. Overall it is a beautiful and elegant piece of artwork in scroll form.

NOTE: Historical information related to scrolls of this type received from the Fukuoka Art Museum - During the 1594-1604 invasion, the Japanese captured and enslaved tens of thousands of Korean farmers and artisans, and took them back to Japan. It must have been evident fairly early in the campaign that Japan was not going to conquer Korea. Rather than have all of the war efforts wasted since the Japanese were not able to conquer Korea, the Japanese began to capture and enslave Koreans who might be useful to Japan. Scholars and artisans such as potters and metalworkers were particularly prized. The most visible influence these enslaved Koreans had in Japan, however, was on Japanese ceramic styles. Between the examples of looted ceramics taken from Korea, and skilled potters brought back to Japan, Korean styles and techniques had an important impact on the Japanese arts. 

We were additionally informed by a Curatorial Assistant at the Fukuoka Art Museum that a number of Kyushu Pottery owners gained the benefits of the relocated Korean artists and what they brought to their new country of residence, many of which were just made captive and not allowed to bring anything from their homeland. The Buddhist images created at the time reflect the strength of the Pure Land tradition, which promises believers rebirth in paradise. The works feature specific Buddhas and Avalokiteśhvara who help followers spread and inform the public about the Buddhist religion. The tradition has only re-emerged from obscurity in the past few decades, as researchers have begun to identify specific visual characteristics that unite the works. These features include delicately painted garments, saturated mineral pigments accented with gold, and illusionary effects such as transparency. Although these similarities are now well documented, there is still much to discover about the paintings’ artistic methods and cultural context.

Objects from those who brought objects with them, such as religious scrolls of this quality, were later sold at private sales in Kyushu, many of which were believed to have been in the possession of Japanese citizens who hosted Korean artists and pottery craftsmen brought to Japan through this invasion and relocation. Through centuries of warfare and loss, most of the paintings left the Korean Peninsula and now survive in large part in Japanese temple collections. 

So, we as the seller, as well as the Fukuoka Art Museum Curatorial representative, are unsure as to the specific date of this piece, particularly because the piece is signed and has seals on the front in Korean, but on the back of the scroll is written in Japanese script. So this brings the date into question as to whether it was brought into Japan by a Korean artist that was recruited during the annexation into the Empire of Japan and then further identified by the Japanese sponsor who was gifted or became the owner of the piece upon entry to the country. 

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Customer Reviews

One of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years

I recently purchased one of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years. The information you provided was excellent, the piece is in mint condition as advertised, with a subject matter I did not have in my collection.

— dbl

Delightful and well written book

Just downloaded my ebook on Sosaku Kokeshi. Excellent and so excited to see that you transposed the hardbound version. Exceptional large color images with great descriptions and details. It is so nice to have a copy I can carry when touring and when I am on-line shopping for Kokeshi. Also nice not to have to pay for international shipping.

— Author's name

A great doll

As always, a carefully packed order arrived this morning. This Sosaku Kokeshi – Takeda, Nori Aki Kaze is a great doll. Her large attractive head and maple leaf pattern, along with the vibrant colour make this doll very intriguing. Another copy of your new book that I have ordered for my friend will be a great Christmas Present for him. Much appreciated. I have also enjoyed furthering my knowledge of Japanese Antiques and Collectibles through your website.

— Kathy

You did the subject justice

Vintage Kokeshi and its history is absolutely a topic thats close to my heart, so Im pleased that you wrote about it. Im also happy that you did the subject justice bringing the history of these creative artifacts to light. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know the way to present the subject in a way that individuals will wish to read far more. Im so happy to know a person/site like you exists on the internet. I understand you are writing a book on Sosaku Kokeshi artists. That will be high on my list for there is nothing in English on the subject, and I am worried that the craftsmen and their creations will be lost as Japan becomes more western in attitude. Doomo arigato gozaimasu from Japan.

— Misugi

Truly opened my eyes

I recently purchased your book on Kokeshi and what a find after collecting for over 10 years with no information to base my purchases on. Now I have YOUR ILLUSTRATIVE BOOK and it has truly opened my eyes. All the associated stories and folk tales give such light to my collection. A curator at the Japanese American National Museum in LA told me about this great resource. Your book happens to be astonishingly precise although I can understand why someone else has not written a book on the subject, because all the artists producing Kokeshi remain obscure and little information available has not been translated. Your book truly did switch the light on for me personally as related to Japanese folk art.

— John G

Detailed textual information & beautiful photographs

We just received your new book, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition. Let us be the first to congratulate you on this superb follow-up to Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan. Your comprehensive text with its notes on the artists and the beautiful photography create a work that any collector of Kokeshi should have if they wish to develop an understanding of and knowledge about this Japanese folk art. We don’t know which is better (Does either have to be better?), the detailed textual information or the beautiful photographs. Both insist upon and rightfully demand spending time to enjoy and appreciate them. Thank you so much for adding to our appreciation of Kokeshi.

— Masakazu & Keiko Ota

Another great Kokeshi book edition

Another great Kokeshi book edition. I was thrilled to see many of the Kokeshi in my collection in your book. I even found a few that I still had not been able to identify, it was nice to finally know the artisans behind my wonderful collection.

— M. Molina

My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to

Whether you are a kokeshi doll collector like I am, or exploring Japanese folk art for the first time, Sosaku Kokeshi – A New Look at an Old Tradition is a wonderful, informative resource for collectors and a lovely visual introduction to Sosaku dolls. I just purchased a copy of the book, and I could not be more pleased! With its beautiful colour photographs, signatures and profiles of the artists along with titles of the dolls, it is a well-researched, comprehensive resource. While some dolls featured in the book were familiar to me, I was also introduced to artists and dolls that I have never seen or heard of before.

These two books have helped me to learn so much more about kokeshi dolls, and influence my thoughts on the process of doll selection. My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to. These two books have become an extension of and just as much a part of my collection as the dolls that sit on my shelves.

— Karen W.

WONDERFUL exposition.

The artwork on each doll is literally like a unique painting historically recording the Japanese culture. Thank you for your fine work and this educational experience.

— TM

After we purchased the first one, we fell irresistibly in love

We started collecting Kokeshi only a short time ago with the expert guidance of Michael and Robert. Beginning with a goal of three or four dolls for each of our granddaughters, we almost immediately changed our goal after we purchased the first one and fell irresistibly in love with this Japanese folk art.

We have amassed a small collection that we display proudly.

In spite of our limited background and only a little research to support our evaluation, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition is a magnificent work on the subject of these wooden dolls which make up a segment of the folk arts of Japan. The detailed background materials on the artists and the notes on the dolls can be an invaluable part of one’s collection. The marvelous photography is an excellent complement to the text, as we re-viewed the images many times, envying the owner of each doll.

— Koigirl

I love my new jewelry box!!

Just want to say MAHALO — love my new jewelry box!! I wanted this tobacco box to hold my modest collection of jewelry. I tend to march to the beat of a different drummer most of the time, and I often repurpose items. When I saw this lovely Japanese box you were selling, I thought “bingo!” — perfect!! So, many thanks… and I hope to occasionally purchase an item now and then now that I know about you!

— Kristi

Delightful Kokeshi book

I received your delightful Kokeshi book, and I am very grateful to have discovered this beautiful publication. The photographs are singular elegant portraits. It is wonderful you have included the calligraphy kanji signature of the craftsman, as important as the beautiful painted dolls. Your book gives provenance to my small treasured collection and a guide in my search for more. Exciting to also discover a few of mine already in your book. Many thanks again for gifting this special kokeshi edition and I hope to continue to share the joy.

— Tania

Oh my goodness! She has arrived and she is divine!

She was beautifully packed and arrived safe and sound. She is so gorgeous and I thank you so much for all that you have done along the way. You provide such a professional yet also personable business and it was a delight dealing with you.
Thank you for bringing such gorgeous items to our attention – these Kokeshis are ‘works of art’ and we are lucky to be able to purchase them and bring them into our lives and homes.
I had to send you a photo of her with her new family and I have to say, as you predicted, she fits in beautifully.
I shall keep an eye on your website for further ‘treasures’.

— Karen, the lucky owner of ‘Pigtails’ by Ishihara, Hideo

Mingei Arts can't be beat!

Thank you for your attention and guidance to a new mingei collector. Both your publication and mingei are outstanding, your packing is perfect and shipping prompt.

— Brenda

Really beautiful.

Got the vase over the weekend. Somehow this medium really speaks to me, at least the objects where most everything is in different shades of brown. Very appealing. Yes, too bad I missed out on the ginger jars you had for sale. Ah well, it’s all OK in the universe. And what clever use of materials for safe packing!

— Da-Shih

Shopping through the items in this store is like treasure hunting, without the hunting.

I have several items from Robert & Michael’s collection now and they all hold a special place in my home and warm my heart when I see them. Something about the art from Japan just makes me feel at peace and also comforted.

— Jessie

I could not be happier with my three new Kokeshi

Your time and personal attention was gratefully appreciated. I could not be happier with my three new Kokeshi – I have them displayed where I pass by often so I can stop and look at them – they always bring a smile to my face! They make me HAPPY! I also love your book and eBook. Thank you so much!

— Barb

Opened my eyes to the diversity and beauty of an amazing art form

It wasn’t until I got your book that I realized what I had been missing these past years! Now I am totally addicted.

— B

Great spinning top

I purchased a vintage spinning top for a gift, and I absolutely love it! The ordering process was fast and easy, and the item was in the condition described on the website.

— Carmela

Thank you for sending this book to me

It is beautiful, so informative and stunning pictures. Well done to you both for producing this. Any wonder so many people around the world love it. I  will love using it as my reference book. You have both been so lovely to deal with……I look to you both as experts in all things Kokeshi and Japanese art, and look forward to our continued friendship across the world.
🙏🏻🐨💐🥂👘🌎🌏🍱 🥰

— Karen