Kana Text, by Mugai Nyodai

  • Kamakura period
  • 13c
  • Hanging scroll, ink on paper
  • H-26.8 W-39
Catalogue Entry

by Mugai Nyodai
Kamakura period, 13th century (dated October 17th, 1265)
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Height, 26.8cm; width, 39.0cm

Chiyono was the secular name of the nun Nyodai. Her father was Adachi Kagemori, a maternal relative of the Hojo regent. Chiyono went as a bride to the Kanazawa family, one of the retainers of the Hojo, but after the early death of her husband, she entered the Buddhist life. This kana text can also be called a written Buddhist discussion, and her kao (written seal) appears to be an enlarged joining of the 2 characters of her name, nyo and dai. She is said to have studied with the Chinese priest Mugaku Sogen (C: Wuxue Zuyuan, Bukko Kokushi, founder of Kamakura's Engakuji) and formally entered the Buddhist life under that teacher, but she is also known to have donated and founded a Buddhist convent (later the Rinzai sect temple Keiaiji) in Itsutsuji Omiya. In 1279 (Koan 2), she inherited the teachings of Bukko from China and arranged her temple with the cooperation of Koho Ken'nichi and others. She built Shomyakuin as the funerary monument to Bukko who died in 1286, and Keiaiji became the focal point in Kyoto for the Bukko school. In 1298 (Einin 6), Nyodai died on the 8th day of the 11th month at the age of 76. She is buried at Shomyakuin. Nyodai is known to have been active in the education of the children of Kamakura period samurai families. The Chiyono no fumi text in the Unshu meibutsucho formerly in the collections of the Fuyuki family of Fukagawa, Edo, was purchased in the Tenmei era (1781-89) by Matsudaira Fumai, and he made notations on the text. Among calligraphy works by women, Nyodai's calligraphy was prized second only to Taira-no-Masako, a matriarch of the Kamakura shogunate. FN