Sea God's Palace, by Ike no Taiga

  • Edo period
  • 18th century
  • Hanging scroll, ink on paper
  • H-117 W-33
Catalogue Entry

This is the literati painter Ike no Taiga's rendition of the mythical dragon's palace. The dragon's palace, or the palace of the mythical princess, is often thought to exist on the far shore of the sea, or in the depths of grottoes, rivers or ocean. In Japan's Ryukyu Islands, these palaces are known as Neriya, or Niraya, or in Okinawa, as the Niraikanai. The famous tale of "borrowing a bowl" from the dragon's palace is a folk legend that exists in various forms in China and even Europe. Frequently the image of a mythical palace appearing in the vapor expelled by a clam is depicted in Japanese lacquer decoration, but rarely is a tortoise shown in this theme. Here the tortoise breathes forth the magical palace, and this also reminds us of the famous "Rip Van Winkle" like tale of Urashima Taro visiting the undersea palace. It is also fascinating to remember that it was the tortoise who became Urashima's vehicle from the land of mortals to the land of the undersea king. Traces of tatami mat patterns can be seen in the lines depicting the palace and this would seem to indicate that this painting may have been created at a party or other such impromptu setting. A painting of a dream‐like moment.