This eccentric pair were one of the most popular subjects among Zen painters. Kanzan and Jittoku were two monks who lived on Mount Tiantai in Tang dynasty China (618-906), where they were known as Han Shan and Shi De respectively. Kanzan, in the true Zen manner, was a hermit-poet who befriended Jittoku, a kitchen-hand in the nearby Guoqing temple. Jittoku would give his friend leftover food from the temple, and in return Kanzan would read his humble colleague his poems. Here Jittoku, holding a bamboo pail, scrutinises his friend's poem with studied concentration, while Kanzan's expression is one of shy anticipation. There is a rich harmony between the two: the kitchen-hand and the poet are equals. Although Rosetsu has carefully distinguished the two in his handling of the brushwork, Kanzan's sharp definitive lines contrast with Jittoku's more unruly brush strokes and washes. Born into the family of a low-ranking samurai, Rosetsu was a pupil of the great master and founder of the Maruyama school, Maruyama Ôkyo, but was expelled and became a versatile individualist. The characters Kanzan and Jittoku capture something of the artist's own spontaneous independence of spirit.
Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 280.
Place where the work was made
hanging scroll; ink on paper
156.0 x 82.3 cm image; 244.5 x 98.9 x 105.8 cm scroll
Signature & date
Signed u.r., in Japanese, ink [inscribed] "Rosetsu sha-i [conceived and painted by Rosetsu]" [and artist's seal]. Not dated.
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 1 exhibition
Art of the brush, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Sep 1995–12 Nov 1995
Referenced in 9 publications
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 280 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Edo Painting Schools', Sydney, 2003, 236-237 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 237 is a detail of this work.
Jackie Menzies, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 9-17, Sydney, 1990, 16, 17 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, AGNSW Collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 221 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 18 (illus.).
Jackie Menzies, Orientations, 'Japanese Figure Painting: From the Public to the Personal', pg. 114-119, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 116 (colour illus.). fig.4
Jacqueline Menzies, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian', pg. 72-93, Sydney, 1988, 81, 82, 83 (illus.).
Kaneko Nobuhisa, Nagasawa Rosetsu, his life and works, Tokyo, 2014, 9 (colour illus.).
Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Adventures in Asia. An education kit for the Asian gallery, Sydney, 2003, 11 (colour illus.). card no.11