Josetsu – catching a catfish with a gourd

Catching a catfish with a gourd (瓢鮎図Hyō-nen-zu) is a hanging scroll painting by the 15th-century artist Josetsu (如拙). The painting was executed in c. 1415 and is held by Taizō-in, a sub-temple of the Myōshin-ji complex of Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto. It is one of the earliest suiboku (ink wash) paintings in Japan and was designated as a National Treasure of Japan in 1951. The painting is accompanied by many inscriptions, and may be considered an example of shigajiku (a “poem-and-painting scroll”).

Josetsu was born and trained as an artist in China but settled in Japan. He was one of the first suiboku painters working in Japan in the Muromachi period.

The work was inspired by a riddle set by Ashikaga Yoshimochi, the fourth shōgun of the Ashikaga shogunate: “How do you catch a catfish with a gourd?” The full scroll measures 111.5 cm × 75.8 cm (43.9 in × 29.8 in), with long inscription above the painting recording the shōgun’s rhetorical question and also that Josetsu drew an answer, and naming 31 leading Zen monks who each provide a written response to the shōgun’s question.

wikipedia entry