This site requires that you enable Javascript to function properly Scholten Japanese Art | Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1839-1892 | Priest Raigo of Mii Temple Transforming into a Rat
Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Priest Raigo of Mii Temple Transforming into a Rat

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts: Picture of Priest Raigo of Mii Temple Transforming into a Rat by his Wicked Thoughts
(Shingata sanjurokkaisen: Miidera Raigoajari akunen nezumi to henzuru zu)

signed Yoshitoshi sha, with artist's seal Sokatei, carver's seal Chokuzan, and publisher's date seal Meiji nijushinen, -gatsu, -ka; Sasaki Toyokichi (Meiji 24 [1891]) of Sasaki Toyokichi

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 9 7/8 in., 37.1 by 25.1 cm

The spirit of the vengeful priest Raigo turning into a thousand rats and infesting Mii Temple is adapted from an episode in The Tale of the Heike (Heike monogatari). Raigo had been a member of the influential Fujiwara family and was a spiritual advisor to Emperor Shirakawa (1053-1159). After Raigo's guidance produced the birth of a male offspring, Prince Atsuhisa, Shirakawa offered Raigo anything he wanted as a reward. Raigo asked not for himself but for a raised platform on which prayers could be offered at his temple. The Emperor, leery of empowering the temple, reneged on his promise and refused Raigo's request. Infuriated, the now vengeful Raigo went on a hunger strike and ignored the Emperor's many attempts at reconciliation. After his death, Raigo's ghostly visage appeared by little Atsuhisa's bedside and damned the Prince to die, before the spirit turned into the many rats and inundated the temple.

Monastic politics were of great concern to the secular leaders of Medieval Japan. Monastic orders in their mountain temples were often paramilitary organizations whose monks were referred to as yamabushi (mountain warriors). While some were fiercely independent and concerned with self-defense, others were aligned with daimyo and often consequential in determining the balance of power between different lords and families.

References:
Keyes 1983, p. 490, no. 509.24
Stevenson 1983, p. 25, no. 25
Segi 1985, p. 77, no. 94.21
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 142, no. 65.24
Stevenson 2005, p. 132, no. 25

$1,300