The Compassion of Nikko-miya 

from the Righteous Samurai Collection, 1920

by Yamada Keichū

IHL Cat. #2306


The eighteenth print appearing in Volume 4 of Gishi taikan, edited by Fukumoto Nichinan. 

The chief priest of Rinnō-ji in Nikkō, a former Imperial Prince, has been summoned by shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa 徳川綱吉 (1646-1709) for a consultation regarding the death sentences meted out by the bakufu to the Righteous Samurai. Tsunayoshi tells the priest, "There is nothing more painful in the world than to be in charge of politics. You may have heard of the retainers of the late Asano Naganori, whose loyalty and fervor were unparalleled in modern times. I wish I could do something to help them, but if I did, I would not be able to govern."

Tsunayoshi felt deep sympathy for the gishi, but was concerned that if he pardoned them it would damage his authority. He had hoped that the chief priest would plead for the lives of the gishi, allowing him to pardon them, but the priest remained silent, later to say, "I made up my mind to inspire the great compassion of the Buddha and let the royal law take its course. Since they achieved their aim, it is better for them to bequeath the lesson of their honor by committing seppuku rather than to live on polluted by the dirt of vulgarity."

Sources: Genroku kaikyoroku, Fukumoto Nichinan, Keiseisha, 1910, chapter 280;

Print Details

click on image to enlarge artist signature and seals 

click on image to enlarge


[A Heart of Iron and Stone]

Tribute Preceding Print by

Takeda Mokurai (1854-1930)  


abbot of the Kenninji Temple in Kyoto (head temple of the Zen Rinzai school)

from Volume 4 of Gishi Taikan

image source: The Early Japanese Book Portal Database, Art Research Center AkoRH-R0419-4

click on image to enlarge

Print Commentary from Volume 4 of Gishi Taikan


image source: The Early Japanese Book Portal

Database, Art Research Center


Artist Profile

Yamada Keichū 山田敬中 (1868-1934)

Born in Asakusa, Tokyo on April 2, 1868 his birth name was Shimane Chūzō 島根忠蔵. He is best known as a Japanese-style (nihonga) painter, using the artist name Yamada Keichū 山田敬中. After graduating from elementary school in 1881 he studied haiku and the Chinese classics until at age of eighteen he came under the tutelage of the famous ukiyo-e print artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), taking the artist name Yamada Toshitada 山田年忠, which he would use on the few ukiyo-e woodblock prints he designed . He would go on to study with Kawabata Gyokushō 川端玉章 (1842–1913), a Maruyama-Shijō school painter at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Tokyo Bijutsu Gakkō) and become part of the circle of young artists under the leadership of Okakura Tenshin 岡倉覚三 (1863-1913), the scholar and founder of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts

Around the age of 30, Yamada undertook a large cannon of work creating over 35 paintings on the life of Buddha which were exhibited in 1899 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more information on this artist see Yamada Toshitada 山田年忠 (1868-1934)