An engraved copper plate (300 x 365 mm.) entitled Shumisen no zu [Illustration of Mount Meru] engraved by “Toto shibamon Kokan Shiba shun” [“Edo Shiba Shun Kokan from Shiba”], with explanatory text.

Edo: n.d.

A large engraved copper plate depicting a mechanical model of the Buddhist solar system, executed by the famous artist Shiba Kokan (1747-1818), “the first Japanese artist to create European-style copperplate etchings.”–Oxford Art online. Kokan, Hiraga Gennai, and Gentaku Otsuki were the earliest exponents of Western-style art and science and travelled to Nagasaki to learn from the Dutch. Kokan wrote and illustrated books introducing Western astronomy to Japan.

The present plate shows the cosmic system taught by Fumon Entsu (1755-1834), a Japanese Buddhist monk of the Tendai (or Tiantai) school. In his Bukkoku rekishohen [Astronomical Works for a Buddhist Country] (1810), “[he contrasts] the European heliocentric model with the traditional Mount Sumeru-based flat-earth cosmology. While acknowledging that the Western model seems initially more persuasive, Fumon argues that this is because there has been little systematic analysis of the cosmology found in Buddhist scriptures…[he attempted] to formulate a comprehensive and systematic Buddhist theory of the earth and solar system…”–Jason Ananda Josephson, The Invention of Religion in Japan (2012), p. 107.

A most interesting survival and in excellent condition.

❧ Nakayama, A History of Japanese Astronomy, pp. 210-11. Sugimoto & Swain, Science & Culture in Traditional Japan, pp. 354-55.

Price: $6,500.00

Item ID: 6531