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Spiral Hall, Five Hundred Rakan Temple, No. 66 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

The balcony depicted here, some thirty feet above the ground in a flat expanse of the delta area of eastern Edo, was famous for its panoramic view. The vista was the finishing touch to an unusual journey that visitors took through the building: a three-story passage through three separate pilgrimage circuits, each a replication of a famous Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan. Called Sansōdō, or Three-Circuit Hall, the structure was popularly known as Sazaedō or Spiral Hall, after a shellfish with a spiral shell. The hall was part of the complex known as the Five Hundred Rakan Temple. Two buildings containing more than five hundred images of rakan, or disciples of the Buddha, flanked the main hall of the temple, out of sight to the right.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 8th month of 1857
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 14 1/4 x 9 5/16 in. (36.2 x 23.7 cm) Image: 13 1/2 x 8 3/4 in. (34.3 x 22.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS No publisher's seal visible, probably lost when left margin was trimmed. Date and censor seals at top margin.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.66
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1930, provenance not yet documented; by 1930, acquired by Anna Ferris of Summit, NJ; 1930, gift of Anna Ferris to the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION A view of the delta area of eastern Edo, (what is now Oshima 2-chome), with the houses and lumberyards along the Tatekawa Canal in the distance. The building shown here was known as the Sazaido or Spiral Hall, after the "sazae," a shellfish with a spiral shell. The formal name of the structure was Sansodo or Three Circuit Hall and contained one hundred Kannon images, each representing a different temple on the three original circuits. The interior had inclined ramps and on each of the three floors the Kannon images, each about three and a half feet high, were arranged in niches. The Spiral Hall was part of a complex known as the Five Hundred Rakan Temple, founded in 1695 by a priest near Kyoto. The main hall of the temple (not shown here) was next to two buildings containing more than 500 images of "rakan" or disciples of the Buddha, rivaling the Spiral Hall in architectural complexity. The Spiral Hall, completed in 1780, was destroyed in the mid-1870's and the Kannon images dispersed. The Five Hundred Rakan statues were moved with the temple itself to a new location in Meguro in 1908, where more than half of them survive today.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858). Spiral Hall, Five Hundred Rakan Temple, No. 66 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 8th month of 1857. Woodblock print, Sheet: 14 1/4 x 9 5/16 in. (36.2 x 23.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.66 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.66_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.66_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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