"Corpulent Woman" from Scroll of
Diseases and Deformities

Important Cultural Property

Japan, 12th century
H. 25.3cm, W. 45.1cm

Scroll of Diseases and Deformities
(J., Yamai no soshi) is a form of rokudo-e (paintings of the Six Paths of Transmigration, including the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, humans, and heaven), which was painted to teach about the suffering of illness, from among the four sufferings of birth, old age, illness, and death. This illustration shows a large woman, supported by attendants on each side, having great difficulty walking. Depicted in front of the gate are men with surprised expressions and a mother busy breastfeeding her child. The inscription reads: "Around Shichijo in Kyoto, there was a woman, who loaned money at exorbitant rates. Her family was affluent, and after years of epicurean gluttony, she became so corpulent that she could barely walk. Even though she had the help of her attendants, simply walking would cause her to perspire profusely. So great was her suffering." Underlying this humorous depiction is a piercing judgment on human nature from the Kamakura period (1180-1333).

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