Home > Exhibitions > Zen, Tea, and Chinese Art in Medieval Japan

Zen, Tea, and Chinese Art in Medieval Japan

On view December 13, 2014—June 14, 2015
Freer Gallery of Art

Zen Buddhism, tea, and ink painting—well-known expressions of Japanese culture—have their roots in Chinese arts and ideas brought to medieval Japan from the late twelfth to the sixteenth century. Devout Japanese and Chinese Buddhist monks brought the teachings of Chan Buddhism to Japan, where it was known as Zen Buddhism, and attracted the patronage of powerful warriors who ruled Japan as shoguns from 1192 to 1867. Prestigious Chinese art collected by Zen monasteries and their ruling-class patrons introduced new techniques, styles, and aesthetic ideas, transforming Japanese artistic expression. By the sixteenth century, arts and customs from Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasty China had been assimilated into Japanese culture, emerging as Japanese practices such as chanoyu, the art of tea. In this exhibition, Chinese and Japanese paintings, lacquer ware, and ceramics illuminate this remarkable period of cultural contact and synthesis.


Right: Longquan ware mallet-shaped vase; Late 13th-early 14th century, Stoneware with celadon glaze, F1937.18
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Longquan ware mallet-shaped vase

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.