The Muromachi Period
UNDER the impact of Zen Buddhism, which during the Muromachi, or Ashikaga, period ( 1333-1573) enjoyed a tremendous popularity in Japan, the art of the landscape flourished as never before. Not only did Zen monks bring back Sung and Yüan landscape scrolls from the Chinese mainland, but also Japancse painters such as Sesshū visited China to study her art. Like the Southern Sung period, the Muromachi was an age of political unrest, yet in the very midst of the decline there was a wonderful flowering of the arts. Monuments such as the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji, built by the Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimitsu, are a testament to the brilliance of the age, and the beautiful gardens, the cult of the tea ceremony, and above all, the wonderful monochrome ink paintings are all evidence of the highly developed taste. The eighth Ashikaga Shogun, Yoshimasa, was an illustrious patron of the arts, and the catalogue of his magnificent collection, the Kintaikan Sayūchōki, which was compiled by Sōami and contains a description of the shogun's paintings and ceramics, is still studied today.
The cultural dependence upon China was so great during this period that Chinese pictures, imported in large numbers, were "frequently used as gifts, given and received for the promotion of social intercourse. Especially, it was customary that the tribute offered to the Shogun must always include pictures, and these pictures were almost always those imported from China,