Chinese Romance from a Japanese Brush

Kano Sansetsu's Ch̵gonka Scrolls in the Chester Beatty Library

Shane McCausland and Matthew P. McKelway

    ISBN: 978 1 85759 597 0

    Size: 303 x 240 mm / 9.45 x 11.92 in.

    Binding: Paperback

    Pages: 192

    In association with:

    Date published: October, 2009

    UK £29.95 /US $60


  • First book in English devoted to exploring the history, cultural context and artistic style of this extraordinary painting
  • Traces the development of one of pre-modern Japan’s most intellectually curious artists and argues how he is the first painter of Japan


The subject of this book is the pair of fine picture-scrolls entitled Song of Lasting Sorrow in the Chester Beatty Library’s Japanese collection. Created by the Kyoto Kano School master Sansetsu (1590–1651) in the early Edo period, the painting depicts the tragic love story of the Tang emperor Minghuang and his beloved concubine Yang Guifei, as told by the great Tang poet Bai Juyi (772–846; Hakurakuten in Japanese) in his epic ballad, ‘Song of Lasting Sorrow’, composed in 806–7. This Chinese subject has had an intriguing history in Japan, ever since it was first mentioned in the Tale of Genji (c.1008), but the style of the painting also compels deep interest, opening a window on how Sansetsu organised his painting workshop and raising questions about the artist’s pictorial sources in China. Following a recently published facsimile of the Chõgonka gakan scrolls, entitled Kano Sansetsu ga Chõgonka gakan (The Song of Lasting Sorrow picture-scrolls by Kano Sansetsu), this is the first book in English devoted to exploring these issues. The volume is part of a continuing project to publish the Chester Beatty Library’s renowned collection of Japanese paintings and picture-books (Nara ehon).

Author information

Shane McCausland is Head of Collections and also Curator of the East Asian Collections at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Matthew P. McKelway is Atsumi Associate Professor of Japanese Art at Columbia University, New York.