Honcho gashi

  • Published: 1691
  • Other Names: 本朝画伝 (honchou gaden)
  • Japanese: 本朝画史 (honchou gashi)

Honchô gashi, or "A History of Painting in Japan," published in 1691, is generally regarded as the first "complete" history of Japanese painting. It focuses on the Kanô school and contains biographies of numerous painters.

It was compiled chiefly by Kanô Sansetsu, head of the Kyoto branch of the Kanô school; after his death in 1651, his son Kanô Einô added to what Sansetsu had written, with the help of Kurokawa Dôyû, while Hayashi Gahô contributed a preface. Hayashi's preface is dated 1678, but the volume was not published until 1691, when it first appeared under the title Honchô gaden ("Legend/Telling of Paintings of Japan"). It was then re-published two years later as Honchô gashi.

The text consists of six volumes. The first provides a description of painting tradition, while the rest, for the most part, consist of the biographies of over 400 painters. Biographies of 147 artists of the Nara and Heian periods comprise the second volume, while the third features biographies of 100 artists of the Kamakura and Muromachi periods. Volume four focuses on the Kanô school and Hasegawa Tôhaku and his followers, addressing as well themes and techniques associated with those schools, while the fifth volume contains biographies of other (miscellaneous) artists, and describes painting tools and pigments. The sixth volume, entitled honchô ga-in (本朝画印), is a compendium of artists' seals, added by Kanô Einô in 1691.

Though a thorough and extensive resource, as with all primary sources, it has its biases; in particular, it reflects the biased values of the Kyoto Kanô school, emphasizing certain artists while ignoring others.

A supplement or sequel, entitled zoku honchô gashi (Continued honchô gashi), was published by Hiyama Tansai in 1819.


  • "Honchou Gashi." JAANUS: Japan Architecture and Art Net Users System. 2001. Accessed 30 December 2011.