The Shigisan Engi or Legends of the Temple on Mount Shigi is a series of legends dating back to the late Heian period (12th century). It is made up of three scrolls representing legends passed down among members of the lower classes: “The Flying Granary,” “The Exorcism of the Engi Emperor,” and “The Story of the Nun.” The style is simple, yet realistic, and the scrolls are particularly relevant due to their representation of common people’s everyday life.
Scroll one, “The Flying Granary,” shows the home of a wealthy village head whose granary travels across the sea and above the mountains to Mount Shigi, while bystanders watch with astonishment. This scroll provides an insight into Japanese domestic architecture of the time, as well as into traditional clothing and techniques such as oil-pressing.
In scroll two, “The Exorcism of the Engi Emperor,” an imperial messenger leaves the palace to meet Myōren, a holy man, on Mount Shigi. When the messenger returns, a Buddhist god arrives flying through the air to cure the emperor’s illness. This scroll accurately depicts the imperial palace, as well as common people suffering from various illnesses.
Scroll three, “The Story of the Nun,” shows a Buddhist nun departing on horseback to look for her younger brother, Myōren. At the end of the tale, the two are finally reunited on Mount Shigi. The journey provides an insight into everyday life in 12th-century Japan, with people traveling, doing laundry, and worshipping gods of roads and borders.