Before the 20th century, the idea that a painting should be framed and hung permanently on wall was a completely foreign concept in Asian countries like China and Japan. Art hanging on the wall was transitory and meant to be rolled up and stored, changed to match the occasion or season or mark an honored guest. These scroll paintings, usually ink on silk or paper, had weighted rods made of wood, ivory, or porcelain at the bottom and were stored in boxes marked with the name of the artists and the date.

Scrolls are an intimate form of painting meant to be touched and viewed up close. Part of the joy of owning an Asian scroll is the process of taking out a painting that's been in storage and re-experiencing it, bit by bit, as it unrolls. Since ancient times, Buddhist monks all over Asia, including India, Tibet, and Nepal, employed painted scrolls called "thangka" as a portable means for teaching their philosophy.

Early Chinese paintings were stories, told in pictures or in calligraphy, with wooden rollers attached to either side, read from right to left, a narrative art that was adapted by the Japanese during the influx of Chinese culture in the sixth century. These handscrolls are now rare, as few were made in the past century.

In China, horizontal scrolls were also employed as a canvas for landscape painting, and around the third century the Chinese were making screens that sometimes incorporated vertical scroll paintings. When these concepts reached Japan, the artisans of the Heian era (794-1185) were eager to make them their own, with non-religious Japanese themes like cherries, maples, and birds.

Common motifs in hanging scrolls include poems and Zen sayings in Japanese and Chinese calligraphy, as well as landscapes, seasons, flower-and-bird combinations ("kacho" in Japanese), religious themes, Zen icons, military scenes, Chinese boys, and portraits. During World War II, American soldiers in Japan were partial to "kakemono" showing women in kimonos, and so these hanging scrolls were mass-produced cheaply.

Japanese "kakemono" scrolls from masters from the Kano school, as well as big names like Uemura Shoen and Yokoyama Taikan go for a high price tag these days, but antique and vintage scrolls by unknowns sell for a few hundred dollars in Japan. Be sure to look for expected wear-and-tear, as most truly old scrolls will look a little beat up.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Timeline of Art History

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Timeline of Art History

Travel around the world through art with this museums collection of over 6,000 works of art, from Egypt to North A… [read review or visit site]

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Important 19thc Japanese Mori Sosen Spotted Deer Landscape Silk Scroll PaintingJapanese Tea Ceremony Scroll : Daitoku-ji Maeda Shodo "enso,mujinzo" W/box @w482Japanese Hanging Scroll : Ogata Korin "bellflowr" @w481Pair Antique Chinese Qing Bronze Fu Lion Dog Beast Figure Scroll WeightsJapanese Hanging Scroll "rising Sun,peach And Crane" @e455Japanese Hanging Scroll : Uemura Shoen "flowers Of Field" W/box @w5243 Fine Antique Chinese Qing Guanyin & Imperial Emperor Silk Scroll PaintingsJapanese Hanging Scroll : Tojima Kofu "lacquer Artwork~dragon" W/box @w527A Nice Antique Vintage Chinese Silk Ancestral Portrait Scroll Painting C 19th CA Nice Antique Vintage Chinese Silk Ancestral Portrait Scroll Painting C 19th CJapanese Hanging Scroll "moon And Owl On Cherry Tree" @w507Japanese Hanging Scroll : Imao Keinen "moon" @w491Japanese Hanging Scroll : Kano Eisenin Michinobu "two Running Horses" @w488Japanese Hanging Scroll : Hashimoto Kansetsu "parrot On Ume Branch" @w480Japanese Hanging Scroll : Kano Tanyu Morinobu "scenery" @e444A Nice Antique Vintage Chinese Silk Ancestral Portrait Scroll Painting C 19th CJapanese Hanging Scroll "white Iris" @e485Japanese Hanging Scroll : Ganku "fierce Tiger" @e413Japanese Hanging Scroll : Kano Tansetsu "white,pink And Red Peony" @w478Japanese Hanging Scroll : Baigetsu "glaring Tiger" @w503Jiku4431 Jyfk Japan Scroll Koshiba Keizan Sansui Kano-ha PainterJapanese Hanging Scroll "dragonfly And Squash" @e386Japanese Hanging Scroll : Yoshiyasu "hawk On Pine Tree" @w486Japanese Hanging Scroll : Maruyama Oshin "snow Covered Ume Tree" @w475Genuine Hand Painted Antique Chinese Scroll Painting - Pheasants & PeoniesJiku4444 Jchk Japan Makuri Scroll Rabbit 18-19cJapanese Hanging Scroll : Kawabata Gyokusho "hawk On Pine" @w504Japanese Hanging Scroll 6 Pcs "shikishi,tanzaku" @e424Japanese Hanging Scroll : Maruyama Okyo "dragon" @w487Japanese Hanging Scroll : Tajika Chikuson "camellia" @e362#2143 Japanese Hanging Scroll: Boat On The RiverJiku21777 Cjjnj Japan Makimono Scroll Emperor Goyozei CalligraphyJapanese Hanging Scroll : Shoho "two Colored Carp Under Pine" @e377Japanese Hanging Scroll : Arihara Kogan "bamboo And Many Sparrows" @w479Japanese Tea Ceremony Scroll : Daitoku-ji Fujita Kando "calligraphy" W/box @w526Japanese Hanging Scroll "tiger Looking Up Waterfall" @w514Japanese Hanging Scroll "ume Tree And Bird" @e447Japanese Hanging Scroll "bodhidharma" @e463Japanese Hanging Scroll : Kano Tsunenobu "scenery" @e441Japanese Hanging Scroll "peony And Sleeping Cat" @w477Japanese Hanging Scroll "weeping Cherry Tree And Moon" @w484Japanese Hanging Scroll : Kano Eishin Yasunobu "arhat And Tiger" @e438Japanese Hanging Scroll : Senrei "country House" @e385Jiku21778 Ajhk Japan Scroll Shibata Zeshin Tango Japanese Hanging Scroll : Gado "moon And Raccoon Dog" @e505Japanese Hanging Scroll : Kaishun "moon And Two Deers In Autumn" @w485Japanese Hanging Scroll : Kano Tanshin Morimasa "reddish Pink Ume Tree" @w515A Nice Antique Vintage Chinese Silk Ancestral Portrait Scroll Painting C 19th CJapanese Hanging Scroll : Nagasawa Rosetsu "rising Sun And Three Puppies" @w521Japanese Hanging Scroll : Tansai "flowers And Birds" @e426D920: Japanese Old Hanging Scroll Rabbit With Good Atmosphere.Japanese Hanging Scroll : Suiho "two Carp" @e396#2145 Japanese Hanging Scroll: River LandscapeAntique Japanese Hanging Scroll - 'cranes, Rising Sun & Pine 鶴旭日松' Meiji C1900Japanese Hanging Scroll : Hashimoto Kansetsu "bat And Willow" W/box @w523Japanese Hanging Scroll : Suzuki Shonen "rising Sun And Pine Tree" @w516Japanese Hanging Scroll "ume Tree And Bush Warbler" @w498Japanese Hanging Scroll : Chikuun "dragon" @e366#2150 Japanese Hanging Scroll: Lady PerformerJapanese Hanging Scroll : Nakajima Raisho "moon And Cherry Tree" @e492