Pine Tree

Title:  Pine Trees/松林図屏風(Shorin-zu-byobu)

Creator: Hasegawa Touhaku

Material/Medium: Ink on paper, diptych, screen wall

Date: 1568-1600 (Momoyama Era)

Culture: Japan

Dimensions:  Each panel 156.8 × 356 cm (61.73 × 140.16 in)

Repository: Tokyo National Museum


Hasegawa Tōhaku’s Pine Trees is a large byōbu with six panels and measures 5’ 1” high by 11’ 4” wide. It depicts a grove of pines surrounded by mist at the moist and flurrying mountain peak. The trees in the far-right panel tilt diagonally, suggesting the uneven terrain of the mountain. Moreover, the tilted trees fill one whole panel, balancing the empty right of the picture. It creates a secondary focal point, making the screen more intriguing. Tohaku used different brush strokes skills. The foreground tree is depicted using short, bold, and dry brush strokes; the trees in the second panel feature long, pale, and wet strokes. Even though the ink is monochrome, Hasegawa’s different strokes give spirit to this painting.

The minimal elements and monochrome ink represent Japanese Zen, forming an atmospheric, peaceful, and meditative painting. The blurred pines at the back are of mystery, giving self-imagination for audiences. Additionally, Zen is illustrated by the fading trees. Zen says that people should find a way to become buddha individually, and be empty or vacuous are an important process. The blank in the painting shows vacuity, leaving audiences to figure out themselves. Thus, the image shows Zen’s idea of “nothing is everything.”


Singer W James, “Painting of the Week: Hasegawa Tōhaku, Pine Trees.” Dailyart, last modified May 23, 2021.

Tokyo National Museum, “Pine Trees.” Google Arts & Culture, Accessed at Dec. 12, 2021.

Author: Aoye Yuan

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