Prince Asa (阿佐太子)

Prince Asa (also known as Asa Taishi or Ajatesa, 557-631) was a son of King Widok (Baekje) in Baekje. He supposedly came to Japan and drew portraits.

According to the "Nihonshoki" (the oldest chronicles of Japan), he came over Japan in April, 597 and made a portrait of Prince Shotoku. The painting presently stored in the Japanese Imperial Household Agency is believed to be the oldest portrait in Japan. Regarding the form of the portrait, it has a construct that Prince Shotoku is placed between another two princes (Prince Yamashiro no oe on the right side, while Eguri-O on the other side, as the story goes) drawn a little smaller than Prince Shotoku. This layout is also thought to be a construct of Sansonbutsu (three Buddhist deities) affected by Buddhism, or often interpreted as a construct originated from a composition technique of the time, which is found in "歴代帝王島圏 the Rekidai Teio Zumaki" (The Thirteen Emperors Scroll) of Yan Liben (a Chinese painter and government official of the early Tang Dynasty).

Theories abound about when this image--currently the subject of considerable debate in Japan's academic world--was made; most such theories judge from the clothes worn by the Prince and his attendants to assert either that it is a work dating from the late Hakuho period (645-710 C.E.) or that it is a Kamakura period copy.

It is quite possible that Prince Asa did make a portrait of Prince Shotoku, considering the active cultural exchange between Baekje and Japan at that time, during the Three Kingdoms period (of Korean history); however, the matter is still in doubt, due to stylistic problems with such an attribution and the fact that historical records in the Republic of Korea do not mention Prince Asa.