Asian Art Museum of San Francisco Kotozaki Hachimangu Shrine Hakozaki Hachimangu Shrine Awajishima Yura Minato Shrine Umi-Mori Art Museum Staatsbibliothek Berlin

The Hachiman Digital Handscrolls Project (HDH) is a pilot study to enhance digital presentations of movable image-and-text formats. The innovative open source system HyperImage is the pivotal tool employed to realize the aims of the project.

HDH offers an innovative access to seven digitized Japanese illuminated hand scrolls ranging from the 14th to the 19th century. Each version tells the same story: The first part covers the prehistoric pregnant Empress Jingū and her alleged conquest of the Korean kingdoms by help of indigenous deities. This colorful myth is followed by the empress’s birth of the future Emperor Ōjin, and his manifestation as the Hachiman deity. Hachiman’s miraculous appearances and oracles as well as the foundation tales of the most famous Hachiman shrines cover the second part of the scrolls. The title of the scrolls reflects the gist of the scrolls, “Karmic Origins of the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.”

The HyperImage environment allows the user not only to manipulate the speed of viewing and zooming in on details of the entire hand scrolls, but also provides transcriptions of the calligraphies and offers English translations. Additionally, the user may opt to use extensive annotations on the materiality, depicted motifs, calligraphic styles and political, religious or ritual background information. Furthermore, the seven scrolls can be flexibly compared with each other.

The great variety, but also the similarities of style, contents, and interpretation of this highly influential narrative over the centuries will be presented at the users’ fingertips. In sum, the HDH offers the opportunity to experience Japanese handscrolls in ways, which reflect virtually how viewers at the time may have looked at one set of handscrolls, while at the same time offering possibilities of comparisons and supplemented knowledge, that were not possible until recently.

Version I of the project was funded by the Excellence Initiative at Heidelberg University, Field of Focus 3 “Cultural Dynamics in a Globalized World,” subcategory "Core Facilities", sponsored by the German Research Foundation between March 2014 and February 2015. The project was extended and completed in October 2015 with funds of the project head.

The overwhelming success of the project (see response) and valuable feedback from visitors of the site resulted in an expansion of the HDH project, funded by the project head. Version II consisted of a seminar (see below), and the addition of Japanese translations, and will be inaugurated on March 1, 2017.



Project Members

Matthias Arnold Member of the Heidelberg Research Architecture
(Cluster of Excellence)
technical advisor
Virginia Clauß M.A. student in Japanese Studies student assistant
and translator
Eric Decker Coordinator of the Heidelberg Research Architecture
(Cluster of Excellence)
technical coordinator
Violetta Janzen B.A. student in Japanese Studies and History student assistant
and coordinator
(10/2014 – 10/2015)
Michael Jürges M.A. student in Transcultural Studies student assistant
and translator
Karolin Randhahn M.A. student in East Asian Art History student assistant
Katharina Rode PhD candidate, Japanese Art Histories coordinator
(03/2014 – 09/2014)
and translator
Klemens Schäfer M.A. student in Japanese Studies student assistant
and main translator
Nathali Stumpf Research assistant affiliated member
Melanie Trede Professor for the Histories of Japanese Art, Heidelberg University, principal investigator at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”
and at the Collaborative Research Centre
“Material Text Cultures”
project head
Ayaka Yokoo M.A. student in East Asian Art History student assistant

External Service Provider

Heinz-Günter Kuper Software developer of HyperImage,
bitGilde IT Solutions, Berlin
Jens-Martin Loebel Software developer of HyperImage,
bitGilde IT Solutions, Berlin


Course “Visual Media/Digital Art History: Practical Training in digital methods and their implementation”
Winter semester 2015–2016


Björn Bride Helga Krutzler Andreas Römer Fengyu Wang
Agnes Dober Florian Linke Yun Shi Litong Xiao
Zhi Geng Eva Murtzen Xin Sun Li Ye
Annekatrin Hagel Guo Qiuzi Clara Tang Xue Yu
Responsible: SH
Latest Revision: 2019-06-28
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