He captures the nature of the tale and exhibits it through the most minute details, ultimately improving Dai Jins presentation of the story.
The legend of Shen-kuang and Bodhidharma tells the story of the traveler Bodhidharma, who resigned himself to meditating in a Shaolin Temple in the country of Wei for nine years. At some point, the disciple Shen-kuang came to seek out Bodhidharma. He stood in the snow, waiting, for hours without any acknowledgment. Just before dawn, Bodhidharma turned and informed Shen-kuang that frivolously searching the Buddhas teaching was pointless, as one sought such knowledge at the risk of their own life. Upon hearing this, Shen-kuang lopped off his arm with a sword. He offered it to Bodhidharma, who concluded that Shen-kuang should be his successor. In performing an act of sacrifice to prove his dedication of his own volition instead of at the instruction of Bodhidharma, Shen-kuang proved himself worthy of the teachings of the Buddha.
Both Dai Jin and Sesshu are masters of visual language. Dai Jins work is recognizable as a continuation of southern Song Dynasty art, and he relies on intricate details and sharp contrast in tone and texture to create interest in the piece. The appearance of the subjects is almost realistic, and the large focus of the painting allows the viewer to analyze the surroundings and place the location of the painting. On the other hand, Sesshus artwork is more simplistic with many of his lines and overall shapes. He uses visual metaphors in order to further his theme, however, and this is ultimately what makes him a more successful storyteller.
The composition of the two paintings differs greatly, with the greatest divergence being the scale of the works. While Dai Jins painting shows the two figures at a distance at a birds eye view, Sesshus layout is more intimate, concentrating on Shen-kuang and