Japanese Screen Paintings of the Ninth and Tenth Centuries

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  • The Smithsonian InstitutionRegents of the University of Michigan

    Japanese Screen Paintings of the Ninth and Tenth CenturiesAuthor(s): Kenji TodaSource: Ars Orientalis, Vol. 3 (1959), pp. 153-166Published by: Freer Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian Institution and Department of the Historyof Art, University of MichiganStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4629105 .Accessed: 16/06/2014 01:35

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    THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE JAPANESE byobu-e, the painting of folding screens, reached its climax in a period from the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth century. The famous Momoyama screens, the paintings of early ukiyo-e, and the works by Honnami Koetsu (I558-I627), Tawaraya S6tatsu (?-i643), and Ogata K6rin ( I 65 5-I 7 I 6) can be studied together as the products of a continued move- ment of that period. Although these screen paintings are of diverse form and subject mat- ter, some unmistakable characteristics of the Yamnato-e seem to predominate in a majority of them. Byobu-e works preceding this period include the ink paintings of the Chinese school of the fifteenth century and some Yamato-e figures and landscapes by Tosa painters such as Hirochika, his son Mitsunobu (I 434-I525) and Mitsunobu's son Mitsushige. Yamato-e screens older than the fifteenth century are very rare. A few extant examples like the two-panel screen of lotus flowers and birds attributed to Kanaoka, in the Horyuiji, or the two six-panel senzui-by6bu of the Toji and Jingoji, do not give us complete data of the early development of this most important part of Japanese painting.

    It may be possible for one to trace the characteristics of Japanese screen paintings through the few early works like those men- tioned above, and from many varieties of pictures found in scroll paintings, but because of the lack of adequate records, the full extent of byobu-e done in the ninth and tenth cen- turies, when Japanese painting fully matured, remains rather obscure. The present study is an attempt to find material for such a record from collections of Japanese poems.

    Japanese poetry of 3I syllables called

    waka, Yamato-uta, or simply uta, is found in its crude form in the mythology of the Kojiki. It probably was established as the national form in the early fourth century. We find that of the total of 4,496 poems contained in the oldest collection, the Manyo-shui, 4,I73 are of this form of 3 I syllables. The history of the Manyo-shui is not clear, but the poems con- tained in it cover the period of Soo years from the fourth to the eighth centuries.

    It is to be remembered that the influence of Chinese literature was already prevalent in Japan at the time of three representative poets of Manyo, Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (ca. 662-7I0), Yamanoe no Okura (?-733), and Otomo no Yakamochi (?-785). The oldest collection of Japanese poems in Chinese form, called Kaifu So, contains I20 poems by 64 poets. This collection has its preface dated Tempy6 Sh6h6 3 (A.D. 751). The compiler's name is not given but the work has been at- tributed to Aumi no Mifune (722-785), a great-grandson of Prince Otomo (648-672) who was the eldest son of Emperor Tenchi. We find that some of the poets represented in the Manyo have their Chinese poetry given in the Kaifiu So. Three collections of Japanese poems in Chinese form were compiled under Emperor Saga (8 I 0-823), who was person- ally interested in Chinese poetry and cal- ligraphy. It seems that most of the poets represented in these collections specialized in the Chinese form, but in a few cases we find poets who could write proficiently in both Japanese and Chinese forms. This coexistence of native and foreign forms of poetry and their interactions that made for variety in the elements of Japanese culture present one of the interesting problems in the study of Far

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    Eastern art. The native and the foreign lines never developed in parallel; one may be domi- nant at a certain period, while the other may rise again after years of comparative inaction. Thus we find the revival of native elements in the compilation of Kokin-waka-shiu, the first imperial collection of Japanese poetry, in A.D. 905.

    In the succeeding three centuries seven more imperial collections of waka were com- piled. They are: Gosen-waka-shui of 95 I, Shui-waka-shui of 997 (?), Go Shiii-waka-shi of io86, Kiny&-waka-shfi of I I28, Shika- waka-shui of I I 5 I, Senzai-waka-shu of i i 88, and Shin Kokin-waka-shiu of I205. The total of eight collections including the first Kokin- shui (the word waka is omitted in the common reading of the titles of these collections) are called the Hachi-dai-shui, the "Collections of the Eight Eras." There are altogether 2 1 imperial collections; the last, called Shin-zoku Kokin-waka-shui, was compiled in I439.

    Some of the poems included in these col- lections may reflect only the sophisticated plays of court nobles and ladies, but the works of more serious poets, to whom the study of uta meant their lifework, are inspired with a quality akin to good music. The phonetic character of the Japanese language and its significance in poetry can be understood only by those who are brought up with the lan- guage. In order to condense ideas in the limited form, a highly concentrated selection of words must be made. The beauty and effectiveness of expression depend upon the tone and rhythm in the arrangement of those words, which come only from the sincerity of emotions and not from artifices. This was strongly pointed out by Ki no Tsurayuki (?- 946) in his introduction to the Kokin-shu, and it was upon this principle of emotional sin- cerity and refinement as the basic criterion that the selections of poems were made. Thus each

    collection represents the standard of the era in which it was made. The New Year Imperial Poetry Party of present-day Japan has its origin in this tradition of such periodic selec- tions of poems.

    It has been well known among the students of Japanese poetry that an unusually large number of poems contained in the Shuii-shui were written on painted screens. The impor- tance of these poems as a record of paintings is obvious, since in their dates, descriptions, and appreciations they represent authentic material without a trace of attempts made in later periods to change their original aspects. The Shuii-shu has therefore been taken as the chief source of the present study, with other collections of Hachi-dai-shui and a few col- lections of individual poets as additional references.

    The selection of poems for the Shuii-shui was made under Emperor Kazan (968-Ioo8), who, after his short reign of 985-986, abdi- cated and spent the rest of his life in retire- ment. He was a poet and a painter, and it is considered that his interest in painting was responsible for the unusual number of poems on paintings contained in this collection.' The actual selection of the poems was made by Fujiwara no Kint6 (966-104I), who is noted for his selection of the 36 immortal poets.

    A definite form of the collection of Japa- nese poems was established with the compila- tion of the Kokin-shui. The poems are classified into nine groups: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Love, Miscellaneous, Felicitation, Travel (Farewell), and Lamentation. There may be a minor group or two added to this

    1 There is another collection called Shuii-sho which contains fewer poems than Shui-shiu, and the question as to which of the two represents the original selec- tion has not been definitely settled among the special- ists. For our present purpose the Shiui-shui is prefer- able because of the greater amount of material con- tained in it.

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    classification, according to individual pref- erences, but the order of these nine divisions is generally constant. It is significant to find that the poems of the four seasons are always given first in all collections. The four seasons signify man's contact with nature, and the place of nature in Japanese cultural life is clearly reflected in this tradition in poetry. In the I 7-syllable haiku, developed after the early sixteenth century, special emphasis is given to the topic of the four seasons.

    There are I,353 poems in the Shuii-shia. Of this total number, 42 I are in the group of Four Seasons, and 446 are in the group of Love. The majority of poem


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