THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Asian and African studies blog

4 posts from February 2019

14 February 2019

Jewish love potions: a user's guide

Would you like some help in your pursuit of your beloved? Our Hebrew manuscript collection can offer numerous love potion recipes and incantations, and now is the best time of year to share some of this wisdom with you.

Whether you are a diligent pupil of magic, or just a desperately love sick muggle, you can find a long list of love potions, incantations and amulets by browsing our digitised Jewish manuscripts. Finding the required ingredients and following all of the instructions might prove to be much more difficult. What鈥檚 more, the preparation of many of these potions involves starving animals to death, slaughtering, or mutilating them. Such cruelty would be unacceptable nowadays, even in the name of love. Luckily, we have been able to find some less gruesome prescriptions.

The collection at the British Library holds several manuscripts on folk medicine and kabbalistic-medical miscellanies, mostly from the 16th-18th century. Many contain prescriptions of kabbalistic amulets alongside with medical remedies, which demonstrates the lack of a strict differentiation between what we would now call medicine, magic, and astrology. Superstition and the belief in supernatural powers were an inherent part of folk medicine. So do not be surprised if you find a love potion after a protective incantation against dogs, or after a recipe on how to stop nose bleeding.

Or 12362_30v-31r
士Ets ha-da士at
by Elisha士 ben Gad of Anconah, Italy, 1535/6: love potion and amulet (right), incantation to obtain favour in the eyes of kings and princes (left) (BL Or 12362 , ff. 30v-31r)
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The majority of these magical/medical manuscripts are small in size, and don鈥檛 look anything special at first sight. One exception is a 16th-century Italian copy of 士Ets ha-da士at (Tree of Knowledge) by Elisha ben Gad of Ancona, a treatise containing 125 kabbalistic formulae (keme士ot). Our copy was written in a neat Italian hand and is decorated with initial-word panels and diagrams throughout. Do not trust the pretty looks though. The scribe made a fatal mistake when copying this love potion.

Image 2-Or 12362 f.30r_2000
士Ets ha-da士at by Elisha士 ben Gad of Anconah, Italy, 1535/6: love potion recipe (BL Or 12362 , f. 30r)
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诇讗讛讘讛 鈥 诇讛专讘讜转 讗讛讘讛 讘讬谉 讞转谉 讜讻诇讛 讻砖转讘讗 讛讻诇讛 诪讛讞讜驻讛 诇讗讞专 讙诪专 注砖讬讬转 讛讘专讻讛 讻转讜讘 砖诐 砖谞讬讛诐 注诐 讚讘砖 注诇 讘' 注诇讬 住诇讜讜讬讗讛 讜转谉 诇讗讻讜诇 讛注诇讛 砖讻转讜讘 注诇讬讜 讛讗讬砖 诇讗讬砖 讜砖诐 讛讗砖讛 诇讗砖讛

For love 鈥 to increase love between bridegroom and bride 鈥 when the bride comes from the huppah [canopy under which the Jewish couple is standing during the wedding ceremony] after finishing saying the blessing, write their names in honey onto two sage leaves and give the leaf with the man鈥檚 name on it to the man and the one with the woman鈥檚 name on it to the woman.

A less impressive volume from the 18th-19th century includes the same recipe but this time correctly (Or 10268). Can you spot the difference?

Image 3-Or 10268 f.10r_2000
Collection of medical recipes, Italy?, 18th-19th century: love potion (BL Or 10268 , f. 10r)
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诇讛专讘讜转 讗讛讘讛 讘讬谉 讞转谉 讜讻诇讛 鈥 讻砖讬讘讗讜 诪讛讞讜驻讛 诇讗讞专 注砖讬讬转 讛讘专讻讛 讻转讜讘 砖诐 砖谞讬讛诐 注诐 讚讘砖 注诇 讘' 注诇讬 住诇讜讜讬讗讛 讜转谉 诇讗讻讜诇 讛注诇讛 砖讻转讜讘 注诇讬讜 砖诐 讛讗讬砖 诇讗砖讛 讜砖诐 讛讗砖讛 诇讗讬砖

To increase love between bridegroom and bride 鈥 when they come from the huppah after saying the blessing, write their names in honey onto two sage leaves and give the leaf with the man鈥檚 name on it to the woman and [the one with] the woman鈥檚 name to the man.

This latter manuscript might have been someone鈥檚 personal notebook, who took better care when recording the recipe compared to the scribe of the neat looking Italian volume (Or 12362), perhaps because it was for his personal usage?

The recipe must have been considered a very effective one, since we also found it in an abridged form, in a 17th-century Ashkenazi collection of recipes and kabbalistic charms, probably written in today鈥檚 Belarus or Lithuania. This version written in Hebrew peppered with some Yiddish, recommends to apply the potion before the wedding night:

Image 4-Or 10568 f.10v_2000
Collection of kabbalistic charms and remedies, 17th century: love potion (in the middle) between instructions on how to avoid persecution and how to find favour in the eyes of rulers (BL Or 10568 , f. 10v)
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诇讗讛讘讛 讞转谉 讜讻诇讛 讘诇讬诇讛 专讗砖讜谞讛 讬拽讞 讘' 讝注诇讘谉 讘诇注讟讬专 讜讻转讜讘 注诇讬讜 讘讚讘砖 讜转谉 诇讜 诇讗讻诇 砖诪讜 讜砖诪讛

For love between groom and bridegroom at the first night: take 2 Selben(sic!) bletter (鈥榮age leaves鈥, in Yiddish) and write on them in honey and give him (ie. them) to eat his name and her name.

It seems that it would be quite easy to make this recipe, and it might be delicious. However, if you do not manage to charm your beloved with honey and sage leaves, you can also experiment with some of the more laborious, but also more gruesome prescriptions. A 17th-century Italian folk medicine collection includes a recipe for a creamy substance that, after having applied it on your face and body, allegedly makes you irresistible. We have not tried it, and are rather sceptical about its success鈥 Moreover, on a practical note, the identification of some of the ingredients is challenging.

Image 5-Or 10161 f.34r_2000
Collection of folk remedies, Italy, 17th century: love potion (BL Or 10161 , f. 34r)
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诇讗讛讘讛 拽讞 注讬谉 爪驻专讚注 讛谞拽' 讘讜讟谉 讜注讬谉 注讜专讘 讜转注专讘诐 注诐 砖诪谉 专讜住讟谉 讜诪砖讞 驻谞讬讱 讜讙讜驻讱 讜讬讗讛讘讜讱 讻诇 讛讗讚诐 讜转诪爪讗 讞谉 讘注讬谞讬 讻诇 专讜讗讬讱 讘讗讛专

For love: take an eye of a frog called 'boten' and an eye of crow and mix them with 'rus峁璦n' oil and rub it onto your face and body, and every man will love you and you will find favour in the eyes of all those who see you [鈥

The next recipe found in another 17th-century medical collection is much easier to prepare, though it may be tricky to administer it to the person of your desire.

Image 6-Or 10462 f.11v_2000
Collection of remedies, Orient, 17th century: love potion (Or 10462 , f. 11v)
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注"讗 - 讞转讜讱 爪驻专谞讬讱 讘住讻讬谉 讗讞"讻 专讞爪谉 讘诪讬诐 讜转谉 诇砖转讜转 诇诪讬 砖转专爪讛 讜讗讛讘讱 讗讜 讞转讜讱 讘讜 转驻讜讞 讜谞转谞讛讜 诇讗讻讜诇

One more [for love] 鈥 cut your nails with a knife and then rinse them in water and give it to drink to whoever you want to fall in love with you or slice up some apple with the nails [put the nail into the apple] and give it to eat.

If you prefer not to bend over a cauldron for hours stirring concoctions, uttering the right magical formulae may also help. You only need a good mirror and some proficiency in medieval magical Hebrew, because the instructions are a bit confusing鈥

Image 7-Or 10568 f.12r_2000
Collection of cabbalistic charms and remedies, 17th century: love magic (BL Or 10568 , f. 12r)
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诇讗讛讘讛 拽讞 诪专讗讛 讟讬讛专讗 讜砖驻讬专讗 讜转讗诪专 诇诪专讗讛 转转住讻诇 讘爪讜专转讬 讜讗谞讬 讗住转讻诇 讘爪讜专转讱 讜讗转讛 转住转讻诇 讘爪讜专转' 讜转讗讛讘转讛 讗讜转讛 注诇讬讜 讜讻谉 转注砖讛 讙' 讬诪讬诐 讝讛 讗讞专 讝讛 讜转谞讞 注诇讬讜 讙' 诇讬诇讜转 讜转讗讛讘讜讱

For love 鈥 take a clear and good mirror and say to the mirror: 鈥楲ook at my figure and I will look at your figure and you look at her figure and you will make her fall in love with him.鈥 Do this for three consecutive days and lie on it (the mirror) for three nights and she will love you.

Our collection can offer advice and help also for those who have already found the love of their life, but something or someone has cast a shadow over their marital bliss. This next recipe is especially recommended if you suspect that someone put a curse on your husband. Or if you just want to have a tasty breakfast together.

Image 8-Or 10462 f.11r_2000
Image 8-Or 10462 f.11v_2000
Collection of remedies, Orient, 17th century: love potion preceded by a recipe to stop menstrual bleeding (BL Or 10462, f. 11r-11v)
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诇讗讛讘讛 讘讬谉 讗讬砖 诇讗砖转讜 讜讗驻讬' 诪讻讜砖祝 拽讞 诪讬诐 诪谉 谞讛专讜转 讜讬讬谉 讜诪讜专 讜驻诇驻诇 讜砖谞讬 讘爪讬 讬讜谞讬诐 讜砖谞讬 讘爪讬 转专谞讙讜诇转 讜砖讞拽诐 讜注专讘 讛讻诇 讬讞讚 讜讛砖拽讛 讛讗讬砖 讜讗转 讛讗砖讛 讜讬讗讛讘讜 讝讛 讗转 讝讛

For love between husband and his wife or even he is under a spell [i.e. impotent]: take spring water, wine, and myrrh, and pepper, and two dove eggs and two hen eggs and break them, and mix them together, and give the mixture to drink to the man and the woman, and they will love each other.

Good luck in your amorous endeavours and if you try any of these recipes, please, send us feedback on how they worked.

Zsofi Buda, BL Hebrew Project
 CC-BY-SA

11 February 2019

Javanese poetics and canto indicators: Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24)

Today鈥檚 guest blog, highlighting one of the most important Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta which has just been digitised, is by Dr Dick van der Meij from Hamburg University's DREAMSEA project which digitises endangered manuscripts in Southeast Asia.

Javanese texts are generally written in a non-rhyming poetic form called tembang macapat. Within each metre, verses consist of stanzas with a fixed number of lines, a fixed number of syllables per line, and a fixed vowel in the last syllable of each line. There are about 30 different metres, some of which are short and have only four lines per stanza, while others are substantially longer and have as many as ten lines per stanza. Each metre has its own name, with some used more often than others, while some are rarely encountered. [For further information on tembang macapat see Arps 1992 and Van der Meij 2017, Chapter 4 and Appendix 3.]

Most Javanese texts consist of more than one canto in any number of different metres. Canto changes are usually indicated by small intricate indicators called pepadan, which are often very beautifully illuminated in colours and gold, and thus stand out on the page, as in the illustration below from Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24).

Mss_jav_24_f046v-47r
An illuminated canto indicator, pepadan, standing out on the left-hand page, in Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yogyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 46v-47r   noc

Other manuscripts do not have clear canto change indications, and the places where new cantos start are virtually invisible on the written page, and only become apparent when the canto change has been reached while reading or singing the text. Experienced singers are able to identify immediately the metre of the next canto from the use of certain key words in the final lines of the current canto, or in the first lines of the next. For instance, the name of the metre dhangdhanggula contains the word dhandhang which is a bird, and gula which means sugar. Dhandhanggula is thus indicated by words that also mean 'bird' or 'sugar', or by extension 鈥榮weet鈥, or contain the syllable dhang. A small bird or wings may even be depicted pictorially in the pepadan. However, readers should be aware that this is not a golden rule, and some scribes play tricks to confuse the singer.

Mss_jav_24_f046v-det
Detail of a pepadan with wings, and with the word manis, 鈥榮weet鈥, in the preceding line, both indicating dhandhanggula as the new metre.  British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 46v  noc

Mss_jav_27-f.50v
Jatikusuma, copied in Yogyakarta, 1766. A little bird is put in the pepadan to indicate that the metre that follows is dhandhanggula, while the words gula drawa before the pepadan mean 鈥榤elted sugar鈥 and thus also point to the same metre. British Library, MSS Jav 27, f. 50v  noc

In Javanese poetic theory, each metre evokes a certain emotion, and are thus used for parts of text that suggest that particular state of mind. Below, we will have a look at how some of these canto changes have been indicated in MSS Jav 24 in the British Library. The text is a story called Jaya Lengkara Wulang, and the book was written in 1803 at the palace of Yogyakarta in central Java.  The text has 434 pages and consists of no fewer than 92 cantos. It has beautifully ornamented opening pages and also other illuminations that enhance the beauty of the manuscript. Interestingly, in this manuscript, with one exception, these ornaments all coincide with canto changes in the text.

Mss_jav_24_ff002v-003r
Opening pages of Jaya Lengkara Wulang; at the start of the text on the left-hand page the metre is clearly stated to be Dhandhanggula. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 2v-3r  noc

The manuscript has 25 illuminated pages, of which four have been left unfinished. On two other pages, space was left empty to allow for illuminations to be added, but these were evidently never made for one reason or another. Thus although the text seems to be complete, the manuscript itself is unfinished. All punctuation marks in the text have red signs above them up to folio 168r (except for f. 57v) after which the addition of these marks is discontinued, and the pepadan are coloured only in yellow or not at all. Also, no gold leaf was applied after this page.

The scribe of the manuscript and the illuminator were probably not the same person but worked closely together. Remarkably, elaborate illumination at the top of a page always coincides with the start of a new canto. This means that the scribe knew exactly how many cantos a page could contain, and worked to ensure that the final canto always ended precisely at the end of the last line of the page. Folios 30v and 31r have full-page illuminations reminiscent of those at the start of the manuscript, but in this case the new canto starts at the end of the text within the illuminated frames, rather than at the beginning.

Mss_jav_24_ff030v-031r
The second set of full page illuminations. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 30v-31r  noc

The relation between the illuminations that start cantos is not easy to establish. Often the illuminated elements actually illustrate the start of a new episode in the text, but for outsiders and people not truly versed in Javanese texts and illuminative iconography this is often very hard to understand. In some cases the symbolism is quite clear, for instance, the lion and the crocodile in the illuminated panel shown below may suggest the names of the kings of Pringgabaya and Singasari, as baya points to a crocodile and singa a lion.

Mss_jav_24_f129r  Mss_jav_24_f129v
 On f. 129r, shown on the left, the text in metre durma ends at the end of the page. On the next page, f. 129v, the new metre kinanthi is the first word in the illuminated panel. Note the red marks above the punctuation signs. British Library, MSS Jav 34, f. 129r and f. 129v  noc

Because of the characters of the various metres we can sometimes decide what the relationship between the illuminated pepadan and the text is, although I believe that these characters are not fixed. For instance, the metre durma is used, among others, for scenes of war but in my view pangkur can also be used for this. Thus the word 鈥dur鈥 indicative of durma in manuscripts is sometimes used for pangkur too. In this manuscript of Jaya Lengkara Wulang, the fiery character of both durma and pangkur is indicated by the same elaborate illustrations of war equipment like cannon and flags, as in folio 139v below where a canto in durma starts.

Mss_jav_24_f139r
Battle standards and guns indicating the metre durma. British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 139r  noc

However, in the next illustration the canto starts with the metre pangkur but the illustration is very similar to the one above.

Mss_jav_24_f057v
The text starts in the metre pangkur, suggested by the war-like assemblage. Note the absence of red marks above the punctuation signs. British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 57v   noc

Some idea of the production process of the manuscript can perhaps be deduced from the fact that the text is finished but the illuminations are not. Occasionally the change in canto between one page and the next is not accompanied by any illumination, and the pepadan is divided in two, with one half on the first page and the other on the next. In the half of the pepadan at the bottom of folio 167v colour was added but the second part on the next folio not, and also not in pepadan after this page. Apparently, the scribe wrote the text and probably also made the black and white pepadan, while someone else applied the colours and the gold leaf to the pepadan and was responsible for the illuminated panels. One might even wonder if a third person was involved for the illuminations, but at present we have no way of knowing. Perhaps the artist who made the illuminations and the scribe worked closely together to decide what the illuminations should look like and where they should be put but this too is conjecture. We need to study many more illuminated and illustrated Javanese manuscripts in order to work out how they were actually produced.

Mss_jav_24_f167v-det    Mss_jav_24_f168r-det
The first half of the pepadan at the bottom of f. 167v marking the new canto is illuminated with gold and colours, while at the top of the next page, the only colour added to the second half of the pepadan is yellow (indicating elements to be gilded with gold leaf). British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 167v and f. 168r  noc

References
Arps, Ben (1992). Tembang in two traditions: performance and interpretation of Javanese literature. London: School of Oriental and African Studies.
Ricklefs, M.C., P. Voorhoeve and Annabel Teh Gallop (2014). Indonesian Manuscripts in Great Britain. A catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: 脡cole Fran莽aise d鈥橢xtr锚me Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia.
Van der Meij, Dick (2017). Indonesian manuscripts from the islands of Java, Madura, Bali and Lombok. Leiden: Brill.

Dick van der Meij, Hamburg  ccownwork

07 February 2019

Classical Central Asia in the Digital Age: Three Newly-Digitised Navoiy Manuscripts at the British Library

Thanks to a partnership between the British Library and the Tashkent State University of Uzbek Language and Literature named Alisher Navoiy, three manuscripts including the poetical works of Alisher Navoiy are now available online. These three items are the first Chagatai-language texts to be uploaded to the Library鈥檚 digitised manuscript holdings, a sample of the more than 110 Chagatai and Central Asian Turkic manuscripts held by the British Library as part of its Turkish and Turkic collections.

Or_3493_f004v
A leaf from the Muntakhab-i D墨v膩n-i Nav膩'墨 with richly decorated paper appliqu茅s and gold-leaf. Despite the water damage, the manuscript has retained its luxurious beauty. Herat, 15th-16th century (BL Or. 3493, f. 4v)
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All three works contain Divans, or poetical compendia, of the work of Alisher Navoiy, also known as 鈥楢li Sh墨r Nav膩鈥櫮. Navoiy was born in 1441 CE in Herat, Afghanistan, at a time when it was part of the Timurid Empire, and died in the same city in 1501 CE. He is the national poet of Uzbekistan and is regarded as one of the great poets of the mediaeval Turkic world. His broad oeuvre is a testament to the cultural, intellectual and social flowering of Khorasan in the 15th century CE, and to the importance of Herat in the broad mosaic of Turkic cultural production. The works are also an introduction to classical Chagatai, the literary language of Turkic Central Asia and Siberia. Little known or studied today outside of specialist circles, Chagatai was also the language of the Mughals, who established their reign over parts of the Indian Subcontinent in 1526.

Or_3493_f005v
A rare sketch from inside the Muntakhab-i i D墨v膩n-i Nav膩'墨 showing a Central Asian man in traditional dress. Herat, 15th-16th century (BL Or. 3493, f. 5v)
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Or.3493, the most delicate of our digitised Chagatai manuscripts, is a marvel to behold. Only 9 folios in length, this collection of poems from Navoiy鈥檚 divan dazzles with its creator鈥檚 penchant for brightly-coloured paper appliqu茅s, gold illumination, and sweeping, bold nastaliq calligraphy. The presence of blue, yellow, green and pink blocks in between the stanzas gives the entire text an architectonic feel; a 3D illusion that draws in the reader. This pattern is broken only by the use of gold separators on later pages, and the appearance of a portly, kneeling Central Asian man on one of the manuscript鈥檚 middle folios. Despite occasional water damage 鈥 and the fact that the content is itself defective 鈥 this small volume remains a testament to the capacity of Herat鈥檚 manuscripts producers to create items of luxury and beauty as well as those of functional purpose.

Or_11249_f001v
The beginning of the D墨v膩n-i F膩n墨, including its sparsely decorated 'unv膩n. Central Asia, 916 AH (BL Or. 11249, f. 1v)
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Or.11249, produced in 916 AH (1509-10 CE) in Central Asia, is the least studied of the Chagatai items added to our digital collections. Known as both the D墨v膩n-i F膩n墨 and the D墨v膩n-i Nav膩鈥櫮, it is the most comprehensive of the group with respect to Navoiy鈥檚 poetical oeuvre. The use of black ink and red catchwords is far from unusual, and the neatly laid-out nastaliq of the scribe鈥檚 hand leads us to believe that this was likely created within a workshop well-versed in the production of divans and other such works. Occasional marginalia speak to the usage of this volume 鈥 as does the water damage that stains some of its folios. With further in-depth research on its contents, and a comparison with other contemporaneous Central Asian manuscripts, we might come to know the importance of this particular item within the broader scope of Central Asian intellectual traditions.

Add_ms_7914_f025v
The beginning of the text Tukhfat al-sal膩峁玭 at koyuldu, demonstrating the use of different coloured inks to complement the elegant calligraphy. Mecmua. Herat, 914 AH (BL Add MS 7914, f. 25v)
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Add MS 7914, the last of the three manuscripts, is not dedicated to Navoiy exclusively. A mecmua or codex of various works compiled in Herat in 914 AH (1507-08 CE), it contains a variety of different texts created by nine different authors in a myriad of styles. Its breadth of poetic and prose creation and intellectual inspiration speak volumes about the interplay of Turkic and Persian literary traditions across Eurasia. Within these is found Navoiy鈥檚 Tu岣at al-sal膩峁璱n, a collection of poems copied out by the scribe 鈥楢bd al-Jam墨l K膩tib. The remaining poems are varied in content. Some are works in verse about love and longing, such as Am墨r墨鈥檚 Dah n膩mah, which tells a romantic story through ten letters. Others poeticise the Central Asian martial arts, debate the merits of wine and hashish, or adapt circulating Persian forms into Chagatai poetry, as 岣ydar Talba Khorazm墨鈥檚 didactic poem based on a Persian version by Ni岷撃乵i so aptly demonstrates. This diversity of content is reflected in the construction of the volume, where naskh and nastaliq, black and coloured inks, chaos and clarity make appearances depending on the demands of the individual patrons, and the skill of the particular scribes.

The British Library鈥檚 holdings of Ottoman and Chagatai manuscripts contain another 30-odd texts first penned by Alisher Navoiy. It is our hope that, in the coming years, many more of these will find their way onto Digitised Manuscripts, facilitating more intensive and complete study and enjoyment of Turkic Central Asia鈥檚 literary and cultural heritage.

Michael Erdman, Curator of Turkish and Turkic Collections
 ccownwork

01 February 2019

Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Pig 2019

1. Pig Thai MS
Horoscope for the year of the pig, from a Thai manuscript dated 1885, containing drawings based on the Chinese Zodiac and its animals (BL Or.13650, f.6v )
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In East Asian and South East Asian countries, as well as among overseas communities of Asian origin, traditional celebrations for the start of a New Year are approaching. On the 5th of February, we will leave the year of the Dog , and welcome the year of the Pig. Dog and Pig are part of a series of twelve zodiac animals associated with the Chinese lunisolar calendar. The Pig is the last animal of the twelve-year cycle, and in the Japanese and Tibetan traditions is replaced by the Boar.

2. Boar Japanese MS
Illustration of a boar from Seih艒 gahakuhitsu junishi-j艒 by Takeuchi Seih艒 (c. 1900)  (BL ORB.40/71)
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The lunisolar calendar developed in China from the solar one, and was first introduced during the Zhou dynasty (c.鈥1046 to 256 BC). Years, months and days are calculated taking into account both the phases of the moon and the position of the sun which determines the seasons. Lunisolar calendars require a 鈥渓eap month鈥 or an 鈥渋ntercalary month鈥 every one or two years. People born during the Year of the Pig, are thought to be clever, calm, mature and well-mannered, but sometimes na茂ve and insecure.

3. Japanese toy pig
Illustration from the Japanese album of toys Omochabako (BL ORB 40/950)
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Zhu Baijie (璞叓鎴, where the first character means 鈥減ig鈥) is probably the most famous pig in Chinese literature. He is one of the main characters of the novel Journey to the West (瑗块亰瑷榅i you ji) by Wu Cheng鈥檈n, published in 1592. The novel narrates the pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang to India and Central Asia along the Silk Road to gather and take to China Buddhist texts. During his journey, he meets three creatures who become his disciples to atone for their past sins: Sun Wukong (the Monkey), Zhu Bajie (the Pig) and Sha Wujing (a water monster or 鈥淢onk Sha鈥).

4. Xiyou ji
Page 494 from the 18th century woodblock printed edition of the Xiyouji depicting four characters of the novel travelling: Tang Sanzang on horseback, Zhu Bajie and Sun Wukong with martial arts sticks, and Sha Wujing bringing up the rear (BL 15271.c.13, page 494)
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The Chinese New Year is welcomed with fireworks, whose sound, together with the sound of drums and music, is meant to scare away the demon Nian (written 骞, like the character for year). Delicious food is put on the table and chun lian (written鏄ヨ伅: good wishes for the new year in form of poems, usually on red paper) are pasted on the entrance doors.

5. chunlian writer
Calligrapher preparing chun lian (BL Or. 11539, folio 34)
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Our Curator Han-lin Hsieh wrote a chun lian to wish all our readers a very Happy Chinese New Year!

6. Poem

 

 

Happy New Year from us to you,

May your triumphs be big,

In the year of the Pig,

And success come with all that you do.

 

 

 

 


Sara Chiesura, Han-lin Hsieh, Hamish Todd (East Asian Collections)
With thanks to Emma Harrison
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