Asian and African studies blog

34 posts categorized "Japan"

06 March 2015

Japan’s first 'curry rice' recipe?

Although it may not rank in gastronomic terms with such delicacies as sushi, sashimi or Kobe beef, “curry rice” (karē raisu カレーライス) is one of Japan’s most popular dishes and favourite comfort foods. Arguably it has more in common with the 19th-century versions of curry served on Royal Navy ships than with original Indian cuisine, and the sauce has a thick, viscous consistency.1  Initially a foreign import, it has become an integral part of Japanese food culture and been adapted and developed in a typical example of Wayō setchū 和洋折衷 – the blending of Japanese and Western influences. Curry rice can be eaten in a wide variety of forms, among the most popular being katsu karē (curry with a breaded pork cutlet on top) and karē don  (thickened curry sauce served on top of a bowl of rice). Nowadays in Japan, curry restaurants are found everywhere and a bewildering array of curry sauce mixes and pre-packed curries fill supermarket shelves.

Japanese curry rice. Photo by (c)Tomo.Yun  http://www.yunphoto.net
Japanese curry rice. Photo by (c)Tomo.Yun  http://www.yunphoto.net

However, curry rice was not always so popular. The British Library’s East Asian Section has recently acquired a copy of Seiyō ryōritsū 西洋料理通  (The Expert on Western Cookery), written by Kanagaki Robun 仮名垣魯文 and published in two volumes by Mankyūkaku 萬笈閣 of Tokyo in 1872.  It is one of the first books on European cooking to be published in Japan and is a milestone in the history of karē raisu.2

Title page of Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689.
Title page of Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689.   noc

In the years following the arrival of the American Commodore Perry and his squadron of “Black Ships” in 1853, the Japanese government gradually opened the country’s ports to foreign trade, turning its back on its isolationist past and embarking on a systematic introduction of Western culture and thought in a programme of modernisation known as “civilisation and enlightenment” (Bunmei kaika 文明開化). Part of this transformation was a belief that the adoption of Western food – and in particular the consumption of beef – would have a beneficial effect on the health and nutritional standards of the Japanese population. As both Japan’s major religions, Buddhism and Shinto, banned eating the flesh of four-legged animals, the campaign to encourage the eating of beef was controversial – at once a symbol of modernity and an attack on traditional culture. In the words of one writer on the subject, “many Japanese considered beefeaters to be both society's most exemplary members and its most ignoble and degenerate”.3

“Foreigners buying vegetables in the morning market inYokohama” from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.12r.
“Foreigners buying vegetables in the morning market inYokohama” from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.12r.  noc
 
Kanagaki Robun (1829-1894), real name Nozaki Bunzō 野崎文蔵, was an author and journalist whose work often satirised the peculiarities of Japanese society in a time of great change. One of his best-known novels Aguranabe 安愚楽鍋 (Sitting Cross-Legged at the Beef Pot), was set in a Tokyo beef restaurant (gyūnabeya) which specialised in serving gyūnabe  牛鍋, the forerunner of the modern sukiyaki. Aguranabe was published in five volumes in 1871-1872 and consists of a series of vignettes which poke fun at the various customers and their blind admiration of all things Western.4

Chinese servant waiting at table. By Kawanabe Kyōsai. From Seiyō ryōritsū.  British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.1 intro f.1v-2r
Chinese servant waiting at table. By Kawanabe Kyōsai. From Seiyō ryōritsū.  British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.1 intro f.1v-2r.  noc

Yet while he was quick to make fun of the foibles of these beefeaters, Robun also subscribed to the idea that Western cuisine might have benefits and wrote Seiyō ryōritsū, as he recorded in the introduction, “to teach our countrymen the cooking of other countries and so aid social intercourse”.  Robun explained that his book was based on a translation of two notebooks written by an English resident of the foreign settlement in Yokohama to show his Japanese servants how to cook Western meals. He lists 70 recipes in four categories: “soups”, “fish”, “sauces”  and “boiling and baking”.5 For each recipe there is a Japanese description with the original English name more or less accurately rendered in Japanese katakana script, followed by the list of ingredients and instructions on preparation.

Recipe 53 is for “curried beef or mutton” while recipe 62 is for “curried veal or fowl” - both involve adding curry powder to a meat stew.  Recipe 62 also describes serving the meal with rice – perhaps the first true “curry rice” recipe ?

Recipe for “curried veal or fowl” from Seiyō ryōritsū.  British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.24v.
Recipe for “curried veal or fowl” from Seiyō ryōritsū.  British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.24v.  noc

Seiyō ryōritsū contains nine illustrations by Kawanabe Kyōsai (or Gyōsai) 河鍋 暁斎 (1831-1889), an artist renowned for his skill as a painter and caricaturist as well as for his hard-drinking and eccentric behaviour. Kyōsai brings his whimsical approach to the potentially unpromising subject matter of a cookery book, providing humorous depictions of formal meals where foreigners entertain slightly uncomfortable-looking Japanese guests, of masters supervising their cooks, and of foreigners getting drunk.

“A Westerner offering a meat dish to a Japanese guest” from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.24r
“A Westerner offering a meat dish to a Japanese guest” from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.24r.  noc

“Using a watch to time the cooking” from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.29v
“Using a watch to time the cooking” from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.29v. noc

“Foreigners eating and drinking in a tavern”, from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.18v.
“Foreigners eating and drinking in a tavern”, from Seiyō ryōritsū. British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.2 f.18v.  noc

He also thoughtfully provides a series of pictures of cooking and dining utensils, including what may have been to many contemporary Japanese such unfamiliar objects as tables, chairs, ovens, roasting-spits, cutlery and sugar tongs.

Cooking and eating utensils from Seiyō ryōritsū.  British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.1 intro f.2v-4r.

Cooking and eating utensils from Seiyō ryōritsū.  British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.1 intro f.2v-4r.
Cooking and eating utensils from Seiyō ryōritsū.  British Library, ORB.30/7689, vol.1 intro f.2v-4r.  noc

Footnotes

1.  The Imperial Japanese Navy adopted curry from the Royal Navy in the 1860s and even today the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force serves curry on Fridays.
2.  Another cookery book Seiyō ryōri shinan  西洋料理指南 (Guide to Western Cooking) by the pseudonymous author Keigakudō Shujin敬学堂主人, published in the same year as Seiyō ryōritsū, also includes a curry recipe.
3.  See Lola Milholland, Food is Emptiness.
4.  For a partial English translation of Aguranabe see Keene, Donald (ed.), Modern Japanese Literature, New York, 1956.
5.  A supplementary volume published in the same year 1872 included a further 40 recipes.

Bibliography

Clark, Timothy, Demon of painting: the art of Kawanabe Kyōsai, London: British Museum Press, 1993
Kanagaki Robun, "Gyūten zatsudan aguranabe 牛店雜談安愚樂鍋," in Kanagaki Robun 仮名垣魯文, Meiji no Bungaku 明治の文学. v.1, Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 2002.
Kanagaki Robun, "The Beefeater," in Modern Japanese Literature, ed. Donald Keene, New York: Grove Press, 1956.
Mertz, John Pierre, Novel Japan: Spaces of Nationhood in Early Meiji Narrative, 1870-88, Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2003.
Milholland, Lola, Food is Emptiness.
Yokohama Archives of History, Kaikō no hiroba, no. 116 (2012).

Hamish Todd, Lead Curator, East Asian Studies
With thanks to C. von der Burg

 ccownwork

26 February 2015

The truth about the Japanese doll festival

Looking back to the late 90s, “Girl Power” created a great sensation in the UK pop music industry. These pop idols are grown up now and no longer proudly shout their catchphrase “Girl Power”. Their time in the 90s has become a rather nostalgic topic to reminisce about. On the other hand, there is a long surviving tradition in Japan for girls to celebrate being girls. Nowadays, 3 March is a day to celebrate a girl’s well-being and happiness by setting out a special dolls display with peach blossoms. This festival is called the Hina festival (雛祭りHina matsuri).

Image1Example of a modern Hina-doll display. Photo by © Y.Ohtsuka

Women, both young and old, enjoy everything related to the celebration of the Hina festival, from opening boxes, unpacking the dolls and placing them in position to offering them peach blossoms. They also prepare treats such as dainty sweets and special drinks, and hold parties while taking pleasure in viewing the dolls. Basically it is a relaxing “Girly” day.

Sakura mochi (桜餅), a modern example of seasonal sweets for Hinamatsuri. Ashinari Photo Material
Sakura mochi (桜餅), a modern example of seasonal sweets for Hinamatsuri. Ashinari Photo Material

Hina (literally ʻprettyʼ or ʻlittleʼ) dolls are dressed like courtiers of the Heian period (794-1185). They are treated with great respect and are dearly loved throughout their graceful existence by all generations of women. In the display the top level is reserved for the master (男雛 Obina) and his mistress (女雛 Mebina). The next level below that is for their servants such as the Three Ladies-in-waiting (三人宮女 Sannin kannyo), the Five musicians (五人囃子Gonin bayashi), the Two ministers (随身 Zuijin), the Three guards (衛士 Eji), and beneath the mistress’s trousseau is also on display.

Yōshu Nobuchika 楊洲周延 (1838-1912). ‘Hina-doll viewing’ (雛拝見 Hina haiken), which is a part of ‘The Great Interior of the Chiyoda Castle’ (千代田の大奥 Chiyoda no Ōoku), Tokyo : Fukuda Hatsujirō, 1896. Nishikie (錦絵) wood block print. Photo National Diet LibraryYōshu Nobuchika 楊洲周延 (1838-1912). ‘Hina-doll viewing’ (雛拝見 Hina haiken), which is a part of ‘The Great Interior of the Chiyoda Castle’ (千代田の大奥 Chiyoda no Ōoku), Tokyo : Fukuda Hatsujirō, 1896. Nishikie (錦絵) wood block print. Photo National Diet Library

The custom of displaying the Hina-dolls on different levels, looking as if they were placed on a kind of stand, became popular in the Edo period (1600-1867). This display format still lives on today. A number of educational books were published throughout the Edo period, which targeted girls for the purpose of teaching women’s morals, appropriate manners and accomplishments. It wasn't however, until the later Edo period that publications dealt with the etiquette of the Hina festival on the third day of the third lunar month which we consider to be the foundation of the modern version of Hina matsuri.

An example of early Edo era educational text books for girls with a page showing the 3rd day of the third lunar month on the right.  Based on a publication by Namura Jōhaku (苗村常伯 1674-1748), edited and revised by Takai Ranzan (高井蘭山 1838-1912). ‘A record of collected treasures for woman’ (女重寶記 Onna chōhōki), 1847. Woodblock printed (British Library 16124.d.23)
An example of early Edo era educational text books for girls with a page showing the 3rd day of the third lunar month on the right.  Based on a publication by Namura Jōhaku (苗村常伯 1674-1748), edited and revised by Takai Ranzan (高井蘭山 1838-1912). ‘A record of collected treasures for woman’ (女重寶記 Onna chōhōki), 1847. Woodblock printed (British Library 16124.d.23)
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In the early Edo era, instead of celebrating with Hina-dolls, ceremonial poetry competitions were held on the date of Jōshi (上巳), which falls on the third day of the third lunar month. This traces its origins back to the Heian period when one of the absolutely essential skills for courtiers was the ability to compose elegant poetry spontaneously. There were many opportunities for poets to compete against each other. Perhaps the most challenging was the highly refined event held by the bank of a meandering river. The contestants sat along the river bank and had to complete their compositions before the cup, which was floating downstream, passed them by. This was called the river bank poetry competition (曲水の宴Kyokusui no en).

Some abstract  illustrations of Heian courtiers. The figures on the left page are represented as if they were sitting along the meandering river. ‘Practical design book’ (応用漫画 Ōyō manga), illustrated by Ogino Issui (荻野一水), 1903  (British Library ORB.30/6167)

Some abstract  illustrations of Heian courtiers. The figures on the left page are represented as if they were sitting along the meandering river. ‘Practical design book’ (応用漫画 Ōyō manga), illustrated by Ogino Issui (荻野一水), 1903  (British Library ORB.30/6167)
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Hina-dolls certainly existed in the Heian period, but not as display objects. In fact, they were children’s toys for playing with. In chapter 5 of  The Tale of Genji (源氏物語 Genji Monogatari), the hero, Prince Genji, discovers a young girl who reminds him of Lady Fujitsubo, whom he has been secretly admiring as his true love. He is eager to approach the girl, who does not have enough family members to support her upbringing, by offering his noble guardianship. However, her ill grandmother politely rejects his offer saying her granddaughter is just a child happily playing with her Hina-dolls, therefore not of suitable age to accept his overtures.

Chapter 5 of 'The Tale of the Genji' (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba), Naraehon manuscript, mid-17th century (British Library, Or.1278, f.18)
Chapter 5 of 'The Tale of the Genji' (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba), Naraehon manuscript, mid-17th century (British Library, Or.1278, f.18)
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There are no episodes describing the river bank poetry competition in the Tale of the Genji, but in chapter 12, Genji undergoes  a purification ceremony on the third day of the third lunar month (上巳の祓え Jōshi no harae). The dolls had a key role during the ceremony since they absorbed the supplicants’ bad fortune. Then the supplicants threw the dolls into water in order to remove all of the negative energy from their lives. Both events were rooted in trusting in the natural power of flowing water, which was able to carry things away.

Chapter 12 of 'The Tale of the Genji' (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba), Naraehon manuscript, mid-17th century (British Library, Or.1278, f.18)
Chapter 12 of 'The Tale of the Genji' (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba), Naraehon manuscript, mid-17th century (British Library, Or.1278, f.18)
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The third day of the third lunar month was also the time of peach blossom. In fact, peaches were believed to have divine power to protect people from evil. Most famously in Japanese legend, the god Izanagi, who formed the landmass of Japan with his partner, defeated demons by throwing peaches on his way back to earth from hell. Peaches might be part of the reason why the purification ceremony was carried out on Jōshi. People could expect extra protection from peach blossom as good spirits.

Peach blossom.  Ashinari Photo Material
Peach blossom.  Ashinari Photo Material

Peach blossom is still one of key elements in the modern day celebration of the Hina dolls Festival. In fact the day is also known as the Peach festival (桃の節句 Momo no sekku). It is not only pretty, but also quietly ensure a safe and successful happy “Girly” day.


Further reading

Takeda, Kyoko  武田京子. Hinamatsuri in home education 家庭教育からみた雛祭.  Iwate Daigaku Kyōiku gakubu nenpō 岩手大学教育学部研究年報 [The annual report of the Faculty of Education, University of Iwate] 54.2 (1994): 79-87. (in Japanese)

 

With special thanks to Alessandro Bianchi, Asian and African Studies and PhD student, University of Cambridge

Yasuyo Ohtsuka, Curator Japanese 
 ccownwork

 

 
 
 

12 December 2014

Early Chinese rhyme dictionary now on display at the British Museum

The BP exhibition Ming: 50 years that changed China runs at the British Museum until 5 January 2015. The exhibition focuses on the years 1400-1450 when the Chinese empire reached a peak in its cultural and artistic production.  At the same time trade and exchange with other lands also flourished and the impact of Chinese culture was widely felt across Asia. 

By the time of the Ming Dynasty the interaction between China and Japan was already an ancient one.  For more than eight centuries official trade and diplomatic embassies had taken place between the two countries and many aspects of Japanese government, religion, philosophy, art and literature had been influenced by contacts with China.

Among the British Library items loaned to the British Museum’s Ming exhibition is Shūbun inryaku 聚分韻略, a rhyme dictionary to aid in the composition of Chinese poetry.  It was compiled by the celebrated monk-poet Shiren 師錬 (1278-1346), also known as Kokan 虎関, who resided at the Nanzenji 南禅寺 in Kyoto, the leading temple of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism.

The work has a preface by the compiler dated Kagen 4 [1306] and a postscript dated Tokuji 2 [1307].  The British Library’s copy belongs to an edition printed at the Reigen’an 霊源菴, part of the Tōfukuji 東福寺, a Zen temple in Kyoto, in Ōei 19 [1412].  This is the earliest dated edition of the work although copies survive of two undated but possibly earlier editions and a version of the work may have been published during the lifetime of the compiler (ie. pre-1346)[1].

End of preface of Shūbun inryaku , showing the date Kagen 4 嘉元丙午 [1306] and the name of the compiler Kokan Shiren 虎関師錬 (British Library Or.72.g.20 f. 6v-7r) End of preface of Shūbun inryaku , showing the date Kagen 4 嘉元丙午 [1306] and the name of the compiler Kokan Shiren 虎関師錬 (British Library Or.72.g.20 f. 6v-7r)
End of preface of Shūbun inryaku , showing the date Kagen 4 嘉元丙午 [1306] and the name of the compiler Kokan Shiren 虎関師錬 (British Library Or.72.g.20 f. 6v-7r)
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The use of Chinese characters or kanji 漢字 (literally ‘Han script’) was introduced to Japan in the fifth century and initially the Chinese language was the medium of written communication.  Later, systems were developed for representing the sounds and grammatical structures of the Japanese language:  man’yōgana, hiragana and katakana – all of which were based on Chinese characters.

Composition of Chinese poetry (kanshi 漢詩) was a popular pastime among the Japanese elite and the earliest anthology, the Kaifūsō 懐風藻 ‘Fond Recollections of Poetry’ was compiled in 751. It includes 120 poems by 64 different poets, many of them members of the Imperial Family or high-ranking courtiers.

The Shūbun inryaku is one of the earliest Japanese examples of insho (Chinese:yun shu 韻書, dictionaries of Chinese characters arranged according to rhyme and tone to assist in the composition of classical Chinese poetry.  Standard kanji dictionaries are organised according to a system of radicals reflecting the component parts of the individual character.  In Chinese rhyme dictionaries, the characters were first arranged by tone and then each of the four tones was divided into rhyme groups (Japanese: in, Chinese: yun ), traditionally named after the first character of the group.

The beginning of the Shūbun inryaku showing the first rhyme group headed by the character 東 (east).  The copious handwritten annotations in black and red show that this was a well-used reference work (British Library Or.72.g.20 f. 8v)
The beginning of the Shūbun inryaku showing the first rhyme group headed by the character 東 (east).  The copious handwritten annotations in black and red show that this was a well-used reference work (British Library Or.72.g.20 f. 8v)
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The compiler of the Shūbun inryaku, Shiren, entered holy order on Mt Hiei in 1287 at the age of 9.  In addition to Buddhism he also studied Chinese language and classics from the age of 17 and learned calligraphy from the famous Chinese monk Yishan Yining 一山 一寧 (1247-1317).  He rose through the Buddhist hierarchy to become abbot of the Tōfukuji and Nanzenji temples and in 1342 was accorded the eminent title of Kokushi 国師 ‘National Master’ by Emperor Go-Murakami, being subsequently known as Honkaku Kokushi 本覚国師.  In addition to an anthology of poetry called the Saihokushū 済北集, Shiren also wrote the Genkō Shakusho 元亨釈書, a 30-volume work completed in 1322 which is the oldest history of Buddhism in Japan, and Butsugo shinron 仏語心論, a treatise on the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra.

The growing importance of Zen Buddhism in Japan during the Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1333-1573) Eras led to a renewed interest in Chinese culture.  Many Zen monks composed poetry and prose in Chinese and these works have come to be known collectively as Gozan bungaku 五山文学 or ‘Literature of the Five Mountains’.

The term ‘Five Mountains’ refers to the principal Rinzai temples - five in Kyoto and five in Kamakura  -which were both protected and controlled by the shogunate.  The system underwent a number of revisions until 1386 when the designated temples were the Tenryūji 天龍寺, Shōkokuji 相国寺, Kenninji 建仁寺, Tōfukuji 東福寺 and Manjuji 萬壽寺 in Kyoto and the Kenchōji 建長寺, Engakuji 円覚寺, Jufukuji 壽福寺, Jōchiji 浄智寺 and Jōmyōji 浄妙寺 in Kamakura.  The Nanzenji occupied a pre-eminent position above all 10.

The Gozan temples were the focus of printing activity in Japan during the 14th and 15th centuries when many Chinese works were reprinted.  Collectively these books are referred to as Gozan-ban or ‘Five Mountain Editions’.  Over 400 different works have been identified, the majority relating to Zen and other Buddhist sects.  However, 100 are non-Buddhist including Confucian texts and literary works.  They have a distinctly Chinese style since they were often reprints of Song or Yuan Dynasty editions or, in the 14th century at least, because the woodblocks from which they were printed had been carved by Chinese blockcutters who had crossed to Japan.  The British Library has some 30 Gozan-ban in its Japanese collection.  One of these, an edition of the Rongo 論語 or ‘Analects of Confucius’ (British Library ORB.30/171), printed c.1390-1450 is also included in the British Museum’s Ming exhibition.

Title page of Rongo 論語 or ‘Analects of Confucius’, printed c.1390-1450, showing handwritten Japanese glosses and marginal notes as well as the seals of previous owners (British Library ORB.30/171)
Title page of Rongo 論語 or ‘Analects of Confucius’, printed c.1390-1450, showing handwritten Japanese glosses and marginal notes as well as the seals of previous owners (British Library ORB.30/171)
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Kunshin koji 君臣故事 ‘Moral stories for sovereigns and subjects’, a guide to Confucian behaviour and one of the few illustrated Gozan-ban. c.1370 (British Library ORB.30/196)
Kunshin koji
君臣故事 ‘Moral stories for sovereigns and subjects’, a guide to Confucian behaviour and one of the few illustrated Gozan-ban. c.1370 (British Library ORB.30/196)
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Most of the British Library’s Gozan works, including the Shūbun inryaku, Rongo and Kunshin koji illustrated above, were acquired by the British Museum Library in 1884-1885 as part of the collection of the diplomat and bibliophile Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929).

Ming: 50 years that changed China is open at the British Museum until 5 January 2015.


Select bibliography

Carpenter Bruce E., 'Priest-Poets of the Five Mountains in Medieval Japan', in Tezukayama Daigaku ronshū, no. 16, 1977, Nara, Japan, pp. 1-11.

Gardner, Kenneth B, Descriptive catalogue of Japanese books in the British Library printed before 1700. London and Tenri, 1993.

Kawase, Kazuma, Kojisho no kenkyū 古辞書の研究. Tokyo 1955, revised edition 2007

Todd, Hamish A., ‘The Satow Collection of Japanese Books in the British Library: its History and Significance’ in Daiei Toshokan shozō Chōsenbon oyobi Nihon kosho no bunkengakuteki gogakuteki kenkyū  大英圖書館所蔵朝鮮本及び日本古書の文獻學的・語學的研究.  Toyama University, 2007)

Ury, Marian, Poems of the Five Mountains: An Introduction to the Literature of the Zen Monasteries, Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, No 10, 1992.

 

Hamish Todd, Asian and African Studies
 ccownwork


[1] For more details see: Kawase, K. Kojisho no kenkyū, p.479.

 

30 October 2014

Ghoulish images from East Asia

The new exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, which will run until Tuesday 20 January 2015, provides fascinating insights into the dark side of British literary culture and explores its diffusion through different media. But the attraction of terror and wonder was a phenomenon of no lesser importance in other literary cultures as well. Despite being set in completely different landscapes and employing diverse imageries the weird, the macabre, and the mysterious enthralled readers of all ages across the globe.

In China, for example, short tales about extraordinary or unusual events, called chuan qi 傳奇, had a long-lasting popularity which began in the Tang dynasty (618-907) and continued throughout the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). There are in fact numerous collections of chuan qi produced in those periods, most notably Jian deng xin hua 剪燈新話 (1378) by Qu You 瞿佑, Jian deng yu hua 剪燈餘話 (c. 1420) by Li Zhen 李禎, and Mi deng yin hua 覓燈因話 (1592) by Shao Jingzhan 邵景詹. Their popularity was long lasting, and in the mid-19th century these three works were still being reprinted under the collective title of San deng cong hua 三燈叢話.

These collections of chuan qi circulated widely throughout East Asia. Reprints of the original Chinese texts, for instance Shinpen sentō yowa 新編剪燈餘話 (see Gardner, pp. 87-88), bear witness to their great success even outside China. In particular, Jian deng xin hua was very well received in Korea, Vietnam and Japan, and became the source of inspiration for other similar collections of weird stories compiled in those countries: Geumo Sinhwa 金鰲新話 (Korea), Truyền kì mạn lục 傳奇漫錄 (Vietnam), and Otogibōko 伽婢子 (Japan).

Left: title page of a later edition of Jian deng xin hua 剪燈新話, which is included in San deng cong hua he ke 三燈叢話合刻 (1847) (British Library 15331.d.14) Right: preface of Shinpen Sentō yowa 新編剪燈餘話, movable-type edition of Jiandeng yuhua 剪燈餘話 published in Japan during the seventeenth-century (c. 1615-30)  (British Library ORB 30/217)
Left: title page of a later edition of Jian deng xin hua 剪燈新話, which is included in San deng cong hua he ke 三燈叢話合刻 (1847) (British Library 15331.d.14)
Right: preface of Shinpen Sentō yowa 新編剪燈餘話, movable-type edition of Jiandeng yuhua 剪燈餘話 published in Japan during the seventeenth-century (c. 1615-30)  (British Library ORB 30/217)
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In Japan, the publication of Otogibōko 伽婢子 (1666) heralded the start of a new vogue for stories concerning mysteries and supernatural events. This multi-volume collection of 13 booklets, compiled by Asai Ryōi 浅井了意 and published in Kyōto by Nishizawa Tahee 西澤太兵衛, contain numerous tales of terror and wonder written in vernacular Japanese and illustrated with beautiful black and white woodcuts. Asai Ryōi drew inspiration from pre-existing stories, originally composed on the continent, translating and adapting them to meet the taste of early-modern Japanese readers of popular fiction. Of the 68 tales contained in Otogibōko, 16 are taken from the above-mentioned Jian deng xin hua, 2 from Geumo Sinhwa, 2 from Jian deng yu hua, and the remainder were taken from other Chinese collections of weird happenings.

Close-up of some of the volumes comprising the edition of Otogibōko held at the British Library (British Library 16107.c.45)
Close-up of some of the volumes comprising the edition of Otogibōko held at the British Library (British Library 16107.c.45)
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The array of tales narrated in Otogibōko varies considerably, ranging from the bizarre to the macabre, from the grotesque to the surreal. Each story vividly sketches scenes of ordinary life, which are then flavoured with a supernatural twist, mysterious illness, inexplicable happenings, the appearance of monsters, ghosts, or other ghoulish creatures.  

Details from some of the illustrated leaves in Otogibōko (vol. 11, f. 26v; vol. 2, f.14v; vol. 3, f. 13r; vol. 3, f. 18r)  (British Library 16107.c.45)
Details from some of the illustrated leaves in Otogibōko (vol. 11, f. 26v; vol. 2, f.14v; vol. 3, f. 13r; vol. 3, f. 18r)  (British Library 16107.c.45)
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Asai Ryōi’s text was widely appreciated long after its first publication. Otogibōko itself was reprinted several times (in 1699 and 1826) and served as archetype for other collections of tales of terror and wonder produced in the following decades – for example Shin Otogibōko新御伽婢子 (1683) and Shui Otogibōko 拾遺伽婢子 (1704). The publication of Otogibōko marked an important milestone in the history of Japanese literature, and many other works of popular fiction featuring ghosts, demons and other supernatural beings drew their inspiration from the stories contained therein.

Although the Chinese and Japanese literary traditions leave little or no room for Dracula- and Frankenstein-like monsters, they were nonetheless populated by equally terrifying and nightmarish monsters.

On this night of horror, better keep an eye out......

Bakemono Yotsugi no hachinoki 化物世櫃鉢木 (1781) ( British Library 16107.c.20)
Bakemono Yotsugi no hachinoki 化物世櫃鉢木 (1781) ( British Library 16107.c.20)
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Further Reading

Gardner, Kenneth Bursham, Descriptive Catalogue of Japanese Books in the British Library Printed Before 1700 (London, Tenri: The British Library, Tenri Central Library, 1993)
Nienhauser, William, The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), pp. 275-76
Asai Ryōi, Otogibōko, in Tōyō bunkō v.475 and v. 480 (Tōkyō: Heibonsha 1988)


Alessandro Bianchi,  Asian and African Studies and PhD student, University of Cambridge
together with Hamish Todd, Ohtsuka Yasuyo and Sara Chiesura
 ccownwork

08 September 2014

The original Japanese Moon Princess

The Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (中秋節Zhong qiu jie), has always been a very popular custom in China. People celebrate by going out at night to view the moon and eat moon cakes, and hence the festival is also known as the Moon Festival.

The ‘Fifteenth Night’ (十五夜Jūgoya) festival was introduced from China to Japan sometime during the eighth century. People served special sweets and enjoyed eating them while gazing at the moon, regarding the ‘mid-autumn moon’ (中秋の名月Chūshū no meigetsu) as the day that the Moon Princess returned to the moon. This Moon Princess should not be confused with the ‘Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon’(美少女戦士セーラームーン)or  Princess Serenity known from modern anime.  The original Japanese Moon Princess was in fact Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫), the heroine of  The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter(竹取物語Taketori monogatari).

Princess Kaguya and the mid-autumn moon. ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’ (繪入竹とり物語, Eiri Taketori monogatari), printed book, prob. 18th century. British Library, 16055.c.31.
Princess Kaguya and the mid-autumn moon. ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’ (繪入竹とり物語, Eiri Taketori monogatari), printed book, prob. 18th century. British Library, 16055.c.31.  noc

It is unclear exactly when the story of Princess Kaguya came into existence. Researchers have identified several notable courtiers of the late seventh century upon whom the five suitors for the hand of Princess Kaguya were based. A picture-scroll version of Taketori monogatari was also famously mentioned in chapter 17 of  The Tale of  Genji 源氏物語 (Genji monogatari), in a scene at the Imperial Court where an intellectual contest was held to compare illustrated stories. The participants, divided into two teams, competed by comparing two stories and discussing which one possessed more literary merit and which composition harmonised better with the pictures. One of stories mentioned was Taketori monogatari.

Chapter 17 of 'The Tale of the Genji' (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba) , manuscript, mid-17th century. British Library, Or.1278, f.18.
Chapter 17 of 'The Tale of the Genji' (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba) , manuscript, mid-17th century. British Library, Or.1278, f.18.  noc

Genji monogatari is thought to have been written by Murasaki Shikibu(紫式部), who was a lady-in- waiting at the court of the Empress Shōshi (藤原彰子) in 11th-century Japan. Consequently, it can be assumed that the story line of Taketori monogatari had come into existence sometime between the eighth and 10th centuries, and that by the time of Genji monogatari, it was already one of the more widely known folktales.

Princess Kaguya was discovered as a new-born baby in a shining bamboo in a bamboo forest by an elderly bamboo cutter. He took the baby home and brought her up with his wife as their own child. The baby grew up very quickly and became an extremely beautiful woman just three months after her discovery. Although the elderly couple knew that she was not a normal child, they were so fond of her that they wanted her to marry a husband fitting to one of her beauty. However, she was actually the Princess of the Moon and was a visitor to the earth for only for a short while. In the end, she had to return to the moon and left the heart-broken couple and several suitors behind.

Princess Kaguya and one of her suitors. 'The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter' ( 繪入竹とり物語, Eiri Taketori monogatari) [18th-century edition], printed book, prob. 18th century. British Library, 16055.c.31.
Princess Kaguya and one of her suitors. 'The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter' ( 繪入竹とり物語, Eiri Taketori monogatari) [18th-century edition], printed book, prob. 18th century. British Library, 16055.c.31.  noc

The story of Princess Kaguya can be interpreted in many ways. Some see the story as a fable, the failed proposals to Princess Kaguya of the five suitors being a veiled condemnation of political corruption at the court. The moon was represented as a pure land, from which Princess Kaguya had been exiled as a punishment. The earth is presented as a centre of political intrigues, thus representing the court.

However, the most popular interpretation sees the story as a prototype of a science fiction story about aliens from space. Princess Kaguya was actually the Moon Princess, and therefore an alien. She had done something wrong on the moon, and had to serve her term on earth as if serving an open prison sentence. When she had completed her time on earth, her people came from the moon in a spaceship and took her back home. It is fascinating to discover such an early depiction of alien visitors in the Japanese literary tradition.

Princess Kaguya returns to the moon. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (繪入竹とり物語, Eiri Taketori monogatari), printed book, prob. 18th century. British Library, 16055.c.31.
Princess Kaguya returns to the moon. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (繪入竹とり物語, Eiri Taketori monogatari), printed book, prob. 18th century. British Library, 16055.c.31.  noc

This year, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on 8 September. Let’s enjoy our moon cakes, while thinking of the Moon Princess.

Yasuyo Ohtsuka, Curator, Japanese section

 ccownwork

02 August 2014

‘Tanabata (七夕) Star Festival’ - is it 7 July or 2 August 2014? (2)

In the first part of this blog post, we mentioned that the major star festivals marking Tanabata are celebrated not on 7 July, but a month later. Scientifically speaking, keeping the latter traditional (lunar) date makes more sense, because the two stars are more easily visible on this day than on the modern (solar) calendar day.

Currently Vega represents Orihime (Zhinü in Chinese) and Altair is Kengyū (Niulang in Chinese) in the actual summer night sky. Both of them are among the top 10 brightest stars in the night sky and this pair is visible at the same time of the year, at the highest point in the sky, so it is easier for us to spot them. Let’s compare the two star attitude charts, one for the solar date 7 July and one for 2 August 2014, which corresponds to the 7th day of the 7th lunar month 2014.

Stellar visibility plots for Japan's latitude on 7th July 2014, calculated with the STARALT program.

Stellar visibility plots for Japan's latitude on 7th July 2014, calculated with the STARALT program.
    
Stellar visibility plots for Japan's latitude on 2 August 2014, calculated with the STARALT program.

Stellar visibility plots for Japan's latitude on 2 August 2014, calculated with the STARALT program.

On 7 July, Vega and Altair reach their highest point in the sky, being directly overhead, around midnight. On 2 August, the above-mentioned two stars reach their maximum elevation earlier than on 7 July.

Generally speaking, 90 degrees means stars take positions straight above our heads, while 20 degrees is too near to the horizon – and obstructed by objects such as buildings and trees – for them to be seen. In addition to the timing of better visibility, the moon is brighter on 7th July than on 2nd August. When the moon is brighter, the stars look fainter. Consequently, the traditional day is the better option to see the stars and people have more time to enjoy festivals in the evening.

Since the earliest version of Chinese legend, Zhinü has always been (and still is) associated with Vega (also known as α Lyrae in Western astronomy), which is the second-brightest star in the Northern hemisphere. Vega is the brightest star in the Chinese asterism known as ‘The Weaving Girl’ (織女Zhinü) which is located in the Ox mansion (牛宿Niu su), on the west side of the Milky Way.  In contrast, Zhinü’s counterpart on the other side of the Milky Way has changed over the centuries. The original star for Niulang was Niu su yi (牛宿一 meaning ‘The First Star of Ox’), also known as β Capricorni, or Dabih Major in Western astronomy. This is the brightest star of the Ox asterism, which is also in the Ox mansion but on the eastern side of the Milky Way; β Capricorni has an apparent brightness of +3 magnitudes, and is not as bright as Vega, which has a brightness of 0 magnitudes, that is, approximately 15 times brighter.

Perhaps this difference between the brightness of Zhinü and Niulang in the original version is the reason why the star of Niulang was later changed, as this story became a more popular folktale. The new choice of the star for Niulang was Hegu er (河鼓二meaning ‘The Second Star of the Drum at the River’) which is known as Altair in Western astronomy. Altair is in fact the brightest star in the Chinese asterism He gu (河鼓 meaning ‘The Drum at the River’), which is also located within the Ox mansion on the eastern side of the Milky Way. Altair is about half as bright as Vega. Due to its folktale association, it is better known today in China as Niulang xing (牛郎星 meaning ‘The Cowman’s Star’).
 
Map of the stars in the Eastern sky. Shi jing zhuan shuo (詩經傳說), detail from a woodblock printed Qing dynasty illustrated version of the Classic of Poetry, 1727. Niulang was probably still Niu su yi (牛宿一 'The First Star of Ox') when the original illustration was published in earlier editions. This could be the reason why there were no signs of He gu (河鼓 'The Drum at the River'), because it had no particular significance at that time of illustration. British Library, 15266.a.2, vol. 1.
Map of the stars in the Eastern sky. Shi jing zhuan shuo (詩經傳說), detail from a woodblock printed Qing dynasty illustrated version of the Classic of Poetry, 1727. Niulang was probably still Niu su yi (牛宿一 'The First Star of Ox') when the original illustration was published in earlier editions. This could be the reason why there were no signs of He gu (河鼓 'The Drum at the River'), because it had no particular significance at that time of illustration. British Library, 15266.a.2, vol. 1.  noc

At the same time, we can also see the Magpie Bridge in the summer night sky. Unfortunately because the location of the Milky Way and of the asterisms in the above illustration is only approximate, it is not possible accurately to identify which was Tian jin si (天津四 meaning “The Fourth Star of the Celestial Ford”) which is Deneb in Western astronomy. Deneb was thought to mark the location of the bridge across the Milky Way like a stepping-stone. The three stars Vega, Altair and Deneb form what is known as the Summer Triangle.

Now, let’s compare the illustration of the star map, which was taken from the Shi jing zhuan shuo and actual summer night sky.

In this picture, we have flipped vertically the original Chinese illustration shown above, so that it is oriented to match the modern star chart below. British Library, 15266.a.2, vol. 1.
In this picture, we have flipped vertically the original Chinese illustration shown above, so that it is oriented to match the modern star chart below. British Library, 15266.a.2, vol. 1.  noc

The red circles mark the three stars of the Summer Triangle and we have sketched in green the approximate location of the magpie bridge. © 2000-2005 Kym Thalassoudis. All rights reserved.

The red circles mark the three stars of the Summer Triangle and we have sketched in green the approximate location of the magpie bridge. © 2000-2005 Kym Thalassoudis. All rights reserved.

So let’s look up the night sky on 2nd August 2014 and make a wish on these three fascinating stars!

Further reading and references

Chinese Astronomy Resource

Gregorian-Lunar Calendar Conversion Table

Object Visibility – STARALT

http://skymaps.com/index.html

Yasuyo Ohtsuka, Curator, Japanese collections
Roberto Soria, Astronomer, ICRAR-Curtin University

With special thanks to Sara Chiesura, Curator, Chinese collections

31 July 2014

‘Tanabata (七夕) Star Festival’ - is it 7 July or 2 August 2014? (1)

It has long been a tradition for Japanese to celebrate the night sky and the romance between Orihime (織姫 meaning ‘The Weaver Princess’) and Kengyū (牽牛 meaning ‘The Cowherd’) on the night of the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. Since the Gregorian (solar) calendar was implemented as the official calendar in 1873, the 7th day of the 7th lunar month became the 7th of July.

Although Tanabata on the 7th of July has become increasingly commercialised, and events which heavily promote it as an especially romantic night for couples have proliferated in recent years, major popular star festivals tend to be celebrated around 7  August, i.e. one month later than the 7th of July. This is a compromise to keep regular annual events on the same date every year but bring the date as close as possible to the traditional night of the 7th day of the 7th lunar month.  Strictly speaking, in the solar calendar the equivalent of this lunar date would change each year – in 2014 it would fall on the 2nd August. In this first part of a two-part post, we are going to explore the cultural side of the story of Tanabata, while in the second part we will take a scientific approach to identify the reasons for celebrating the festival on the date based on the traditional lunar calendar.

The festival as we know it today has evolved from three different cultural strands. The first is the Japanese old tradition of Tanabatatsume (棚機津女meaning ‘Weaving girl’); the second is the star story from China; and the third is Kikkōden (乞巧奠 meaning the ‘Festival of Wishing for Skills’), which was also introduced from China to Japan.

First of all, Tanabatatsume were specially chosen shrine maidens who dedicated themselves to weaving a holy cloth for Shintō deities in ancient Japan. It was possible to identify their prototype in Japanese mythology as the legend of virgins who served the Sun Goddess by weaving for her.

Kimono patterns with zodiac symbols. Shinsen o-hinagata (新撰御ひいながた New selection of fashionable patterns) [1667]. British Library, Or.74.bb.8.
Kimono patterns with zodiac symbols. Shinsen o-hinagata (新撰御ひいながた New selection of fashionable patterns) [1667]. British Library, Or.74.bb.8.  noc

Secondly, the original Chinese star story reached Japan sometime during the 7th century. According to the legend, there was a boy and a girl who fell in love so deeply that they became blind to everything else such as their weaving and herding work. Unfortunately, there was no happy-ever-after for them. When they became separated by the Milky Way as a punishment for their negligence, they were sorry for their careless attitude, but it was far too late. However, the separated couple could not stop longing for each other. Eventually, they were allowed to meet each other once a year, reunited by crossing a bridge over the Milky Way made for them by magpies. Although the Weaver-Girl and Cowherd-Boy story has many variations, the basic plot is ‘boy meets girl’ and the origin goes back to the 6th century in China. Their names in Chinese are Zhinü (織女 literally ‘The weaver girl’) and Niulang (牛郎, literally ‘The cowman’), and the Star Festival is Qi xi (七夕).

Map of the stars in the Eastern sky. Shi jing zhuan shuo (詩經傳說), detail from a Qing dynasty illustrated version of the Classic of Poetry, 1727. Woodblock printed. British Library, 15266.a.2, vol. 1.
Map of the stars in the Eastern sky. Shi jing zhuan shuo (詩經傳說), detail from a Qing dynasty illustrated version of the Classic of Poetry, 1727. Woodblock printed. British Library, 15266.a.2, vol. 1.  noc

Finally, the Kikkōden was believed to have been introduced from China to Japan before the star story. On the night of the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, women prayed for improvement in their weaving and sewing abilities. Needlework and related skills were women’s work and accomplishments. After the legend of the stars was introduced into Japan, the two weaving girls, namely Tanabatatsume and Zhinü, were gradually merged together to become Orihime, and Kikkōden was transformed into the day for wishing on the Orihime star for better skills like hers.

In the next instalment of this blog post , we will examine why keeping the traditional (lunar) date for the festival makes more sense from the scientific point of view.

Star map © 2000-2005 Kym Thalassoudis. All rights reserved.
Star map © 2000-2005 Kym Thalassoudis. All rights reserved.

Yasuyo Ohtsuka, Curator, Japanese collections

 ccownwork

22 May 2014

Some recent Japanese acquisitions

The Japanese section of Asian & African Studies has recently received two award-winning artworks of Sho (書 = calligraphy) by Saitō Shōen (斉藤昭苑), which make an exciting addition to the existing collection of approximately 100 pieces of modern Japanese calligraphy. Saitō Shōen is an active member of the Sōgen school of calligraphy(創玄会), and was awarded the 2010 Japan Fine Arts Exhibition prize (for Or.16906) and the 2012 Mainichi Exhibition Prize (for Or.16907).

Calligraphy in the Far East is more than words written in black ink with brushes on paper, representing a highly sophisticated art form created with relatively simple equipment. Artists carefully choose the size and materials of both paper and brushes as well as the tone of ink, selecting a font from a myriad of styles. The strength and velocity of the brush strokes also play a key role in conveying the ultimate expression of beauty.

The unique approach of the artists of the Sōgen School is based on creating artworks which are accessible to everyone. They believe that calligraphic art resonates more with our daily lives if it is easier to understand what it says. In addition to this concept, the themes of their works are often based on popular literature such as poems, haiku and excerpts from Japanese classics that bring art much closer to real life.

Saitō Shōen has said that her works usually start with her finding poems which inspire her, and then she keeps on experimenting to seek the best way to express her creativity. She tries many different sizes and types of paper, changing the brushes and her writing style, until finally the theme is perfectly reflected in the ink tone, brush stroke and the space on the paper. Her quest for the perfect harmony of beauty never ends.
Or. 16906 © Saitō Shōen  宵待草の開花音の完璧な円光を背にして生き残った一匹の蟻が低く唄う English translation: 'Framed by the perfect halo of the evening primroses’ blooming tone, the last surviving ant sings low'.
Or. 16906 © Saitō Shōen

宵待草の開花音の完璧な円光を背にして生き残った一匹の蟻が低く唄う
English translation: 'Framed by the perfect halo of the evening primroses’ blooming tone, the last surviving ant sings low'.

This first poem (Or.16906), by Satō Setsuko, has a lyrical and nostalgic flavour. When Saitō Shōen came across it, she visualised her work on a huge sheet of paper. She also decided on the choice of a combination of delicate brush strokes and pale ink as the best way to express the world of the poem. After a lengthy process of trial and error she finally reached the moment when she was satisfied with the transformation of the original poem into a calligraphic artwork.


Or. 16907 © Saitō Shōen  宇宙の断崖 近道を帰る English translation: 'At the cliff edge of space, take the short cut home'
Or. 16907 © Saitō Shōen

宇宙の断崖 近道を帰る
English translation: 'At the cliff edge of space, take the short cut home'

This second poem (Or. 16907), also by Satō Setsuko, has a dynamic science fiction atmosphere. Shōen was moved by the poem's energy. In line with the dramatic scale of the poem, she chose a strong brush with powerful and lively strokes using splashes of dark ink.

The Japanese section also has a work by Shōen’s daughter, Saitō Aya (さいとう あや).  Aya is not a calligrapher; however, she has inherited the creative gene from her mother. She has donated to us  her self-published picture book Nebukuro-kun  ネブクロくん ('The Sleeping-Bag Boy') (ORB.30/4556).

ORB.30/4556: Nebukuro-kun ネブクロくん © Saitō Aya
ORB.30/4556: Nebukuro-kun ネブクロくん © Saitō Aya

Her charming little book is bound in a very interesting way. It is the story of a boy in a sleeping-bag, which is his security blanket against the world. The book itself is protected by its own sleeping-bag as if to represent his unique personality. Aya's original idea was to visualise the essence of the story, using the motif of the sleeping-bag both inside and outside the book. It always attracts art students in the UK and inspires them by showing what can be done with the form of book as an artefact.

We are delighted to have these artworks by this creative mother-and-daughter duo in our collections.

 

Yasuyo Ohtsuka, Asian and African Studies
 ccownwork

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