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CLP 69: 1983 “Confucian Aspects of Edo Art.” Lecture, LACMA



My title, w.   "Confucian" at one end and "art" at other,

raises problem that any topic of this kind raises: what does

one end really have to do with other? How can they be joined together? That is,in what ways can set of works of art be validly related to a  set of ideas or religious doctrines? We use terms such as "Confuc­ian art" or"Zen ptg" all the time w/o stopping to think what we mean by them.  To indicate how such relationships are more diverse & complex than we think,let's consider briefly idea of Zen ptg.  When lecturing on this to my students, I point out that what we loosely ca11 Zen ptg includes a number of different things.  Ptgs illustrating Zen anecdotes, or por­traying people who figure in Zen legend, such as Han-shan and Shih-te;    ptgs that served some special function in Zen, such as portraits of Zen masters.  (These needn't be in so-ca1led "Zen style "--tend in fact to be quite conservative,academic.) Ptgs actually done by Zen monks,as amateur artists; subjects of these can be things not specifica1ly assoc. w. Zen, such as bamboo or grape-vines or vegetables. Also, ptgs of any subject,incl. LS,in styles assoc.  w. Zen--quick, sketchy ink monochrome ptgs-can be done by anybody, including professionals.  But defining by style raises new set of questions:  how did these styles come to be assoc. w. Zen, and why? Didn't originate w. Zen.

W/o carrying that argument further--introduced only as parallel--want to say that same problem exists in talking abt Confucian aspects of Edo art--do we mean Confucian by subject, by function, by identity of artist, by style--what? Could show you  (and wi11)  portrait of Chu Hsi,  great Neo-Confuc. philosopher of Sung-period China, done by Edo period Jap. artist,  and say:  this is obviously a Confucian work, in simple sense.  Could also show bamboo ptg or other amateurish work by Edo-period scholar of Confucianism, and argue that this is Confuc.  work,  in that it expresses Confucian character of painter.  True, in that sense.  But two ptgs wouldn't have much of anything in common. So Confucianism isn’t an attribute or quality of the work of art—depends on understanding of viewers, and conventions artists use to convey certain meanings assoc. with Confucianism.

What I mean to do today is more complicated than either defining Confucian subject matter or treating ptgs done by Confucian scholars.(although will do both these too.) Want to give a short summary of how Confucianism was,manifested in Edo period society and culture, and then consider how Edo period painting especially the school of ptg most closely restated to this phenomenon, the Nanga or Bunjinga school, fits together with it.

What do we mean, first of all, by Confucianism? No simple answer (no simple answers today). Series of conferences during 1950s addressed this problem over & over w/o solving; but produced very useful series of papers dealing w. various aspects of it w/o being able to define it.   (I did one, on Confuc. elements in theory of ptg.) At least three things we mean by Confucianism in China.  First, teaching of Confucius, 6th-5th cent.  BC philosopher, and his followers. Second, doctrine or ideology of ju,educated doctrine or ideology of ju, educated and learned men, scholar class, who were obligated by this ideology to try, at least, to put their learning to the benefit of society by serving in the bureacracy as advisors to rulers or as local officials trying to perfect and preserve kind of stable, stratified society that Confucius envisioned as ideal.  Third, in form known as Neo-Confucianism, from Sung dyn. on, was philosophical mvt that produced opposing schools and tendencies win itself. This body of philosophy is what was imported to Japan in Edo period, along with something of second sense, doctrine of scholar-officials and their responsibilities, w/in a Confucian society.

Circumstances of this importation to Japan standard version is that Tokugawa rulers (shoguns, beginning w. Tokugawa Ieyasu) promoted study of Confuc. because it tended to foster the ends they wantedin words of Kate Nakai, as a " justification of a hierarchical social structure and emphasis on the virtues of loyalty and obedience on the part of the ruled." This view has been challenged in Japan by Abe Yoshiko, for one, who argues that Ieyasu was sincere in his attitude twd. learning and his respect for Confucian philosophy, and not just promoting it for pragmatic reasons. But reasons don't concern us:  it was imported, and officially sponsored as state ideology by shogunate, made basis of education, and guiding principles of statecraft, at least in theory. Also was urged on the clans (han),who also employed Confucian scholars (jusha or jukan)as advisors and teachers. For these men— Japanese scholars of Confucianism who served the feudal rulers, shogun or daimyo (lords of clans). Confucianism had a different value from what it had for ruling class. For scholars, represented ideal of scholar-official in China, which was attractive to them because offered possibility of meritocracy, government based on merit, not on birth,in which learned men of high, moral principle could reach positions of power and influence—just what they themselves dreamed of. Unhappily,this ideal,which had worked reasonably well in China,proved not to be exportable; couldn't be superimposed effectively on structure of power based on hereditary aristo­cracy and military prowess that was well established in Japanese society.  Against these, Confucian scholars could exert little force, moral or other.

Perhaps useful to bring in Zen again as analogy,this time as contrast:  to compare, that is,intro. of Confucianism in Edo period w.intro. of Zen in Kamakura & early Muromachi. In each case,importation of doctrine brought with it whole complex of Chinese ideas,styles,institutions (same had happened w. orthodox Buddhism in Asuka period)--much of Sung dyn.  Chinese culture came in with Zen,that is, and of Ming-Ch'ing culture w. Confucianism.  But crucial difference. Zen,as we know very well, is more easily exportable--foreigners

can become Zen monks, adopt monastic way of life,ideal of enlightenment etc.   (Zen Center here in L.A. ) Confucianism by contrast not so easily exportable—more like Hinduism in India, so woven into very fabric of society that can scarcely be separated & treated as doctrine of universal application.

In China, as just noted, Confucianism rooted in the system by which learned men could pass examinations based on classics and be appointed to govt posts, sometimes rising to positions of great authority.  Confucian self-cultivation of these men was considered to be basic attribute that made them good administrators. No corresponding system in Tokugawa Japan--shogun & daimyo never instituted examination system, and their Confucian advisors,   jukan, never had much power. Power was held by men of samurai class as Intro. To catalog brings out very well. Other strata of Edo society included hereditary nobility,concentrated in Kyoto; and classes of merchants and farmers—all these could be| rich and educated,but all were w/o power or authority.

Now: how does ptg,and particularly the Nanga or Bunjinga school, fit in with this?  "Nanga" means "Southern School",and w/o going into intricacies of what "So.School" meant in China or Japan, we can say that in a loose way it corresponded to the scholar-amateur China. Bunjinga is Jap.  pronunciation of wen- jen hua or "literati, ptg," same mvt.  So in theory,  this Jap.  school of ptg should correspond to school of scholar-official artists in Ming-Ch’ing China, who ptd (at least in theory) as an avocation while pursuing their political careers as officials, not as professional painters. But in fact, doesn't correspond.  Closest Japanese equivalents,  Confucian scholars,jusha in service of shoguns or clan lords,composed Chinese-styles poetry and wrote Chinese-style calligraphy,but few of them ptd.  Chinese-style ptgs,or any other kind.

So, who did paint the Nanga paintings? Japanese bunjinga ptrs came from various classes.  Tended to cope from samurai families,or families of   jusha or educated people employed by clans as teachers, physicians,  advisors,  etc. Sometimes they served i.n these capacities themselves for a time, but "dropped out" or were expelled for some misbehavior or breaches of rules, and led independent lives, outside the established classes of the feudal society, making their livings through their talents as poets,  calligraphers, musicians, painters.  So that even those who started out in positions of some power & prestige tended to lose it when they left clan service, or were expelled from it. Others belonged from beginning to powerless classes,including two of the greatest,Taiga & Buson-Taiga was son of merchant,Buson of a farmer.

So when these men ptd subjects representing ideal of cultivated Confucian scholar-officials of China and their idealized occupations, as they did much of the time,they were not so much expressing the realities of their own lives and social positions as fulfilling some demand for pictures of this kind,expressive of these themes. Important to keep in mind when we turn to the pictures,as we now do.

Begin w. ptgs of themes that can be related relatively clearly to Confucianism.

S.S. Ptg that celebrate the imperial power in China, and portray the emperor as sage ruler to whom others do obeisance, sometimes done by masters of Kano School, who were official ptrs to Shogun & daimyo.  Must have carried same meaning for them as in China: virtues of strictly stratified, hierarchical social order. Ideal of loyalty to ruler. Orthodoxy of styles underlines this meaning.  These by Kano Tanyu, early Edo master. One of pair of screens; pair of sliding doors.  Suitable for public spaces where ruler and vassals might assemble; reminded them of their obligations of reality.

S.S.  On lower serial level, stability of family and of relationships within it might be subjects of ptgs. Kuo Tzu-I, general & statesman of T’ang dyn, China, 8th cent., frequent subject in Edo ptg: these examples by Maruyama Okyo (18th cent.) and his contemp. Yosa Buson, best known as poet ptr, but who also ptd many pictures of this kind—probably used to congratulate someone on attaining old age and eminence, having large and prosperous family. Probably, that is, occasional pictures, used to commemorate or felicitate some occasion, such as birthday. Presumably based on Chinese models.

S. Okyo’s well-known fusuma ptgs of same theme show Gen. Kuo Tzu-I watching a child, probably his grandson, scribbling on a banana-palm leaf. Ideal behind this was Chinese: educating your sons so that they could themselves pursue scholar-office careers, and continue to enrich family and gain prestige for it.

S.S. Still further down social scale the pictures of farmers hard at work fulfilling their roles in feudal society. Part of screen by Morikage (17c), fusuma by Goshun (late 18th early 19th cent.) Again, pictures of this kind extolled the stability & prosperity of the country under strong rule—so long as everyone accepted his role & worked hard in it, everybody supposedly benefited. This is the version of Edo society that catalog text stresses.

S.S. This ptg, by Watanabe Kazan, ptd around 1840, presents similar theme: people staying up at night (moonlit LS) to weave cloth.  Productivity, diligence are theme Kazan presents. But in fact, when this ptg done, Kazan not enjoying the benefits of this admirably stable Tokugawa rule; in fact he was under house arrest for engaging in prohibited studies, espec. Rangaku or European studies. He was clan official; concerned w. politics & economics of foreign countries, and he thought Japan could learn useful things from these. But this was in conflict w. strictly exclusionist policies of Tokugawa govt; Kazan was put under house arrest, and after two years of confinement, killed himself.

I want to use this picture, and tragic circumstances of Kazan's life & death, to introduce sub-theme of my lecture: oppressive side of Edo govt & society, and reactions to this by some leading artists & intellectuals.  Not so much arguing against very positive picture of Tokugawa regime presented by the exhibition & its catalog as trying to balance it a little by suggesting negative aspects of same regime. Want to suggest some of costs at which this admirable stability was achieved.

S.S. Even more overtly Confucian themes occasionally ptd: on left,  Chinese ptg of Confucius & disciples listing to performance of music in apricot grove by 17c Chinese master. Ptg known in Japan at least since 18c,  several Edo-period artists did free copies of it. Have slide of only one:  Buson's (taken from old auction catalog). Music recognized by Confuc. as having moral force—could inculcate virtue in hearer.

S. This is Buson's portrait of Chu Hsi, great Neo-Confuc.philosopher of Sung period China 12c).  Ptd in 1761, and based,acc to Buson's insc.,on Sung Dynasty ptg. Artists of Edo-period Japan used whatever actual Chinese ptgs were accessible to them as models,and pictures in woodblock-printed books imported from China to supplement these.

S.S. Returning to the theme of occasional ptgs and birthday ptgs: Edo-period artists followed practice of Chinese in-using certain symbols to convey wishes for longevity, or happy old age. Ptg by Ikeno Taiga,one of great masters of Nanga who was active in 18c.,presents ideal in light-hearted way:  gathering of 100 old men,enjoying each other's company,  eating & drinking vine.  I'm inclined to believe that such subjects are to be understood as responding to some particular circumstance in patron's situation-­birthdays etc.— and see ptgs as done in response to some identifiable demand.   (Buson & New Orleans cat.)

S. Here is one by Baitei,  follower of Buson, portraying gathering of old men—immortals or transcendants—on Mt.P’eng-lai or Hōrai, one of Isles of Blest in Chinese legend where people who transcended mortality went. Properly speaking, Taoist i/o Confucian; but belongs to Chinese system of revering old age, and scholarly pursuits-­writing calligraphy,reading & discussing old texts. Artist himself 72 when he ptd it, insc--

S.S. There was established iconography for longevity, wishing someone vigorous old age—Chikuden (active early 19c), LS w. pines & cranes, red sun; ptg by Rosetsu,brillian 18c master, of Mt. Hōrai, using pines, tortoises (lower r., cranes (upper r.) –carried immortals to their haven. Adoption of this set of auspicious symbols, and practice of using them for felicitations, brought in from China as part of new wave of Ch. Culture in Edo period. (Similar ptg in Sansō Col.-done because of demand – not: why was Rogetsu so fond of this subject?)

For whom were these done? Recent dissertation by Yoko Woodson has demonstrated that patronage of Chikuden & others was chiefly from merchant & farmer classes, sake manufacturers,rich farmers in provinces--who were fascinated w.Chinese learning and adopted it in preference to Japanese traditions that were assoc. w. upper classes, aristocracy & samurai. Merchants or farmers theoretically low on social scale, but often rich and cultured men. They collected Ch. books & ptgs,wrote Chinese-style poems,supported scholars & artists & calligraphers who worked in Chinese styles. So this development somewhat outside seats of power in Edo society.  Theme we'll come back to later.

Now, would like to turn to ideal of amateurism, another as part of Confucianism in art. In China, as I said at beg., assoc. w. scholar-official class, who produced ptg & callig. & poetry as expressions of Confucian self-cultivation, and as an avocation, in leisure time, between their proper pursuits, scholarship & official service. “Southern School” of ptg, or Nanga.And, as I’ve suggested, no real Japanese equivalent to this class. So what forms did amateurism in art take in Japan?

S.S. Kuwayama Gyokushū, contemp. & friend of Taiga, was rich amateur who began by ptg as avocation; may have done it for income in later in life, after he had squandered his patrimony.  He wrote several essays of ptg theory, and in one, argued that certain Jap. Ptrs could be properly regarded as “Southern School” of Japan.

S.S. Artists he lists incl. Konoe Nobutada, 16th -early 17th cent. Member of Kyoto nobility, who ptd amateurish pictures; Shokada Shojo, zen monk-ptr of 17c. (example in Sangō col);

S.S. Sōtatsu, great early Edo master who wasn’t amateur at all; and Kōrin, his follower, who was also thoroughly professional. Kōrin, his follower, who was also thorough professional. Kōrin, however, like Gyokushū, had begun as well-to-do, cultivated young man & squandered inheritance, turned to ptg to make living, became one of greatest Japanese artists. Gyokushū doesn’t state criteria for his Jap. “Southern School, but what he seems to be saying is that this kind of ptg depends more on taste than on technique; best done by men of culture, not just people who learn techniques of ptg. (Contrary to whole direction of Kano school, which would take apprentices & teach them the art—no/culture or social standing needed.)

S.S. Gyokushū might have included Kōrin’s brother Kenzan, best known as potter but also ptr-Yatsuhashi design of plank bridge & irises; bamboo in snow, ptd in ink monochrome. Kenzan also somewhat amateurish, technically, as potter,but still one of most original masters.

S.S. Bamboo ptgs in ink monochrome were favored subject of Chinese scholar-amateurs, and some Jap. Nanga artists took up this genre in imitation of them. Early Nanga artist Gion Nankai was one who took up this practice.

Nankai is good example of artist who began in clan service, was expelled. Some of clan physician, studied Confucianism & Ch. Literature. Charged w. some misdemeanor, banished from clan. Imitated Chinese ptgs, made some part of his living as ptr and calligrapher.(Pattern followed by others.

S. His contemp. Sakaki Hyakusen, by contrast,came from merchant family & was thoroughgoing professional as ptr. Far better ptr; but it was Nankai who better represented amateur ideal,Confucian cultivation. Two sets of values somewhat at odds: Hyakusen’s technically superior,finer as work ofart; Nankai's supposed to be superior as expres. of character of superior man. Tensions bet. these two lead to some of problems of evaluation in Nanga ptg.

S.Younger artist, Taiga,who learned from both of older masters, Nankai & Hyakusen, was quite proficient technically,quite capable of ptg picture like Hyakusen's; but chose to follow Nankai. in his bamboo ptgs & stress amateurism, and looser,calligraphic manner. This way of ptg, carrying with it a complex system of Chinese values,represented those values to Edo-period Japanese audiences, and was appreciated accordingly. Chinese styles as well as Chinese subject.

S.S.Landscape ptgs in dry,rather abstract manner, also based on models by Chinese literati.-amateur ptrs, conveyed same ideals. One by Kan Tenju,  friend of Taiga who was also a poet & ca11igrapher in Chinese manner; Rai Sanyo,early 19c scholar, poet,calligrapher & ptr.  He was another who came from BG of feuda1 clan service but broke away & lived independent life in Kyoto.   (Yoko’s dissertation.)

His ptgs don’t offer much of decorative beauty or ski11 or pictorial values—deficient,that is,in most of what Japanese ptg had always prized—but appreciated by Sanyo's merchant & farmer-class patrons all the more for that. Supposed to represent a taste that transcended other kinds; allowed patrons & other viewers comfortable feeling of belonging to special class of people sensitive to those values.

S.S. Ptr of same period who was merchant himself was Okada Beisanjin,  rice merchant of Osaka,who took up this rather abstract & amateurish style of LS and did some quite individua1 ptgs in it. (Fine example in LA County Mus., dtd.1812)

S. idea1 of individualism important to this school: and significant that it was expressed by people who occupied positions outside power-structure of Edo society. I would like to suggest tentatively that these styles & images, which were assoc. in China with people who were thoroughly parts of the establishment, came to be assoc. in Japan with those who were in one way or another outside it.

S.S. Main theme of Nanga ptg is LS, often with no obvious subject matter beyond that.  But LS often can be read as images of seclusion, getting away from pressures of human society etc., communicating w. friend or wandering alone in nature. Kind of image of escape, or release. Imagery so well established that only small clues needed to convey this meaning to viewer. In one, the artist, Chikuden, paints self & friend who came to visit him, bringing bottle of wine, on autumn evening; two are enjoying moon. Other, by Gyokudo, has solitary figure crossing bridge.

S.S. Gyokudo was head of a family serving the Ikeda clan, and a scholar of Confucianism who advised the clan lord. Broke w. clan in 1794—among other things, had come to subscribe to form of Neo-Confucianism taught by Ming philos. Wang Yan-ming, and his “heterodox” doctrine (opposed to orthodox Chu Hsi Neo-Confucianism) was another of studies prohibited by Tokugawa govt. Gyokudo set off w. 2 sons, travelling all over Japan, making living as musician (played ch’in), also ptg to repay hospitality etc. Bookyaku or “ink guest”.

S.S. Chikuden’s life (this is his ptg of clan castle) followed similar pattern: came from family of clan physicians in Kyushu, rec’d Confucian education, became head of family, then resigned when his proposals on behalf of peasants were rejected & became professional ptr & poet, travelling a lot, living as “ink guest” w. succession of hosts. (Chikuden & Sanyo subject of Yoko Woodson’s dissertation.)

Such LS prob carried for artists & patrons, meanings of high culture separate from the traditional Jap. One they were enmeshed in; and of secluded life away from pressures and problems of cities.

S. Images of seclusion, men who have left world voluntarily to engage in self-cultivation, very common in Nanga; and nobody has addressed, or even asked, question of what they meant to Japanese artists & patrons. I can’t answer that question – needs lots of investigation, reading insc. etc. – but want to suggest that artists must have seen parallels bet. Their lives and Chinese scholars in pictures – ideal of disengagement, person of culture who doesn’t choose to pursue fame & person of culture who doesn’t choose to pursue fame & power in ordinary way. Buson’s insc on this LS reads: “One crosses the single plank bridge to a small cluster of buildings/where a few stalks of tall banboo grow within the brushwood gate./He (the recluse) has reached white-haired old age oblivious of the affairs of lords and nobles (court service), /living quietly, teaching the classics to his sons and grandsons.” Insc. on Chikuden’s ptg in praise of living in mts, reading books, as superior to “competing for fame and fighting for profit.” What we would call getting out of the rat race. Chikuden once wrote on LS ptg done for patron named Sakagami Dōin: “Dōin lives in Itami and manages his business in the country. He dares not serve in the govt., because of his lofty ideals. I am pleased that I found the right person to appreciate properly this ptg of mine.” Make virtue of necessity. Dōin probl. Merchant, couldn’t pursue career in govt; insc follows Chinese convention, like ptg. Images in both must have carried, for Edo readers & viewers, meanings of escaping from oppressiveness of Edo society.

Let me pursue theme of scholar-recluse, and related themes, in Edo ptg to conclude this lecture.

S.S.Ikeno Taiga ptd in 1750 image of Chinese scholar of Han dyn living in retirement, accompany piece of callig. by Gion Nankai, copy of essay written by this Han scholar in praise of this way of life.  Ch'in in front of him;  servant prepares tea; library of books. Image of self-sufficiency.

S.S.Tanomura Chikuden,again, in ptg dtd. 1832,shows group of gentlemen enjoying refined pastimes: music, poetry, good conversation –in garden, while servant approaches wine-pot preparatory to serving them.

S.S. Common theme was that of scholars gazing at waterfall—occupation thought to "cleanse the mind," bring spiritual benefits. Hyakusen, Nakayama Kōyō.

S.S. Example by Buson; Tani Bunchō, Nanga artist active in Edo in

late 18th 19c.  Recent research by member of our faculty indicates--  (negative ions)

S.S.Drinking is another frequent occupation of ideal Ch. scholars as they appear in Edo ptg.  Two details from version by Rosetsu of 8 Immortals of Wine Cup (originally T'ang poet Li. Po & friends) composing poetry, doing callig., enjoying their inebriation.

S. Hakusen. Imagery from China adopted at this time- To celebrate drinking parties? Presents for sake manufacturers? Whatever the immediate occasion for the ptg, drunkenness was another kind of escape, or release, belongs to same set of themes.

S.S. Details from Buson screen ptgs of groups of scholars drinking in garden; we know that such parties were common, in Ch & Japan, and that participant hass composed & recited poetry at them, did callig & ptg—cultural as we11 as social observances.

S.S. Variant of this show people making their way home after drinking party, help up & pushed up hill by servants. This is version by Buson, who ptd it several times.

S.S. One well-known Chinese drinker was T’ao T-m, 4th cent. Chinese poet who withdrew from post as official, returned to home in country, lived simple life there. Composed famous “Homecoming” ode. Ptgs by Buson, Nakayama Koyo. In China, these belong to iconography of seclusion, avoidance of govt service. Ptd. By court artists & artist working in capitals for high official patrons. Carried political meanings.

S.S. One of T'ao Y-m' s best-known writings is "Peach-blossom Spring, "short account of how fisherman,lost in mts, discovers secret haven where people who escaped from political oppression three cent. earlier have been living peacefully ever since. Still another theme of escape from harsh politica1 realities, w. same implications as other in China. Mochizuki Gyokusen, early Nanga artist, portrays fisherman at entrance to cave; Buson shows him arriving in Elysium, being met by village elders.

All these are obliquely political themes; others more overtly so, in China, are also represented by Japanese artists.

S.S. Overtly political themes in Ch ptg include “Four Old Men of Mt.Shang,” “Two Virtuous Hermits” (Po-I and Shu-ch’i) who withdrew to wilderness & served rather than serve under unvirtuous rulers. Sometimes ptd in Japan—Kōrub on left, Shōhaku on r.—what meaning for Japanese? Unanswered question.

S.S. Seven Sages of Bamboo Grove: Unkoku Tōgan on left, Kano Tanyū on right-Ch. Scholars & individualists of 3rd cent. A.D. who withdrew during unsettled political conditions & spent time composing poetry, playing music etc.

S.S. Or virtuous hermit T’ai Kung-wang, shown here in ptg by Kōrin , who spent time on riverbank fishing; emperor came to invite  him to court as high minister, declined to go. Scarlett Jang has recently completed study of all these themes in China, shown that they are painted, typically, by artists working in court or for high-official patrons in capitals, and that the themes pertain directly to circumstances of patrons’ lives, their own involvement w. officialdom. So meanings of themes in China becoming clear; question remaints of how much of these meanings came with images to Japan? How understood there?

S.S. That remains our question.  But prevalence of such themes,  inscriptions that indicate some understanding of their meaning, prevent us from saying simply that Jap. Nanga artists like to copy Chinese themes in their ptgs and leaving it at that. Here is triptych by Buson, ptd in 1764, purchased recently by Oberlin Art Museum. General & his retainers; soldiers rushing along path while scholar hides from them (?)  above;  three people coming to house of retired scholar.  Last, at least, is clear:  from San-kuo chih or "Romance of Three Kingdoms," chivalric epic of period after Han; they are coming to invite Chu-ko Liang out of retirement, to join their cause. Another example of "Summoning the hermit" theme.

S.S. Three men at the gate talking w. sevant;

S. Scholar, very aloof and seemingly unconcerned, waiting above.

S.S. Buson ptd this theme a number of times—screen of around 1764,hanging scroll. Must have had some special significance & function for his & his patrons. We don’t know what it was; but whatever it was, must have expressed for them the particular tensions of Edo society, bet. on one hand military rulers & those who served them, and on other, those classes of society—merchants, farmers—that were outside this structure of power – together with those who broke with the feudal order of clans and tried to pursue independent lives as scholar’s artists, a group that includes surprisingly large number of the leading Nanga artists. These ptgs embody one of the basic assumptions of Chinese society, superiority of scholarly achievements over military, wen over wu. In Japan, rather subversive, idea. Perhaps why Tokugawa rulers didn’t support this kind of ptg. Why none in exhib.

So, although Tokugawa govt’s support of Confucianism as state philosophy is a fact, also true that kind of art most closely associated w. Confucian system, corresponding to art of scholar-official class in China, did not become part of that feudal order in Japan, but seem to have represented alternatives to it, or escapes from it.

Thank you.




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