Exhibition Outlines

No.2 Art of Felicitations (1994/1/4 - 1994/2/20)

image information
Art of Felicitations

Japanese people since olden times used to hold felicitations at o6casions of changes of the seasons or of turns of life, and felt dearly with the festive events. When these sundry moods of festivities in life combined with various thoughts and customs imported from China, Korea and other neighboring countries, there was gradually formed a unique Japanese culture of felicitations.

Among the felicitations there are some which have a1ready been forgotten, but on the other hand there have survived ones, such as those of sekku(borders of the seasons in lunar calendar)and of celebrating long-1ived persons,which have been carried on to this day uninterruptedly. In and after the Nara period when written culture was established, works of poetry and art expressing congratulatory feelings were born in quantities.

The present exhibition which starts in the season of congratulating the New Year is organized with works of felicitating hearts, for example waka 31-syllable Japanese poems)expressing felicity and other such works of calligraphy; paintings and works of artistic crafts on subjects symbolizing happiness, that is “1ucky themes”, selected out of our museum’s collection.

Among calligraphic writings, for example, the ”Waka Poem composed on the New Year’s Day” by Fujiwara no Nobutsuna of the Kamakura period is a versification of the happiness of greeting the New Year. The “Two prefaces and two poems, one about the ne-no-hi day and the other about the kanoe-saru day “ by Konoe Iehiro, the distinguished calligraphist in the Middle Edo period, are hand-written calligraphic renditions of literary works (waka poems) compossd in the Heian period on the themes of annual functions, by noblemen of that aristocracic age with supplication for long life.

Symbols of good fortune seen on paintings and craft works are all ones with which the Japanese are closely familiar. The subjects of “Chinese Children at Play” painted by Kano Tan'yu in the Edo period is a sight of Children of China enjoying the New Year and spring, forgetting themselves in innocent merriments. Chinese children (karako) were esteemed in Japan as symbols of felicity. A similar statement applies to the karashishi (“Chinese lion,” mystic lion of Chinese origin). Plants and animals like the pine-bamboo-plum (Sho-chiku-bai), and the crane (tsuru) and kame (tortoise) believed to live for one thousand and ten thousand years reepectively, were also dear to the Japanese since early times as symbols of felicity. Here in this exhibitions we have included a painting with cranes as motifs. Such natural phenomena as sunrise associated with traditional mountain worship, Mt. Fuji revered as the “sacred peak”, and the like are also symbols of felicity. Such customs as these are felt only natural in the life of the Japanese, and have provided subject matters for many works of art. These motifs are represented typically in works of Shimomura Kanzan and Yokoyama Taikan who are the representative Japanese-style painters of recent past, and in the work of Toyokawa Mitsunaga, a meta1art master of the Meiji period. To cite an even more typical example, the decorative “The Sacred Mt. Fuji and cranes in flight”by Domoto lnsho combining cranes and Mt. Fuji overflows with atmosphere of good fortune.

The phoenix (hoo),an imaginary bird of Chinese origin, is an amblem of authority and a symbol of good auspice. It, too, has bean a frequent motif of works of art and craft in Japan since the remote past.