A kozuka full of references

Let me introduce a kozuka of the great Tsuchiya Yasuchika (土屋安親) which does not look so spectacular at a glance. First the technical terms. It is of suaka and with shibuichi and shakudô hira-zôgan and measures 10 cm in length. It is signed via a kinzôgan seal which reads “Tô´u” (東雨), so we learn that we are facing a work from his later years. The kozuka depicts or rather represents a famous tea scoop container (chashaku-zutsu, 茶杓筒) made by Kobori Enshû (小堀遠州, 1579-1647).


Picture 1: Kobori Enshû (left), Shôkadô Shôjô (right)

You may already be familiar with Kobori Enshû, the famous aristocratic tea master and “allround artist” who developed his own style of the tea ceremony and who taught among others the third Tokugawa-shôgun Iemitsu (徳川家光, 1623-1651) the ways of the sadô (茶道). One day, Enshû received a gift of Shôkadô Shôjô (松花堂昭乗, 1584-1639) in the form of a hanging scroll. The Buddhist monk Shôjô was a master of the tea ceremony too who became also famous as calligrapher as one of the “Three Brushes of the Kan´ei Era” (Kan´ei-sanpitsu, 寛永三筆). As a return gift, Enshû presented him a self-made tea scoop container with the nickname aogoke (青苔, “green moss,” sometimes also quoted as seitai). This nickname is a reference to the 78th chapter of the Ise-monogatari (伊勢物語) in which the court noble Fujiwara no Tsuneyuki (藤原常行, 836-875) is on his way back from a memorial service and stops at Prince Saneyasu´s (人康親王, 831-782) residence in Yamashina (山科) to the north of Kyôto. The prince entertained Tsuneyuki and so he gave him as a gift a beautiful rock from Chisato Beach (千里の浜) of Kii province which was once intended to be a present for Tsuneyuki´s father but did not arrive in time for the festivities. But although beautiful, just a rock would not be adequate as a present for a prince and so Tsuneyuki scaped away the green moss from the surface until characters in the form of a poem remained. The Ise-monogatari speaks of “scraped away the green moss from the rock until … the words stood out like the raised design of a makie lacquerware.” The poem goes:

Akane domo iwa ni zo kafuru iro mienu kokoro o misemu yoshi no nakareba.
“Inadequate though it be, this rock must represent those feelings that 
by their nature have no color to arrest the eye and thus cannot be made 

So this receiving and returning of gifts must had reminded Enshû of Tsuneyuki and the prince and when he made the tea scoop container for Shôjô he added an inscription which is an allusion to the above mentioned poem:

Ise-monogatari ni wa aoki-koke o kizamite to ari, take o kizamite 
okashiku, akane domo take ni zo kafuru iro mienu kokoro o misemu yoshi 
no nakareba.
“The Ise-monogatari tells of an inscription in the form of green moss 
of which I was thinking carving this bamboo. Inadequate though it be, 
this bamboo must represent those feelings that by their nature have no 
color to arrest the eye and thus cannot be made visible.”


Picture 2: chashaku-zutsu kozuka of Yasuchika, in´mei “Tô´u” (東雨)

Yasuchika now took Enshû´s tea scoop container and turned it – with a certain artistic freedom – into a kozuka. He also added Enshû´s inscriptions via a shakudô hira-zôgan on the back and front and also copied the worm damage of the front. The inscription on the front reads: “Takimotobô, chashaku, Sôhoshi” (瀧本坊・茶杓・宗甫子). The Takimotobô was the temple of which Shôkadô Shôjô was the chief priest and “Sôhoshi” (mostly without “-shi”) was a pseudonym of Kobori Enshû. Please note that the original tea spoon container of Enshû seems to bear a slightly inscription, namely “Takimoto onbô” (瀧本御坊, “monk Takimoto”). The chashaku-zutsu is owned by the Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art and a picture can be seen here. Yasuchika´s adaption is very tasteful and has the typical more calm and introverted approach of his later years. There is no other kozuka of him known representing a tea spoon container and so it is possible that it was made on request and/or it was maybe a return gift for somebody?


Picture 3: Bodhidharma kozuka of Yasuchika, mei: “Yasuchika” (安親)

As comparison, I would like to introduce a kozuka from Yasuchika´s earlier years. It is of shakudô with a nanako ground and depicts the Bodhidharma in his form as great teacher. The inscription reads: “Ma iwaku – mu-kudoku” (磨曰・無功徳), “Daruma said: No merits.” This line refers to an encounter of the Chinese Emperor Wû of Líang (梁武帝, 464-549), who was a fervent patron of Buddhism, with Bodhidharma whom he didn´t know yet: Emperor Wû asks Bodhidharma how much karmic merit he has yet earned by doing so much for Buddhism and Bodhidharma replied: “No merits. Good deeds done with wordly intent bring good karma, but no merit.” Upon this Emperor Wû asks: “So what is the highest meaning of noble truth of Buddhist wisdom?” And Bodhidharma replies again: “There is no noble truth, there is only emptiness.” Then Emperor Wû wonders and asks: “Then, who is standing before me?”, and Bodhidharma finally replies: “I don´t know.” This kozuka takes the viewer into the position of Emperor Wû, being confronted with the enlightened teacher Bodhidharma, whose at a glance incomprehensible answers make one to rethink his approach so far. And with quoting explicitly the line “No merits”, the kozuka reminds the viewer of doing good things but in an unselfish manner.

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