Shokunin kasen [Immortal Artisan Poets]. Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU, ed.?
Shokunin kasen [Immortal Artisan Poets].
Shokunin kasen [Immortal Artisan Poets].

Poetry Competition of Occupations;
Can You Make the Connections?

Shokunin kasen [Immortal Artisan Poets].

36 full-page woodcuts, each with an accompanying poem. 18 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. blue wrappers (rather worn & rubbed), early manuscript title label on upper cover “Shokuni kasen Mitsuhiro kyo sen” [“Immortal Artisan Poets selected by Lord Mitsuhiro”], new stitching. [Japan: mid-Edo].

In the late 9th century, a new kind of poetry competition was developed in Japan: the utaawase. Themes were determined, and a poet chosen from each team, the Left and the Right, wrote a waka (a poem) for each given theme. The host appointed a judge for each theme and gave points to the winning team. The team that received the largest number of points was the winner. At first, utaawase was simply a playful entertainment, but as the poetic tradition deepened and developed, it turned into a serious aesthetic contest, with considerably more formality. The tradition continued well into the 19th century.

In the 18 competitions in the present work, the theme is various occupations. Many of the 18 competing pairs of are deliberately unlikely matches. But each pair of poems is related by clever plays on words, suggestions, or obscure connections, requiring an extremely refined intellect to find the connections. The 18 pairs of poems appear on verso and recto of each leaf with accompanying woodcuts.

Some of the competitions are between a doctor and a sorcerer, a monk and a bookbinder (?), a carpenter and a blacksmith, a sword sharpener and a metallurgist, a nun and a blind musician, a dyer and an armorer, a lacquerware maker and a box maker, a gambler and a boatman, a needle maker and a rosary maker, a katsurame and an oharame, a merchant and a male abalone diver, another armorer and a woman thread seller, a leather worker and an embroiderer, a maker of bows and arrows and a saddle maker, a brush maker and a fan maker, a woodcarver and a mirror maker, and an umbrella maker and a barrel maker.

The poems and woodcut images were, according to the label on the upper cover, collected and edited by Mitsuhiro Karasumaru (1579-1638), nobleman, poet, calligrapher, and trusted diplomat at the court of the artistically influential Emperor Go-Mi zuno-o (1596-1680, reigned 1611-29).

Faint dampstaining in upper margins of latter leaves. Very rare; no copy in WorldCat.

Price: $5,000.00

Item ID: 6883

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