Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter tanka! (pt 1)

Snow today in Philadelphia—perfect timing to get back to trying to choose 短歌 to write for winter. Fun, because among the possibilities there are always new thoughts, new kanji, new grammatical structures, new images, etc. I'm working with some pages of tanka that 先生 was kind enough to give us. じゃ、習字の日本語が読めない友達も詞を選べるために訳してみましょう!

(I take no responsibility for my attempts at translation below; some of the kanji, grammar, and kanji usage are pre-modern, so it's difficult, and even if they weren't I'd make no guarantees. I try to make the metrics work—57577—but it's not always obvious. でも、頑張りましょうね。)

I'll keep working with them and update these if I can find any more insights. 難しいなぁ。。。。

(Also, the new Blogger interface is weird about line breaks, so, apologies if they're wrong.)

正岡子規 MASAOKA shiki (1867–1902)
fuyu gomoru yamai no toko no garasu to no kumori nugueba tabi hoseru miyu
winter confinement—wiping the clouds (or mist, or frost) 
from the sickbed's glass door—seeing tabi hung out to dry

与謝野鉄幹 YOSANO tekkan (1873–1935)
ki no me saku, ushiro no hatake ni, shimo miete, kesa wa mi ni shimu, yamabato no koe
(Check out the amazing monument to him at Bicchuu Matsuyama Castle.) 
looking at the frost on the tree's buds in the back field, 
wrapped up, this morning; voice of a turtledove
(I'm making a guess at けさはみにしむ; けさ could probably also be "this morning", but a song lyric comes to me: 「闇を抱きしめる」, with "shimeru" as a kind of "wrapping oneself in", which kinda works with the cloak けさ/かさや. There also may be an image of frost blooming さく, but I can't identify the kanji after 木の. Something with 草冠, suggesting a plant connection. Addendum: Updated per tibonchina's help. Beyond my misunderstandings, I'd completely missed a phrase! Still not sure about 身にしむ.)

島赤彦 SHIMAKI akahiko (1876–1926)
ノート: 諏訪湖畔 (by Lake Suwa, Nagano)
mizuumi no
koori ha tokete
naho samushi
mikazuki no kage
nami ni utsurou
the ice on the lake is breaking up, but the chill continues; 
the crescent moon's light changes on the waves
(I'm being inconsistent with the transcriptions, I know. I'm taking なほ as なう, probably erroneously, but it seems to work in this context.) 

島木赤彦 SHIMAKI akahiko (1876–1926)
yuki fureba
yama yori kudaru 
kotori o hoshi
shouji no soto(?) ni 
hinemosu kiyu
as the snow falls, all day i hear, outside the shouji screens,  
many little birds, come down from the mountain
(I don't understand the image of dried shouji, but otherwise why ほし? Reminds me of a 茶の湯 friend's story that when she was a kid, whenever her mother was about to replace the shouji screens, she and her sister got to punch through all the paper. Also, I keep thinking that the image should be the voice of the bird coming down from the mountain, but I can't justify that from the poem. Addendum: ほし=多い. I'll have to revisit the meter when I know more [ie, anything] about classical forms.)

金子薫園 KANEKO kun'en (1896-1951)
me ni shimiru kureshi bakari no fuyuzora no aiiro ni shite tsuki hosoku ari
the sky is turning a winter-sky-just-past-sunset indigo that penetrates the eye; thin moon

I have a bunch more typed out but still need to figure them out to the minimal level.

- "hoshi" (star) is police slang for a suspect
- the kanji for "shouji" (paper screens) are "hinder" and "child" (障子—or, "hurt" and "child"! 当て字かも知れません。)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You scoop tea *how*?!

Another article I was reading, from Japan Quarterly, recounted a visit to the Midorikai tea intensive (for non–Japanese people) in Kyouto. It's a fun read that also gives an overview of tea, the Sen family, and the Urasenke school and includes interviews with some of the students. One student offered the following remarkable anecdote "that illustrates how chanoyu gives one confidence":
Once a tea master accompanied a feudal lord into town, wearing a sword to appear incognito. There he was challenged to a duel by a samurai. Desperate, he asked a Buddhist priest what he should do. The priest said, "Just handle your sword like a tea scoop." The tea master appeared at the dueling site at the appointed time. He pulled out his sword before the watching samurai and handled it just as he would a tea scoop, upon which the samurai skedaddled.
Now, I don't have a ton of experience with tea, and of course I don't suppose the priest meant it literally; but I can't imagine a situation in which handling a katana as one would a chashaku (tea scoop) would result in success. Sounds like a great way to cut your fingers very badly...and probably spill your matcha.

Another take on chanoyu: Prévert's "Déjeuner du matin".

This morning on the way to work I was thinking about tea ceremony, and a poem popped into my head that I learned many moons ago: Jacques Prévert's "Déjeuner du matin":
Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse
he poured the coffee into the cup

Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café
he poured the milk into the cup of coffee

Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait
he put the sugar into the café au lait (or, the coffee and milk)

Avec la petite cuiller
Il a tourné
with the little spoon, he stirred

Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
he drank the coffee and set down the cup

Sans me parler
without speaking to me

Il a allumé
Une cigarette
he lit (or lighted, if you prefer) a cigarette

Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
he made rings with the smoke

Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
he shook the ashes into the ashtray

Sans me parler
Sans me regarder
without speaking to me
without looking at me

Il s'est levé
he stood up

Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
he put his hat on his head

Il a mis son manteau de pluie
Parce qu'il pleuvait
he put on his raincoat, because it was raining

Et il est parti
and he left

Sous la pluie
in the rain

Sans une parole
without a word

Sans me regarder
without looking at me

Et moi j'ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
and, me, i took my head into my hand

Et j'ai pleuré
and i cried
Notwithstanding its emotional tone, it's a great poem for relatively early students of French to learn because the grammar and vocabulary are so (intentionally) basic.

What struck me about it this morning is that it shares with chanoyu that focus on granular process—doing exactly one thing at a time, in order (and, in this case, while being watched and narrated in past-tense real time!). Both have a central theme of presence, to some degree through ritual—being totally present in the tearoom with the guests, tranquil in that moment and the simple (though not at all simple) actions of making tea—or, in the poem, being slowly emotionally devastated by this string of deliberate, also simple, everyday acts. Both also involve one actor and one relatively passive "guest" (although, of course, "he" is making coffee for himself).

Interesting that much of the tension in the poem derives from the speaker's apparently understanding, while the coffee is being made, that the last act will be departure; in a way it's the exact opposite of the now-focus of tea. But, then, you can also argue that it matches the wabi element of tea practice, in emphasizing the ephemerality of the moment and the poignancy of human experience—that two people can never meet twice and have the same experience (or be the same person), and that each time is the only time. だから「一期一会」と言って、掛け物に書きますね。 Very similar and very different.

And, of course, tea doesn't usually end in tears. (Usually.)

I wonder whether Prévert had any experience with tea. It doesn't seem likely for his Parisian context, and the Net isn't connecting the two for me, so maybe it's just that Prévert arrived at a similar idea of the inner tensions/dynamics/richness/poignancy of a seemingly mundane experience.

(Maybe when leaving "he" said 失礼いたしました—a humble apology for having been in the tearoom at all—before pawing the door closed. I doubt it, but it's fun to think so.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More paragons of piety.

Not to overbeat the drum, but.... Was just looking up the 24 Paragons of Filial Piety, and I found a very different translation of the titles, with the names of the paragons:

1. Filial Conduct That Impressed The Gods: Shun The Great
2. Personally Checking His Mother's Prescriptions: The Learned Emperor Of Han
3. His Heart Was Pained When His Mother Bit Her Finger: Zeng Shen
4. Clad In A Threadbare Jacket, He Tolerated His Cruel Stepmother: Min Ziqian
5. Carrying Loads Of Rice On His Back To Feed His Parents: Zi Lu
6. Entering Servitude To Pay For His Father's Funeral: Dong Yong
7. Bringing Deers' Milk To His Ailing Parents: Young Master Tan
8. Taking On Menial Labor To Support His Mother: Jiang Ge
9. Stealing Oranges To Take Home For His Mother: Lu Ji
10. Never Tiring Of Feeding Milk To Her Mother-In-Law: Lady Tang
11. Attracting Mosquitos To Drink His Blood: Wu Meng
12. Lying Down On The Ice To Get Carp For His Stepmother: Wang Xiang
13. Burying His Son To Save His Mother: Guo Ju
14. Wrestling With A Tiger To Save His Father: Yang Xiang
15. Resigning Office To Search For His Mother: Zhu Shouchang
16. Deeply Concerned, He Tasted His Father's Stool: Yu Qianlou
17. Costumes And Pranks To Amuse His Parents: Lao Laizi
18. Picking Mulberries For His Mother: Cai Shun
19. He Fanned The Pillow And Warmed the Sheets: Huang Xiang
20. A Bubbling Spring And Leaping Carp: Jiang Shi
21. Crying By The Grave When Thunder Rolled: Wang Weiyuan
22. Serving Wooden Statues Of His Parents: Ding Lan
23. Tears That Brought Bamboo Shoots From The Frozen Earth: Meng Zong
24. Personally Scrubbing His Mother's Chamber Pot: Huang Tingjian.

Why am I so excited to read this (after work)?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Anderson JL, "Japanese tea ritual: religion in practice".

I haven't been able to get to tea class in months, since the past semester started; either class or something else is always standing between me and the park. But recently I've been missing it, and I've found myself in idle moments looking through the Urasenke book, talking myself through ryakubon, and practicing folds with my "fukusa" (which is, in fact, the silk curtain from a toy magic show I had as a kid—since I foolishly left my fukusa, fan, and papers at class last time—but the proportions are about the same).

I have access to scads of journals online through the university, and today while meandering through some publications on traditional Japanese arts/crafts I found a really good read about tea ceremony. It's an early publication by Jennifer L. Anderson, a PhD anthropologist and long-time Urasenke-style tea practitioner (who, as it happens, now teaches at SJSU, with my friend and former college advisor, who loves it there). The piece is called "Japanese tea ritual: religion in practice", and it explores the ritual/philosophical/religious elements of chanoyu in a way that apparently until that time (1987) really hadn't been done in a structured way, at least in Western anthropology.

I find the spiritual elements of shuuji and tea elusive. My background is Anglo-Catholic but really secular, and although I've done some reading on the concepts, my understanding is only superficial. So, this was a very helpful read for me. Anderson takes us through the whole process of a chaji, pausing now and then to explore the deeper meanings of apparently simple actions:

The high point of the entire ritual takes place as the main guest tastes his initial sip of koicha tea. If host and guest are to experience a deep sense of shared tranquillity, it will be now. Ideally, the guest feels deep gratitude for everything that has gone into creating the wonderful experience epitomised by the first sip of tea. And the host senses that he has successfully communicated something deeply important to someone who understands the meaning of his effort. For one moment, both have the opportunity to experience an unfathomable sense of 'wholeness, health, and holiness'.... Chado exists to make this moment plausible. Symbols which link host and guest to their forebears, to society, to various philosophies, to the phenomenal world, and ultimately, to the cosmos are concentrated in this one cup of tea.
There's a lot of other gold in the piece, too, such as the elemental and "virtual" associations of the nine segments of a four-and-a-half-mat tearoom, the communicative intent of the host's actions (such as placing bound stones and sprinkling water on the roji path), and the beautiful "和敬清寂" (wa-kei-sei-jaku, peace/respect/purity/tranquility), "the central litany of tea values". It's an expression I'd never heard before, and googling it pops up all kinds of Japanese 茶道 sites. (If I'm feeling ambitious sometime, maybe I'll try to write it; I've written wa and sei before, but the other two are daunting!)

Some of the piece is mainly academic (literature review on definitions of ritual), but it's a rewarding read, and I recommend it if you're interested in tea.
Anderson JL. Japanese tea ritual: religion in practice. Man: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. 1987;22:475-498.

the article is online here

Dr Anderson has a page of nifty chanoyu resources, here

Her An Introduction to Japanese Tea Ritual is on Amazon, here

If you can't access the article, let me know, and I'll try to e-mail it to you.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

章甫を資して越に適く。(proverb: selling Yin caps in Vietnam?)

One more little bit of interest about fumizome: when I tried to google the word in kana, Google suggested replacing ふみはじめ with 章甫を資して越に適く, a string that I admit I don't understand at all. This Japanese proverb site gives it in kana: しょうほをししてえつにゆく (shouho o shishite, etsu ni yuku)—so, presumably it's a proverb. The site explains thusly:
douri ni hazurete, koui ya kentou-chigai na koto o suru.
to act in a way that's mistaken or untrue / not sensible.

tatoeba, aru tokoro de ha hitsuyou na mono de mo,
tokoro ni yotte ha fuhitsuyou to sareru tatoe de.
e.g., a thing that's useful in one place may not be thought so in another.

teido no hikui mono ni ha koujou na koto ha
rikai dekinai koto no tatoe ni mo iu.
Also said of not understanding the difference between refined and worthless things. (Or, depending on "mono"—because it's followed by "koto"—that people who are low in degree don't understand refined things.)

Shouho no kanmuri (kanburi, kan?) o urou to shite,
kan (etc.) nado kaburanai etsu no kuni ni iku (yuku) imi kara.
From the sense of going to Vietnam (the country across), where they don't wear caps and such, to try to sell shouho caps.

"shouho", indai no kanburi no mei (na?).
"Shouho" was a kind of cap/hat in the Yin (Shang) Dynasty.
This kind of thing makes me despair of ever really understanding Japanese! I still don't understand 資す (taking part in?—maybe "offering") in this context, but I think I kinda-sorta get the sense of it. Like our idea of "selling ice to an Eskimo"—don't even bother!

That ”kan/kanmuri/kanburi" can also be a crown or coronet, as in the kanmuri kanji radicals, and seems also to carry a sense of rank; makes me wonder about the nature of this "cap": if "etsu" really is Vietnam—or whatever "other" nation—was there a sense among the people who originated the proverb that shouho were beautiful/refined/noble things that would be wasted on those other people? Like our "casting pearls before swine"? This image from a Chinese site purports to be shouho; it doesn't look so very impressive, especially when compared to other styles (such a those on this page, which mentions shouho in category 8, which is nothing like the image above, and seems not to include it in any of the images).

It really is amazing to think that if this really is a Yin/Shang-era proverb, the it dates to the second millennium BCE. Maybe I can ask about it on a forum on ancient Chinese headdresses. When I have less work to do.

Or, maybe nothing I've said above is anywhere near the true interpretation of "shouho o shishite, etsu ni yuku". 道理に外れたかもしれませんが、しょうが無いでしょうね。

ふみはじめのしき? (書初めの式) And kakizome?

I have a 源氏物語 (Tale of Genji) app on my phone, so sometimes when I'm walking somewhere I'll open it up and try to read a little. Sometimes I can; sometimes, not so much. But this morning I saw something particularly interesting: 書き初め, with furigana given as ふみはじめ—"the start of writing". (I haven't seen the reading "fumi" before for that kanji, and per it seems no longer extant—unless I misremembered the kanji while getting off the elevator.) This being January, I wondered whether it might have some relation to modern kakizome (書初め、書き初め、書初—written with exactly the same kanji), the first writing of the new year. So what is, or was, fumi-hajime?

This book translates the scene and offers some insight:
The boy lived entirely at court from then on. When he was seven, the emperor held the first reading, and he was so unbelievably quick and bright that his father actually worried about the significance of such brilliance.

"I don't see how anyone could dislike him now," the emperor said....

A footnote explains,
The first reading (fumihajime) was usually performed when the son of a high-ranking family reached the age of seven or eight. Ostensibly designed to show the child how to read, it was a largely symbolic event, during which the young principal, dressed in elaborate robes, repeated a few words after hearing them read aloud from the Classic of Filial Piety or some other suitable text.

[Helen Craig McCullough, Genji and Heike: Selections from The Tale of Genji and The Tale of the Heike]

The much earlier A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (1980), also by Helen McCullough, translates an account of a historical fumihajime and includes more detail in the footnote:
...[I]t was a purely symbolic event, during which the elaborately robed young principal sat in silence while a Reader (Jidoku) intoned, and a Repeater (Shoufuku) repeated, a few words from a suitable text, usually the Classic of Filial Piety (Hsiao-ching). At Crown Prince Atsuhira's fumihajime, held on the Twenty-eighth of the Eleventh Month, 1014, in the Tsuchimikado Mansion, only the title and the first four characters of the Hsiao-ching were read. As was usual, the assembled dignitaries then adjourned to another part of the mansion for a banquet. Shouyuuki, 3: 255 (28 xi Chouwa 3). (Shouyuuki is apparently a period court diary—ed.) For a picture of a fumihajime ceremony, see Genji, 1: 493, item 31.
So, I guess the young noble dressed up, repeated a few words (not even from memory), and got his trophy, and then everyone ate. Welcome to adulthood, kid. :-)

Interestingly, this 19th-century dictionary (by Hepburn, a very interesting missionary from Pennsylvania who helped romanize Japanese and whose school in Japan became Meiji Gakuin) defines fumihajime as the first writing of the new year and gives "kakisome" as a synonym, and doesn't even mention reading or classical ceremony. So, as in words like 書類, maybe in this case there's some fluidity between writing and reading, and the sense was more of "the first text".

(I also notice "kakisokonau", "to make a mistake in writing"—a good word to know, especially as the second kanji is not any variant of "to make a mistake", but rather 損なう, to harm, hurt, injure, damage, or fail. Like the first time I tried to write shikishi—書き損なっちゃったなぁ。。。)

Just for fun: apparently there's another classic of filial piety that could be read from at fumihajime, called 24 Paragons of Filial Piety. These are the paragons:

The Feeling of Filial Piety Moved Heaven
Her Son Tasted Soups and Medicine
Zengzi's mother: She Bit Her Finger and Pained His Heart
He Obeyed His Mother in Simple Clothes
He Shouldered Rice To Nourish His Parents
He Sold Himself To Bury His Father
He Fed His Parents Doe's Milk
He Hired Out To Support His Mother
He Concealed Oranges To Present To His Mother
She Suckled Her Mother-In-Law
He Let Mosquitoes Consume His Blood
Wang Xiang Lay on Ice in Search of Carp
He Buried His Son for His Mother
He Strangled A Tiger To Save His Father
He Abandoned His Post To Seek His Mother
He Tasted Dung With an Anxious Heart
He Amused His Parents With Play and Glad Clothes
He Picked Mulberries To Serve His Mother
He Fanned the Pillow and Warmed the Quilt
The Fountain Bubbled and the Carps Leapt Out
He Heard Thunder and Wept at the Grave
He Carved Wood To Serve His Parents
He Wept Till the Bamboo Sprouted
He Washed His Mother's Bedpan
Sounds like a super fun read. 楽しそうだと思いますよね。