Tuesday, January 10, 2012

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 Jisho.org 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。

No comments:

Post a Comment