Thursday, April 11, 2013

Matsudaira Fumai's Song-dynasty Chinese treasure

This calligraphic scroll written by Song-dynasty Chinese Zen monk Yuanwu Keqin (1063-1135, known in Japan as Engo Kokugon 圜悟克勤) is a good example of the sorts of karamono object collected by early modern tea practitioners.

This piece was in the collection of warrior tea aficionado Matsudaira Fumai. Fumai’s writings about the scroll leave no doubt that he considered this piece among the most valuable of his many treasures. It is chief among the many items inventoried in his treatise Family Utensils of the Country of the Clouds (Unshū meibutsuki). After designating the Yuanwu scroll as a “particularly famous item”, Fumai instructs his successors that “even after I die [such items] should be carefully looked after and treated just as they were when I was alive. Indeed, this concern should be transmitted from generation to generation … These things are world famous articles and treasures of Japan.”

Matsudaira Fumai (also known as Harusato, 1751-1818)

 Copyright Melinda Landeck, 2013.

For more on Fumai in English, see Kumakura Isao, "“Matsudaira Fumai : The Creation of a New World of Chanoyu"," Chanoyu Quarterly 25(1980).


  1. Hi Mindy--interesting blog. I have a rather picky suggestion for improvement...I recommend that you switch to using the more standard Pinyin Roamanization system for Chinese words, also since this is appreciated in Japan, adding the Japanese pronunciation is also helpful :) Because older articles write about the Chan monk using the older Wade-Giles spelling, you can also, if you wish, include that. I comment on this specifically because you spell "Song" dynasty in Pinyin (Wade Giles = Sung). It is probably best to use a consistent Romanization system for all your Chinese names and terms.
    Pinyin = Yuanwu Keqin
    Chinese: 圜悟克勤
    Wade–Giles = Yuan-wu K'e-ch'in
    Japanese = Engo Kokugo

    1. Thank you, Pat! I've modified it as you suggest. I must confess I just hadn't taken the time yet to look up the Pinyin at the time of posting as I should have done!

    2. It's still surprising (and vexing) to me how many of these older source materials still use Wade-Giles.