Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Confucian Scholar

Nukina Kaioku (1778-1863)
was a Confucian scholar
who lived in Japan.

Which meant that he was destined
to be a teacher instead of a high official.

And apparently
these screens were used
in his school
to exemplify higher learning

(the text are poems by Li Bo and Su Xiang)

Until I saw the Bamboo Forest
these were my favorite screens in the soon-to-close exhibit
at the Art Institute.

But, it's not really fair to compare them.

In the Bamboo Forest, every mark contributes to a spatial illusion.

But the only space on these screens
is that which surrounds each separate character.

They may be wonderfully arranged on the page
(they are)
but it's still just a collection of (wonderful) details

It's like the difference between a symphony
and a sequence of jazz improvisations.

or maybe "wonderful"
is not a strong enough word?

The fat and the thin of it.

It's all too exciting.

The characters are Chinese,
but can't you hear the Japanese accent?

(i.e.-- a flair for elegant drama)

If you wanted to learn Chinese culture in Japan,

wouldn't you want to study with this man?

at least,

you would have fun.


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