netsuke and sagemono lounge : Disclaimer - Please click anywhere on this bar to expand/contract the content.

Proverb and Allusion

What subject or legend is depicted in your netsuke or sagemono?
User avatar
Nio
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:11 am
Location: Australia

Proverb and Allusion

Postby Nio » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:23 am

In "Netsuke Familiar and Unfamiliar" by Raymond Bushell he refers to the greater intellectual pleasure to be gained for the collector who understands subject, history, material, carver, allusion, proverb and meaning.

I would like to understand "allusion" and "proverb" to a greater degree. I do not have the language skills or ability to understand a Japanese nuance, and feel that most of the other pleasures have been covered in depth and over time.

Simple allusions and obvious proverbs would be a great starting point or perhaps they need to be separated. I am sure that there are many netsuke and collectors who have a view on their favorite pieces as to allusion or proverb but will they stand a rigorous scrutiny.
Nio " I never learn anything from listening to myself "

User avatar
chonchon
Posts: 6688
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 9:16 am
Location: Japan

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby chonchon » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:33 am

"Oni ni kanabo" was the subject of a thread I started here a couple of years ago. (Handing a metal club to an ogre, as if he/she was not enough trouble on his/her own already.) The Netsuke itself is two ogres with a cannon, (my avatar) which could be thought of as a metal pole, tube, club, I suppose. Is this Netsuke an allusion to the proverb? 8-)

Two common sayings then bubbled up to start off the thread, if Judy does not post first. ;)

One was a Japanese description of an impossible task, ie, "trying to catch a catfish with a gourd". Japanese people traditionally loved standing in the river fishing. Catfish are slippery at the best of times, but dried gourds have a slippery external surface and would be the last thing to use for fishing. You may find an amusing Netsuke with these two elements, even showing the impossible become possible.

Another was Hyotan kara koma, ="Out of a gourd came a horse!", a surprising turn of events. Naturally such a thing could not happen, except in the ancient Chinese fable. But you could carve it, to illustrate the legend, and show something surprising in the palm of your hand. Would that not be entertaining? There are many Netsuke illustrating this theme.

I guess you could run a search for Japanese proverbs, many of which came from Chinese. There are naturally hundreds of them.
Piers

Size is something.

User avatar
chonchon
Posts: 6688
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 9:16 am
Location: Japan

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby chonchon » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:36 am

Oh, and I am thinking that the English word allusion, alluding to something (else), sits astride the two Japanese concepts of Rusu-moyo and Mitate.
Piers

Size is something.

Hiryu
Posts: 14
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:01 am
Location: California

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby Hiryu » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:59 am

Here is a great "allusion" in netsuke. It is a netsuke of a mino (farmer's rain coat), a scythe (farm tool), farmer's hat, and a yamabuki (wild yellow rose). What do these things reference?

The legend of Ota Dokwan. Ota no Sukenaga was a 15th century noble who built the castle of Edo. He was given the priestly name of "Dokwan." One day he was in a rural farming area when it began to rain. He retreated to a cottage to ask for a raincoat ("mino"). The farm girl who met him, scampered off to retrieve a "mino" and brought Ota Dokwan back a yamabuki flower. He was angry but then he remembered a poem. "Although the yamabuki has many petals, I regret that it has no mino." A "mino" can be a seed or a raincoat. Ota waited out the storm with the pretty farm girl.

The netsuke alludes to the Ota Dokwan story without illustrating it literally.
Attachments
2a&2b 001.jpg

User avatar
Nio
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:11 am
Location: Australia

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby Nio » Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:00 am

Thank you for your explanations and the subtle stories behind many netsuke. The western mind thinks and is trained to think in a certain way. The Japanese humor, sense of time, religion, history and more are not easy to grasp.
We will achieve a better understanding and much more enjoyment from our passion if we can catch a glimpse of the meaning behind the first glance.
Rusumoyo and mitate and their link to allusion as explained by Piers would certainly lift the discussion.

Bill
Last edited by Nio on Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
Nio " I never learn anything from listening to myself "

User avatar
chonchon
Posts: 6688
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 9:16 am
Location: Japan

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby chonchon » Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:01 am

Now where's the LIKE button? Hmmm... no actually, where's the LOVE button? :love:
Piers

Size is something.

User avatar
Nio
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:11 am
Location: Australia

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby Nio » Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:07 am

What a simple netsuke with a complex story.
:love: :love: :love:
Nio " I never learn anything from listening to myself "

User avatar
chonchon
Posts: 6688
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 9:16 am
Location: Japan

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby chonchon » Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:25 am

Going back to the two ogres with the cannon once more, it could well be a comment on the opening of Japan to the west. The country was fiercely divided by those who said we need to learn from the west in order to catch up, and those who wished Japan's seclusion to continue forever. The former were interested in acquiring knowledge of western learning such as medicine, geography and mathematics, but also weapons, and dragging Japan out of the feudal age. It could well be an illusion by the latter to such ambitious Japanese who had purchased the new British Armstrong cannon, but fitted it onto classical Heian Jidai wheels, evil devils in their designs and execution, ie an allusion to the state of the nation.
Last edited by chonchon on Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
Piers

Size is something.

User avatar
Oishii
Posts: 797
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:44 am
Location: Belgium

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby Oishii » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:15 am

Nio wrote:Rusumoyo and mitate and their link to allusion as explained by Piers would certainly lift the discussion.
Bill

Yes, thank you, Piers, for the fine explanation and example of your avatar piece ;-)

Bill, the Forum had some fascinating threads already on the subjects of Ruso Moyo and Mitate.
It may be a nice read ! Here are some links to it :

Ruso Moyo / Absent Motifs :
viewtopic.php?f=494805&t=8077603&hilit=moyo

Mitate (in the INS-Wing for members only)
viewtopic.php?f=13817&t=7341410&hilit=Mitate

Mitate in the public area :
viewtopic.php?f=494805&t=8077703&hilit=Mitate

Hiryu, that is a lovely netsuke and very fitting alluding story ... thanks !
Jan

User avatar
tanukisan
Posts: 538
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:30 pm
Location: Solihull , West Midlands

Re: Proverb and Allusion

Postby tanukisan » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:45 pm

Here is my first netsuke purchase of 2018, found at auction in the West Midlands - a 19th Century bone three cased inro the bone with black and tan streaks lacquered to one side with tea ceremony objects in red, black and gold the reverse with pine trees, length 5.8cm, agate ojime and large bone frog on a leaf netsuke.
The inro had a Tomkinson Collection sticker attached. I had heard of Michael Tomkinson (1841- 1921) as an early collector of Japanese Art but also found out that he was a carpet manufacturer in Kidderminster, only a few miles from the auction house!

Inro and frog 1.jpg

The inro has some damage but in a way that only adds to its wabi-sabi characteristics - ."Wabi" represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives. Its original meaning indicated quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste "characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry" and "emphasizes simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and celebrates the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials.""Sabi", on the other hand, represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally, it meant "worn", "weathered", or "decayed".
The large frog is resting on a decayed leaf, suggesting autumn.
I am reminded of an Issa haiku -

A huge frog and I
staring at each other
neither of us moves

Since this is a thread about proverb and allusion, I will end with the following -

‘Kaeru no tsurae mizu’(water on a frog’s face) which means giving good advice to one who is not going to take it, just like a frog that does not in the least care whether its face is wet.
Attachments
Inro and frog 2.jpg

John 



Return to “Subjects & Legends in Japanese Art”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest