Two Visions of the Orchid Pavilion Gathering: A Reconsideration of the Socio-Political Significance of the Paintings by Kano Sansetsu and Ikeno Taiga in the Tokugawa Period (1615 - 1868)

Madar, Kazuko
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
This is a comparative study that focuses on two Tokugawa-era Japanese paintings by Kano Sansetsu (1590-1651) and Ikeno Taiga (1723-1776), both of whom depicted the theme of Rantei (Lanting in Chinese, meaning the Orchid Pavilion Gathering), a popular subject based on the refined pastimes of Chinese literati. Although these paintings illustrate the same theme, they are clearly distinct: the work of Sansetsu exemplifies the orthodox Kano School, while that of Taiga represents the heterodox Nanga School. This paper uses an analysis of these paintings to investigate how the different visualizations of political identity were between the "ruling" samurai and the "ruled" commoners classes. The Kano School, patronized by the Tokugawa regime, employed its heavily japanized kanga (Chinese painting) style as a perfect vehicle of the japanized Chinese Neo-Confucianism to propagate its authority of rulership. The Nanga School developed among the commoners while they were establishing their own cultural identity during a quest for a new social order. Based on the heterodoxical Confucian teaching, it manifested rebellion against the Tokugawa militarism. In doing so, Nanga artists deliberately avoided the Kano style but directly pursued the artistic inspiration after the Chinese scholarly tradition. This paper concludes that these two versions of the Rantei paintings reflect two social visions: a Kano social order in which the samurai tradition justified the hereditary right to power, wealth, and their ruling status; and a Nanga society in which commoners --- through education --- could be part of the ruling class.
xii, 105 leaves
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