Moral Teaching for Young Girls Mirrored in the Thirty-six Poets

(Sanjrokkasen djo kykun kagami, 三十六歌仙童女教訓鏡)

Publisher: Wakasa-ya Yoichi

c. 1843

 

The Thirty-Six Immortal Poets is a collection of 36 waka (31-syllable) poems written from the 7th to the 11th centuries. This series of prints likens beautiful women to these famous poems, and is listed as number 98 in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961). The subterfuge of moral teachings and classic poetry was a way of circumventing a ban on prints of beautiful women. The prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ban. I am grateful to Ward Pieters for assisting with this series.

 

Poet: Chnagon Yakamochi (中納言家持)

Description: Beauty with a fan and a peacock in the background

 

 

 

Another state of the above print

 

Yet another state

 

Poet: Gon Chunason Atsutada

Description: Beauty gathering sea-shells

 

 

 

Another state of the above print

 

Poet: Sarumaru Daiyu (猿丸太夫)

Description: Beauty struggling against an autumn breeze

 

 

 

 

Poet: Onakatomi no Yoritomo Ason (大中臣頼基朝臣)

Description: Beauty mending a paper sliding door

 

Another state of the above print courtesy of Terry Accola

 

Yet another state

 

Poet: Soseo Hshi

Description: Enjoying the moon

 

Poet: Fujiwara no Takamitsu (藤原高光)

Description: Beauty looking out a window

 

Poet: Kinchu no Ason

Description:

 

Poet: Chunagon Asatada (中納言朝忠)

Description: Beauty in a blue and white turban weaving at a loom

 

Poet: Saig no Nyg (歳宮女御)

Description: Beauty with a koto

 

I am grateful to Dr. Michael M. Cohen for providing this alternative state of the above design and the following two different translations of the poem:

 

The sound of wind in pine trees is heard in the sound of the koto; which strings of such koto of pine tree wind were first plucked?

 

In the sound of my harp the music of the mountain pines seems to vibrate. From which peak (or string*) does it issue?

 

*A play on words: the Japanese o used in the poem has the double meaning of peak and string. This was compared by the poetess upon the theme of the wind in the pines brushing the koto (Japanese harp) at night.

 

Poet: Ki no Tomonori (記友則)

Description: Beauty playing with a cat

 

Poet: Chunagon Kaheura

Description: Young woman carrying a basket full of flowers on her back

 

Poet: Kakinomoto Hitomaru (柿本人麿)

Description: A young girl walking in blustery rain with umbrella and text book under her arm

 

Poet: Oshikochi Mitsune (凡河内躬恒)

Description: Woman carrying a wooden washtub

 

An aizuri-e version of the above design

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