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This set of five paintings (F1999.5.1-.5) by Ikeda Koson (1806-1866) depicts five ancient Japanese imperial court rituals (Gosseku) which had evolved from Chinese models during the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1185) periods. Elements of these rituals, sometimes referred to as the five sacred festivals, are found in contemporary Japanese festivals. By the late Edo period (1600-1868) The festivals had acquired multiple features beyond the original format but what the artist attempts to reveal in these paintings is the essence or distillation of the early Japanese court models.
Japanese of the Nara and Heian periods regulated their lives on a lunar calendar and adapted many Chinese seasonal festivals. The first festival, Kochohai, (F1999.5.1) celebrated the event in which the crown prince and assembled nobles processed before the emperor on the first day of the first month. Next, Kyokusui (.2) celebrated on the third day of the third month, observes the custom of courtiers floating wine down a stream in the imperial garden; as the cup passed each guest would take a sip and recite a poem. This ritual originated from a more basic purificatory rite in which symbols of past pollution were cast upon the running stream. The festival of Ayame no Dai (.3) derived from the Chinese custom of hanging mugwort from eaves to dispell evil spirits. In Japan the iris was endowed with similar protective properties. On the third day of the fifth month, tiny roofed structures filled with iris leaves symbolozing a talismanic protection of the hall of state and the nation and were placed at the southerly corners of the Hall of State Ceremonies (Shishinden). The late summer feast of Kikkoden (.4) celebrated the once-annual crossing of the Vega and Altair constellations, known respectively as Weaver and Cowherd, on the seventh night of the seventh month. This celebration was replete with romantic connotations. Chinese women were said to have prayed for success in love and proficiency in calligraphy and weaving on this night. The painting here indicates a similar expectation on the part of Japanese court women. Because of its chronological proximity to the feast of the dead in Japan, it also became associated with certain purifactory rituals. Choyo no En (.5) derived from the Chinese custom of drinking chrysanthemum wine on the ninth day of the ninth month. In Japan this approximated the time of the rice harvest and thus took on the role of a harvest celebration.
- Published References
- Selected Rimpa School Illustrative Paintings Calendar. Tokyo, January-July 1994. .
- Yashushi Murashige. Rimpa Painting: Vol. IV, Scenes from literature, people. vol. 4, no. 269, Kyoto. .
- Zoku Nihon no Isho: Men'yo no Saijiki [Japanese Design in Art. Part II, Motifs of the Four Seasons]. 12 vols., Kyoto. cat. 61.
- Collection Area(s)
- Japanese Art
- Web Resources
- Google Cultural Institute
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