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Cursive Calligraphy “Enka, Shutsubotsu, Un’u, Meiri” (Mist, Haunting, Clouds and Rain, Adrift)

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

By Akizuki Tanetatsu

Four Ink calligraphies

14th year of the Meiji era (1881)


 Akizuki Tanetatsu (秋月種樹) (1833–1904) was the last heir to the feudal lord of the Takanabe domain (today’s Miyazaki Prefecture) in Kyūshū and served as tutor for Shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi (徳川家茂) (1846–1866) and Meiji Emperor (1852–1912) at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was referred to as one of the “Three Princes of Academia”. Moreover, he was a member of the Genrōingikan (元老院議官) (counselor of the senate), and the Kizokuin (貴族院) (House of Peers) by imperial order during the Meiji era (1868–1912).

 These calligraphies were made at the Funato Family’s (船戸家) house (the house owned by Hibiya Kenjirō’s (日比谷健次郎) (1836–1886) daughter-in-law Tsuru’s (つる) parents), when Akizuki Tanetatsu visited them. The slightly wobbly strokes of “煙” (smoke) suggest that it was written on a tatami (mat made of rice straw) floor. As Tsuru was married into the Hibiya Family, these four calligraphies were brought to their residence and were then attached on their fusuma (襖) (sliding door) for the Tsuru no ma (つるの間) (Tsuru’s room), a room named after her. The golden leaves were added to them later. Regarding the meaning of this piece, the writing is thought to be a Chinese style poem by Akizuki himself. The writing roughly suggests a landscape of nature featuring hovering clouds and rain. His style is powerful and expressive combining soft and strong touches.

 He tends to write large characters with strong touches, but he also uses the Zōhō technique (蔵峰) (drawing round lines) and the Chūhō technique (中峰) (drawing with the center of the brush). In addition, he draws bends and upward turns in broad motion. He thus uses a mixture of these styles to feature both powerful and soft characteristics.

 The four calligraphies thus epitomize the traditional Gō-jū (剛柔) style (a combination of soft and powerful style in Japanese martial arts/arts).

All Japanese names in this translation follow the Japanese order: surname-name, and all Japanese names and words follow the Hepburn romanization method.

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