mjj (flemmings) wrote,


Oh man, this is so cool. So you see, one of my favourite hanga artists is Yoshitoshi, who lived in late Meiji and was mad (which never hurts.) Back in the days when I was rich, more or less, and hanga were cheap, more or less, I bought a handful of his works. His most famous series is probably The Hundred Aspects of the Moon, which shows various historical people in various scenes with moonlight. Hanging here and there in the house I have the poet Tadanori, the biwa-playing exile Semimaru, and the demon-slaying Yorimasa. (Sorry about the colours of that last one. None of the online versions look like mine.)

Somewhere I have a booklet that lists the other 97 hanga in the series with marginal notes about these infinitely confusible characters. If they're not Heike they're the Ashikaga shogunate about which I know nothing- missed the Taiga drama, yes. Or Sengoku Jidai generals or Nara period ambassadors to China. So the names, shall we say, never registered. I forget what I was looking for online this evening when I discovered that no.20 in the series is none other than Minamoto no Hiromasa playing his flute at the Suzaku Gate.

To quote one page,
This depicts Minamoto no Hiromasa, a Heian courtier famous for his musical talent. It is said that he was such an exceptional player that he could find no one who would play with him. There are two interpretations of this image: one says that the player facing forward is Minamoto's teacher, the other that he is a ghost or spirit sent to in answer to a prayer for another musician who would play with him.
Another source says this:
Hakuga Sammi is the Chinese reading of the name and court rank of Minamoto no Hiromasa (918-80), grandson of Emperor Daigo. He was a famous musician, equally adept at playing a variety of wind and string instruments. We see him here from the rear, wearing the robes and lacquered hat of a Heian courtier, and playing the yokobue, a transverse flute. He is outside the Suzaku Gate of the Daidairi enclosure in Kyoto, which contained the imperial palace and government offices. The identity of his companion is uncertain, but judging from his hat and beard he is probably a foreigner.

Hiromasa's skill on the flute was legendary and the beauty of his playing is recounted in numerous tales. One of them tells of him being robbed of all his possessions except a wooden flute (hichiriki). When he picked up the remaining flute and started to play, the sound carried through the streets to the ears of the robbers. They were so moved by its beauty that they repented their crime and returned Hiromasa's possessions.
The complete series can be seen here but it asks you about unsecured items on every bloody page, which is a pain.
Tags: art, onmyouji

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