19 results in English
The Tales of Ise
Ise monogatari (The tales of Ise) is a collection of some 125 brief episodes, combining elements of prose and poetry, that dates from the early Heian period (9th−10th centuries). The protagonist is believed to be modeled on Ariwarano Narihira (825−80), a handsome aristocrat who had many romantic affairs. The main character’s romances, friendships, heartbroken wandering life, and various other stories are narrated in a style that owes much to waka (literally, Japanese poems). The work had a great influence on later Japanese literature, including Genji monogatari (The ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Album of Appreciation of the Fragrance of Spring
Takuhanga is a printing technique in which a cloth-covered cotton ball containing black ink is patted on wet paper placed on an intaglio-engraved woodblock. The technique derives from takuhon, the art of rubbing found in Chinese copybooks printed from the works of old masters of calligraphy. This late-18th-century takuhanga album includes poems in the Chinese style celebrating the spring scenery of Kyoto written by learned men from the city who were students of Chinese literature, including Iwagaki Ryūkei (1741−1808). The drawings are by prominent Kyoto artists from the time ...
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Picture Book of Chrysanthemums
The chrysanthemum, the flower loved by Tao Yuan-ming (365−427), a distinguished Chinese poet of the Eastern Jin dynasty, was brought to Japan around the beginning of the Heian period (794−1185). The plant took root on Japanese soil and by the Edo period (1600−1868) several hundred different types of chrysanthemum were being cultivated in the country. Gakiku is the first picture book of chrysanthemums published in Japan. Its beautiful illustrations and Chinese-style poems introduced readers to 100 different varieties of the flower. The text and lines are printed ...
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The Insect Book
Ehon mushi-erami (The insect book) is by the ukiyo-e painter Kitagawa Utamaro (circa 1753−1806). It was created by him before he produced the bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women) for which he is famous. Each double page of the book contains a painted illustration of a plant and two species of insects, along with two kyōka (a poem style originating from waka, literally, Japanese poems). The kyōka are ostensibly insect-themed love poems. In all, 15 colored wood-block prints are included. The work demonstrates Utamaro’s skill at drawing, as well ...
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Illustrated Manual of Medical Plants
This book is considered the first full-scale botanical art book in Japan. It was published in the late Edo period and comprises 92 volumes (volumes 1−4 remain incomplete), including more than 1,900 varieties of plants. The author, Iwasaki Kan’en (1786−1842), was a shogunate vassal. The work contains colored illustrations of wild species, garden species, and imported species, captioned with taxonomic names, and includes biological explanations and other information. The plants are classified and arranged according to the 16th-century Honzō kōmoku (Bencao gangmu in Chinese), a Chinese ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Commentary on The Analects of Confucius
Rongo (Analects) is famed as the collection of the words and deeds of Confucius. As the most cherished scripture of Confucianism, the book greatly influenced the culture of China and neighboring nations. It is said to have been introduced to Japan around the fifth century. The first published edition of Rongo in Japan was made in Sakai, a city in present-day Ōsaka Prefecture, in the 19th year of the Shōhei period (1364), and is known as the Shōhei version. The wood blocks of the first edition disappeared in early days ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Lotus Sutra
The practice of printing Buddhist scriptures on the reverse of letters from the deceased to pray for the repose of his or her soul became common from the end of the Heian period (late 12th century) onward. The scrolls shown here contain the text of a Buddhist sutra called Myōhō renge-kyō (Lotus sutra). They are printed on the reverse of letters sent from Daitō Genchi, the second abbot of Kakuon-ji Temple in Kamakura. It is believed that Hōjō Sadatoki’s wife, to whom the letters are addressed, and some others ...
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The Completion of Mere Ideation
In Japan temples were the center of publishing until the Middle Ages. The Kasuga edition of the Buddhist scriptures was produced at the Kōfuku-ji Temple in Nara. These scrolls, from that edition, contain the text of Jōyuishikiron (The completion of mere ideation), a commentary on the work by the Indian scholar Seshin (Vasubandhu in Sanskrit) known as Yuishiki sanjūju (Triṃśikā-vijñapti-kārikā in Sanskrit, Weishi sanshi song in Chinese). The commentary was translated into Chinese during the Tang dynasty by a Chinese monk named Xuanzang. It was a canon of the ...
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The Analects of Confucius
Rongo (Analects) is famed as the collection of the words and deeds of Confucius and has greatly influenced the culture of China and neighboring nations as the most cherished scripture of Confucianism. It is said to have been introduced to Japan around the fifth century. This work is called the “Tenmon version,” the second version of the published Rongo in Japan after the Rongo shikkai (known as the Shōhei version) first published in Japan in the 19th year of the Shōhei era (1364). The Tenmon Analects were published in the ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
A Collection of Japanese Paintings
This picture book is by Hishikawa Moronobu (died 1694) a representative artist in the earliest days of ukiyo-e. It consists of 20 pictures depicting popular scenes from classical Japanese literature, including Ise monogatari (The tales of Ise), Genji monogatari (The tale of Genji), and yōkyoku (chants of Noh plays). Moronobu was the first artist who put his signature on printed books. On the colophon of this work, he identifies himself as Yamato-e-shi (artist of classical Japanese paintings), thereby showing his professional confidence in himself as an artist. The National Diet ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Beauties of Yoshiwara
Seirō Bijin Awase (Beauties of Yoshiwara) is one of the finest multicolored woodblock printed books in Japan. It was published in 1770. The book depicts 166 courtesans of the Yoshiwara, the pleasure quarter in Edo (present-day Tokyo), with the names of the courtesans and the brothels where they worked, with a haiku (a short poem) in the background of each illustration. The work consists of five sections in five chapters. The original title slip on which the book title and the volume title were printed is attached to the center ...
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The Zhaocheng Jin Tripitaka
This edition of the Buddhist canon was printed between about the ninth year of the Huangtong era of Xizong of the Jin dynasty and sometime in the Dading era of Shizong, and for this reason is called the "Jin Tripitaka" by scholars. It is also called the “Jin Tripitaka from Tianning Temple in Xiezhou" because the woodblocks were carved at Tianning Temple on Jinglin Mountain, in Xiezhou, Shanxi (modern Xie County in the Jinnan district). In 1933, the work was rediscovered at Guangsheng Temple in Zhaocheng County, Shanxi, so its ...
Contributed by National Library of China
Collected Works of Han Yu
Han Yu is chief among the eight major writers of the Tang and Song dynasties. His writings are rich in content, powerful, fresh, and lively. The 40-juan (section) Collected Works of Han Yu (Changli xiansheng ji [Collected works of the Master from Changli]) was compiled by his disciple Li Han, and is the most comprehensive compendium of Han Yu’s works. The “Outer Collection” and “Omitted Writings” were added by Song dynasty scholars who recovered lost works by Han. This edition was printed in the Jianchun era (late 13th ...
Contributed by National Library of China
The Heroic Life of Sir Theuerdank
Among the many endeavors undertaken by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519) to further his legacy was his plan of an epic retelling of his own life story in the form of several works. Of these, only Die geuerlicheiten vnd einsteils der geschichten des loblichen streytparen vnd hochberümbten helds vnd Ritters herr Tewrdannckhs (The heroic life of Sir Theuerdank) was finished. Johann Schönsperger, a printer in Nuremberg, did the first, very small print run in 1517, to be delivered to other princes and sovereigns after the Emperor's ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Art of Dying
Block books are slim volumes, typically comprising 20 to 50 pages, produced by cutting text and images into wooden blocks (a process known as xylography). The production of block books reached its peak at a time when printing with metal letters (moveable type) was already established, around the 1460s–1470s. Worldwide only about 600 block book copies have survived, and they are among the rarest and most precious products of the printing press. The Bavarian State Library holds 40 of these books and eight fragments. Only a limited number of ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
The Dance of Death
Block books are slim volumes, typically comprising 20 to 50 pages, produced by cutting text and images into wooden blocks (a process known as xylography). The production of block books reached its peak at a time when printing with metal letters (moveable type) was already established, around the 1460s–1470s. Worldwide only about 600 block book copies have survived, and they are among the rarest and most precious products of the printing press. The Bavarian State Library holds 40 of these books and eight fragments. Totentanz (The dance of death ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Map of Bushū Toshima District, Edo
This work is a reprint of a cadastral map, originally produced around 1630–31, showing land ownership in central Edo (Tokyo). The original map is considered the oldest and most accurate extant plan of the city, and multiple reproductions of it were made until the end of the Edo period (1603–1868). The map has several defining features, one of which is that all text labels read in the same direction, in the style of modern maps. It also includes pictorial representations of significant areas such as Edo Castle, the ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Map of Coastal Defense
In 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy entered the port of Yokohama near Edo (Tokyo) with an intimidating fleet of steam warships. His objective was to open Japan’s doors to trade after nearly two centuries of restricted contact with the outside world. Perry’s visit prompted the Edo shogunate to reconsider, with feudal lords in the area, the method of coastal protection and to order the construction of forts around present-day Tokyo Bay. This okatame (coastal defense) map depicts the system of defense as it ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
View of Entire Suruga Region
This map of Suruga Province, located in the area of today’s Shizuoka Prefecture, presents an elevation view of Mount Fuji, with the surrounding area mapped on a horizontal surface with relief shown pictorially. This style does not provide accurate geographical information, but it was typical of the mid-19th century. The mountain is drawn disproportionately large, suggesting the impression it made on the mapmaker and the significance it held for the populace. The map notes the names of towns and roads; temples and shrines; and ancient castles, forts, and battlefields ...
Contributed by Library of Congress