Tomita Keisen (1879-1936) Orichid Pavilion Gathering

Famous Drinking Party

In China the annual Spring Purification Festival was held on the third day of the third month. In 353 Wang Xishi (Jap.: Ou Gishi, 321-379) invited forty-one scholar-poets to engage in poetry and drinking while seated along the bank of a winding brook. Wang arranged for servants to float cups of wine down the stream, and those guests who had not yet written a poem before a cup had passed by were required to drink a penalty cup. From this event Wang assembled the poems of his friends and wrote his famous “Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Compilation” (Jap.: Ranteishuujo), a melancholy discourse on the meaning of life. The theme was very popular in Chinese painting, and became revered by the Japanese. According to both the Nihonshoki and archaeological remains, a meandering stream built of stones was constructed in the southeast corner of the 8th century Heijoukyuu, probably so that aristocrats could re-enact the meandering stream party kyokusui-no-en. Such re-enactments continue today at various locations. For sinophile Japanese painters the theme was symbolic of refined scholarly pleasure. Paintings of rantei kyokusui typically feature a number of scholars seated beside a twisting stream. Notable paintings include works by Kanou Sansetsu (1589/90-1651), Nakayama Kouyou (1717-80) and Yosa Buson (1716-84)


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