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Basho and the Dao

The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai

Peipei Qiu

Publication Year: 2005

Although haiku is well known throughout the world, few outside Japan are familiar with its precursor, haikai (comic linked verse). Fewer still are aware of the role played by the Chinese Daoist classics in turning haikai into a respected literary art form. Bashō and the Dao examines the haikai poets’ adaptation of Daoist classics, particularly the Zhuangzi, in the seventeenth century and the eventual transformation of haikai from frivolous verse to high poetry. The author analyzes haikai’s encounter with the Zhuangzi through its intertextual relations with the works of Bashō and other major haikai poets, and also the nature and characteristics of haikai that sustained the Zhuangzi’s relevance to haikai poetic construction. She demonstrates how the haikai poets’ interest in this Daoist work was rooted in the intersection of deconstructing and reconstructing the classical Japanese poetic tradition. Well versed in both Chinese and Japanese scholarship, Qiu explores the significance of Daoist ideas in Bashō’s and others’ conceptions of haikai. Her method involves an extensive hermeneutic reading of haikai texts, an in-depth analysis of the connection between Chinese and Japanese poetic terminology, and a comparison of Daoist traits in both traditions. The result is a penetrating study of key ideas that have been instrumental in defining and rediscovering the poetic essence of haikai verse. Bashō and the Dao adds to an increasingly vibrant area of academic inquiry—the complex literary and cultural relations between Japan and China in the early modern era. Researchers and students of East Asian literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism will find this book a valuable contribution to cross-cultural literary studies and comparative aesthetics.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

It used to be quite normal in countries of the West when discussing Japanese literature or art to point out the enormous indebtedness to Chinese predecessors and to imply that the Japanese lacked creativity or imagination. When I first began to teach Japanese literature at...

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to express my deep gratitude to Donald Keene, who led me to this topic and whose guidance and encouragement made this book possible. I am indebted to many people for assistance in writing this book, and it is impossible to mention them all here. Selecting from that...

General Notes

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-12

Haiku’s popularity is worldwide today, comparable even to the modern Western realistic novel. Indeed, Japanese haiku verses are now translated into many languages, haiku variants are being composed in different tongues on all the major continents, and a quick Internet search on...

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Chapter 1: Encountering the Zhuangzi

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pp. 13-40

Haikai, a Japanese poetic form that is roughly translated as comic linked verse, evolved from renga, or classical linked verse, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. From renga to haikai no renga (or haikai), and then to the independence of the opening verse of...

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Chapter 2: From Falsehood to Sincerity

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pp. 41-59

The Danrin’s gûgen style prevailed in the world of haikai in the middle of the Enpô era (1673–1681). By the end of the 1670s, some of the Danrin poets were pushing “the free exaggerations” and “the most deluding falsehoods” to an extreme, promoting a style that some critics described as...

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Chapter 3: Bashō’s Fūkyō and the Spirit of Shōyōyū

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pp. 60-93

With his move to Fukagawa, Bashô’s thematic emphasis shifted from explicit philosophical truth to poetic truth, or to use his own term, fûga no makoto. Yet the truth of poetry Bashô and his school pursued was infused with Daoist ideas, particularly the spirit of carefree wandering...

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Chapter 4: Bashō’s Fūryū and Daoist Traits in Chinese Poetry

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pp. 94-126

Oku no hosomichi, the best-known piece of Bashô’s travel journal, contains the following passage: After having arrived at the post station of Sukagawa, I called upon a man named Tôkyû, who insisted that we stay at his house for a few days...

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Chapter 5: Following Zōka and Returning to Zōka

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pp. 127-159

After Bashô’s journey, which he recorded in The Narrow Road to the Depths (Oku no hosomichi), the Shômon haikai witnessed a stylistic change in the 1690s, as Bashô’s disciple Kyorai observed...

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pp. 160-162

Following z


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pp. 163-193


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pp. 195-223

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 225-237

Index of Haikai Verses Cited

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pp. 239-240


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pp. 241-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861575
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824828455

Publication Year: 2005