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Reviewed by:
  • Bashō and the Dao: The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai
  • James D. Sellmann (bio)
Peipei Qiu . Bashō and the Dao: The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005. xiv, 248 pp. Hardcover $50.00. ISBN 0-8248-2845-3.

Daoist influences on Japanese culture are apparent to the trained eye, but they have not been well documented by scholars. Chan (Zen) Buddhism was inspired by Daoism, especially the Zhuangzi. The impact of Daoism and Chan on Chinese and Japanese artists and poets cannot be overstated. Daoism and Chan emphasize the importance of spontaneous creativity, while playing with and creating new verbal expressions to convey that creative, transformative experience. Peipei Qiu's new work, titled Bashō and the Dao, casts light on this overlooked area of study. In the foreword, Donald Keene praises Peipei Qiu's command of classical Chinese and Japanese literatures. In the acknowledgments, Qiu thanks her teachers and colleagues at Peking University, Columbia University, and various Japanese institutions for their guidance and assistance. In the General Notes section, Qiu describes how she cites certain texts, names, terms, titles, and how she arranged the Glossary. The book consists of an introduction, 5 chapters, 32 pages of notes, 35 pages of glossary entries, a selected bibliography, an index of Haikai verses cited, and a detailed subject index.

In the introduction, Peipei Qiu first acquaints the reader to the haikai (linked comic verses), predecessor to the now world-famous haiku poem. Qiu argues that ancient Chinese Daoist philosophical texts, especially the Zhuangzi, transformed the aristocratic pastime of haikai into a serious art form in seventeenth-century Japan. Qiu reviews the historical context and the scholarship concerning haikai poetry, explaining why very little work has been engaged in concerning Daoism in Japan. She sets out a number of key questions concerning the relationship between haikai and Daoism, the need for the study, and the general outline of the book. She argues that Bashō's adaptions of the Zhuangzi did not detract from Bashō's originality, but rather the accommodations assisted Bashō and his followers in creating a lasting art form.

The first chapter, "Encountering the Zhuangzi," is a proper, tightly written piece, divided into three sections. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, three successive haikai schools developed: the Teimon, the Danrin, and the Shōmon. Arakida Moritake (1473-1549) and Yamazaki Sōkan (d. ca. 1539-1540) employ bold and unconstrained expressions and greatly emphasize humor, leading to vulgarity and a loss of interest among the aristocrats; for example, Sōkan's often criticized poem: "Even at the time / When my father lay dying / I still kept farting" (p. 6). The founder of the Teimon school, Matsunaga Teitoku (1571-1653), sought to elevate the status of haikai by reinvigorating it with the classical tradition. [End Page 496] The Teimon school maintained the classical poetic and Confucian idea that poetry has a mission to show the way and to instill moral values in the reader. Teitoku proposed that humor and jest could be employed in that mission, borrowing the Zhuangzi's notion of "imputed words" (Chinese [C.] yuyan; Japanese [J.] gūgen) to stimulate the poetic image. Teitoku's literary name, Shōyūken (Carefree-wandering-study), is derived from the xiaoyaoyou (J. shōyōyū) chapter of the Zhuangzi. His disciple Kitamura Kigin (1624-1705) maintained the Daoist interest. Kigin's poetry percolates with images extracted from the Zhuangzi. Kigin's student Yamaoka Genrin (1631-1672) wrote prose and poetry that drew heavily from the Zhuangzi. The Teimon school celebrated the ideas of transformation and carefree living held in the image of the butterfly. They promoted the notions of spontaneity or naturalness (C. ziran, J. shizen); nonpurposive, natural action (C. wuwei, J. mui); and creativity (C. zaohua, J. zōka).

In response to the didacticism and formalism of the Teimon school, the Danrin school turned to the Zhuangzi and its use of humor to advance the notion that unconstrained laughter was the end-all of haikai. The Danrin poets enriched their poetic vocabulary by drawing terms and expressions from the Zhuangzi. Okanishi Ichū (1639-1711) held that the Zhuangzi "embodies the essence of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 496-503
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-24
Open Access
No
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