Japanese Works : Yasen Kanna

Hakuin Ekaku (白隠慧鶴)

Japanese Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'> Hakuin Ekaku 白隠慧鶴 (1686-1769) was a well-known Zen Buddhist monk who lived in the mid-Edo period. Known as the restorer of the Zen school in Japan, Hakuin produced a huge number of paintings and books during his lifetime. This work, <i>A Chat on A Boat in the Evening</i> (Yasen Kanna『夜船閑話』) is the most popular translation of Zen teachings from among his literary oeuvre.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'> In the early days, the young Zen master Hakuin experienced 'Zen sickness' during his training. In order to cure this 'sickness' he visited Hakuyūshi, a hermit who lived in Kita-Shirakawa in Kyoto. The hermit taught him a special method call Naikanhō 内観法 (meaning ‘introspection’), which helped him to cure the sickness. <i>Yasen Kanna</i> is a manual and a record of this same method. At first, this book was assigned to monks as part of their daily training, but because the story of Hakuin’s visit to Hakuyūshi was so popular at that time, many laypeople started to use this method to maintain their own heath.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'> <i>Yasen Kanna</i> was published in 1757 (Hōreki 7) when Hakuin was 73 years old. This book was first published by <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(53);return false;'> Ogawa Genbē 小川源兵衛</a>, who was a publisher based in Teramachi Takoyakushi 寺町蛸薬師, Kyoto. According to the date in the preface and afterword, the draft of this book was completed on 25 January 1757. This date is confirmed by an entry in Hakuin’s diary that shows that Hakuin received the first print from the publisher on 29 May 1757. This means that this book was published right after the draft was finished.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'> There were two different woodblock-printed editions published by the same publisher. One replicated Hakuin’s handwritten manuscript, and the other one reformatted the text and included illustrations. The Cambridge copy is the former edition and has 7 lines of text on each page with 11 characters in each line. It is comprised of 53 folded sheets (chō 丁) in total without any missing pages. Advertisements for titles issued by the same publisher can be found after the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(53);return false;'>colophon</a>. According to this page, the Cambridge copy is not the first print of its edition, but a later reprint. The original title slip (daisen 題簽) is missing, but the title of the book has been written directly on the upper-left corner of the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(1);return false;'>front cover</a>. The title of this work is also mentioned in the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(3);return false;'>preface</a> with the reading of Yasen Kanna instead of <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://dbrec.nijl.ac.jp/KTG_W_61892'>Yasen Kanwa</a>.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'> The seal of Cambridge University Library can be found on the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(2);return false;'>first</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(53);return false;'>last</a> pages, and shows that this work entered the University Library in 1911. This book came from the library of the late Sir Ernest Mason Satow, GCMG (1843-1929), as is demonstrated by his Japanese seal on the first page: 'Britain / Satow Collection' (Eikoku Satō zō sho 英国/薩道蔵書). On the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(55);return false;'>outer back cover</a>, a handwritten inscription in sumi ink reads Nakagawa Kazushi-zō '中川一至蔵,' indicating that there was another owner before this book entered Sir Satow’s collection. Later, Sir Satow gave part of his library to the eminent Japanologist, William George Aston (1841-1911), and after Aston’s death, <i>Yasen Kanwa</i> finally joined the collection at Cambridge University Library.</p>

 


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