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Calligraphy of the Poem "Cold Fishing Nets"

Early to mid- 19th century
Nukina Kaioku (Japanese, 1778–1863)

Nukina Kaioku was one of the central figures of the Japanese literati (learned men) in Kyoto during the nineteenth century. He was a scholar, poet, calligrapher, and seal carver, as well as a musician who played the Chinese zither (qin). The poem on this screen, composed by Kaioku, is in the traditional Chinese-style seven-character couplet mode. Following are excerpts from the poem, with translations by William Hollis, adapted from Jonathan Chaves:

wild ducks fly far and waves stir the sand
as fishermen lower their nets
their small boats float like grass
and they drift unable to see cold shrimp pass
however they pour out a massive catch of red-tail carp
as the sleeves of their fishing coats flap
there’s a frosty sound
and after the seines have sunk fully there’s a perfect moon
they warm their turtle-skin hands in the draft at the back of the brazier
which has matted fuel from half the bay
a gathering of reed-blossoms

Object Details

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