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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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