Basho and the Dao

Basho and the Dao: The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai

Peipei Qiu
Copyright Date: 2005
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    Basho and the Dao
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6157-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Donald Keene

    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 Cambridge University, people who discovered my subject would sometimes ask, “Why in the world should you teach the literature of a race of imitators?” I am afraid that this viewpoint was fairly general, although once in a while I met people who had read the marvelous translations of Japanese literature by Arthur Waley. They knew...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. General Notes
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Haiku’s popularity is worldwide today, comparable even to the modern Western realistic novel. Indeed, Japanesehaikuverses are now translated into many languages,haikuvariants are being composed in different tongues on all the major continents, and a quick Internet search onhaikuproduces more than three million links on the subject. While the general interest inhaikucontinues to grow, few people outside Japan know abouthaikai, or comic linked verse, which gave birth tohaiku. Even fewer know about the interesting role that Chinese Daoist classics played in its becoming a high art. This book examines an important...

  7. Chapter 1 Encountering the Zhuangzi
    (pp. 13-40)

    Haikai, a Japanese poetic form that is roughly translated as comic linked verse, evolved fromrenga, or classical linked verse, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Fromrengatohaikai no renga(orhaikai), and then to the independence of the opening verse ofhaikai,hokku, orhaiku, as it is known today, Japanese linked verse experienced dramatic changes in its form and nature: a full-length, aristocratic parlor art became an extremely condensed, popular poem with internalized irony as its core.Haikaicreation reached its apogee in the latter half of the seventeenth century. During this period, three successivehaikai...

  8. Chapter 2 From Falsehood to Sincerity
    (pp. 41-59)

    The Danrin’sgūgenstyle prevailed in the world ofhaikaiin the middle of the Enpō 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 deviant(itai)and dissipated(hōratsu).¹ While this deviant new phase of Danrinhaikaiinvited more fierce criticism from the Teimon and otherhaikaicircles, poets who were tired of the endless debate over different styles asserted that the genre should be essentially natural and truthful. This new trend, accompanied...

  9. Chapter 3 Bashō’s Fūkyō and the Spirit of Shōyōyū
    (pp. 60-93)

    With his move to Fukagawa, Bashō’s thematic emphasis shifted from explicit philosophical truth to poetic truth, or to use his own term,fūga no makoto. Yet the truth of poetry Bashō and his school pursued was infused with Daoist ideas, particularly the spirit of carefree wandering(shōyōyū). Hirota Jirō even goes so far as to call Bashō’s dwelling at Fukagawa “a site ofshōyōyū.”¹ Bashō and his school were interested inshōyōyū, not simply for its philosophical implications, but more out of aspiration to re-create the poetic profundity they saw in Chinese poetry, particularly in the poems that magnified the...

  10. Chapter 4 Bashō’s Fūryū and Daoist Traits in Chinese Poetry
    (pp. 94-126)

    Oku no hosomichi, the best-known piece of Bashō’s travel journal, contains the following passage:

    After having arrived at the post station of Sukagawa, I called upon a man named Tōkyū, who insisted that we stay at his house for a few days. He asked me how I had fared at the barrier of Shirakawa. I replied that I was unable to compose any poems. I had been totally exhausted from the long journey, partly because I had been overwhelmed by the scenic landscape and by nostalgic thoughts of the past. It would have been regrettable, however, to cross the barrier...

  11. Chapter 5 Following Zōka and Returning to Zōka
    (pp. 127-159)

    After Bashō’s journey, which he recorded inThe Narrow Road to the Depths (Oku no hosomichi), the Shōmonhaikaiwitnessed a stylistic change in the 1690s, as Bashō’s disciple Kyorai observed:

    When the late Master came back to the capital from his journey to the far North, our school’s style changed drastically. We all carried a knapsack to see the Master at the Unreal Dwelling, or attended his lectures at the Fallen Persimmons Cottage. Most of us learned the essentials of the Master’s teaching during that time.HisagoandSaruminowere the results.¹

    Hisago(Gourd, 1690) andSarumino(Monkey’s straw...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 160-162)

    Followingzōkaand returning tozōka, Bashō led his school to transform the nature ofhaikaifundamentally. Under his guidance, the Shōmon School produced some of the besthaikaisequences of all time, but the reality ofhaikaicreation in general was still far from what the master had expected. The following verse is commonly read as a revelation of Bashō’s lonely feelings in the world ofhaikaiduring the last year of his life:

    This road—

    no one goes down

    autumn’s end.

    kono michi ya/yuku hito nashi ni/aki no kure¹

    Bashō’s concern seems to have come from the realization...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 163-194)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 195-224)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 225-238)
  16. Index of Haikai Verses Cited
    (pp. 239-240)
  17. Index
    (pp. 241-249)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 250-250)