top of page
Kumazawa Banzan letter calligraphy detail-2

Kumazawa Banzan | Letter


An rare example of a private and early letter by Kumazawa Banzan. The style of writing is casual, informal and unpretentious. A letter to his brother.

Tomorrow Toju* will start his teaching earlier than usual. And thus you should also arrive early. - On the 20th day, signed Kumazawa Ryoukai. 

[*Nakae Toju (1608-1648)]


Banzan was the son of samurai family in Kyoto but without any specific allegiance to a feudal lord. At the age of sixteen, he entered the service of Ikeda Mitsumasa (1609-1682) one of the so called enlightened rulers of his generation. Mitsumasa was the Confucian minded Daimyo of the Okayama domain (Bizen). At the age of twenty Banzan left Mitsumasa. Beginning in the autumn of 1641, he together with his brother  studied for some six months under the direct supervision of Nakae Toju (1608-1648) in Omi (Shiga) and became his most noted student. Kumazawa returned to Mitsumasa in 1645 and became one of this chief ministers. His increasing fame bred resentment, however, and he was attacked by conservatives who eventually forced him to resign in 1656. From 1660 onwards he used the name Banzan, an artist’s name derived from the Chinese reading of the two kanji for Shigeyama (not far from Bizen, today Okayama Prefecture), and the town where he lived. (Addiss: 77 Dances, p. 109).


Also compare this letter to a more formal letter Banzan wrote to Kitaoji Toshimitsu (1642-1718) in the collection of Waseda University Library.


buy now 


Kumazawa Banzan (1619-1691)

Date: betwen fall of 1641 and spring of 1642

Ink on paper

15.2 x 37 cm (6 x 14 1/2 in.)

Mounting 105 x 50 cm (41 1/2 x 19 1/2 in.)
Wooden box


On the remarkable, significant, and important relationship between Nakae Toju and Kumazawa Banzan, see: "Kumazawa Banzan: Confucian Practice in Seventeenth-Century Japan. De Bary, William Theodore: Sources of Japanese Tradition, volume 2, 1600 to 2000, Columbia University Press: New York 2005, p.123-136.

SKU: 2102
bottom of page