rai sanyo letter calligraphy poetry

Rai Sanyo | Letter

SKU: 2278



A private letter to Fukui Teien (1783-1849), published in Collection of Sanyo's letters: Sanyo Shokan shu, vol.2, no. 573, p. 462 (1927).


We haven't seen one another for long time. Then suddenly you sent me a letter. It was like being face to face with you and I was very happy. – Thank you. I knew of the "Gafu," but hadn't yet seen it. Receiving it from you, I haven't the proper words to express my gratitude!


Alas, this spring I have not composed any worthy poems. I have recently been to Arashiyama (a place on the western outskirts of Kyoto) when Koga Kokudo (a prominent scholar of Confucian studies, 1777-1836) came there from Edo. We met, and had a gathering under the cherry blossoms. Then, I made a poem and showed it to Old Sekisui (i.e. Shirai Itoku, 1862-1838). I will show it to you when I next meet you.


Thank you for your great kindness. I am sorry to write this letter in such a rough manner. - With best wishes, on this second day of the fourth lunar month, Noboru (i.e. Sanyo), writing back sincerely.
To you, Goshu Shikun
(i.e. Fukui Teien).


Postscript: In the next two or three days, please come to my house anytime. I will ask someone here to pass the Gafu book to you. 


There are two sets of inscriptions on the inside of the box lid. Certificates of authenticity by Rai Ryuzo, Rai Sanyo's grand-son (dated 1941) and by Kisaki Aikichi (1865-1944), scholar and author of a book on Rai Sanyo (Rai Sanyo sensei, 1935).


The poem Sanyo is referring to was published 1833 in “Selections form Sanyo’s poetry, (Sanyo Shisho). It is the first poem in the fifth volume. The poem is decicated to Rai Baishi (1760-1843), Sanyo’s mother, and her earlier travel to Arashiyama: 


Not reaching Arashiyama after five years,
Ten thousand trees and flowers, more beautiful than ever 
My happiest mother is resting on a pillow, 
That night she sleeps in a fragrant cloud. 


Sanyo and his friend Teien, a medical doctor by training but a poet and calligrapher at heart, have been discussing a particular type of Chinese poetry: Gafu (Yuefu in Chinese), a poetry style that intends to imitate Chinese folk songs. There was a good reason to talk about Gafu. In winter, towards the end of 1830 Sanyo's book, "Poems of Japan" (Nihon Gafu), a compilation of poems featuring remarkable historical events in Japanese history was published. It was the only publication that went to press during Sanyo's lifetime. Teien must have mentioned in the conversation a Gafu book he owned and wanted to share with his friend. In this present letter Sanyo thanks his friend for that book and asks him to pick it up.


Rai Sanyo (1780-1832)
Letter, 1832
Ink on paper
16.2 x 44.9 cm (6 1/4 x 17 1/2 in.)
Mounting 86 x 51.5 cm (33 3/4 x 20 1/4 in.)
Certificate box

Bachmann Eckenstein