Art of Japan and Matsumura Goshun: Impact of high culture, Yosa Buson, and the shadow of death

Art of Japan and Matsumura Goshun: Impact of high culture, Yosa Buson, and the shadow of death

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Matsumura Goshun was born in 1752 during the Edo Period in Japan and he provides an impressive glimpse into the rich heritage of high culture. In the early period of his art, the flows of nanga-literati art are extremely visible. Likewise, his deep admiration of Yosa Buson is abundantly obvious.

Goshun from an early age belonged to the world of high culture. This is based on the wealth of his family and the studies he partook. Hence, on the instructions of his parents, he studied the richness of Chinese and Japanese culture, classical history, calligraphy, literature, painting, poetry, and other areas related to high culture.

Buson inspired Goshun in several fields of high culture and this notably applies to haiku poetry and literati painting. Goshun was blessed to have such a refined teacher. After all, Buson is part of the trinity of exceptional Japanese Edo poets with the other two being Matsuo Basho and Kobayashi Issa.

Buson naturally wrote (translated by Robert Hass):

Blown from the west,
fallen leaves gather
in the east.

Despite the abundant skills of Goshun and his rich knowledge of high culture, he still found it hard to survive by paintings alone. Indeed, Buson understood the economic struggles of Goshun. Therefore, Buson opened contacts with wealthy individuals for Goshun in the field of literature.

Sadly, in 1781 the world of Goshun was beset by misery. This relates to the death of his wife that caused great pain and his father also perished from this world. On top of this, the hailing Buson was reaching the final years of his life. Hence, unlike the past, Buson could no longer support Goshun financially.

Ironically, the shadows of death between 1781 and 1784 in relation to family members and then the death of Buson, meant a new path would open up for Goshun. Therefore, during a period of emotional turmoil and uncertainty, the spirit of Goshun began a new artistic path.

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