Japan Art and the Moon: Poetry by Otagaki Rengetsu (Buddhism)

Japan Art and the Moon: Poetry by Otagaki Rengetsu (Buddhism)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The highly lauded poet Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) influenced many people connected to the arts and other angles of high culture. Her Buddhist faith gave her strength during times of extreme pain and sorrow.

The deaths of her second husband and all her five children brought anguish, despair, and sorrow. However, this despair turned to solace and meaning within the Buddhist worldview that fostered her.

Buddhism and high culture shaped the world of Rengetsu. Accordingly, her art, calligraphy, poetry, and being a graceful potter (pottery by Rengetsu above) appealed to many people during her lifetime.

The final years of her life brought sorrow because of anti-Buddhist (Haibutsu Kishaku) edicts and feelings that spread throughout Japan. This led to approximately 40,000 Buddhist temples being destroyed between 1868 and 1874 during the early years of the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912).

Rengetsu wrote gracefully before parting from the world:

My wish is to see
a cloudless moon
above the lotus flower
in my next life.

The Maidstone Museum (Beth Anderson) says: “Rengetsu was raised a woman of Samurai class; beautiful, well educated, trained in martial arts, tea ceremony, calligraphy and more. But at thirty-three, Rengetsu shaved her head, renounced her elite lifestyle, and took formal vowels as a Buddhist nun, taking on the name Rengetsu, meaning Lotus Moon. Rengetsu faithfully upheld her vows until her death in her late eighties. It is generally agreed that Rengetsu took her vow after the untimely and unbearable deaths of her children and her closest family members.”

The four art pieces collectively are by the contemporary Japanese artist Sawako Utsumi (first and fourth art piece), Yamada Hōgyoku (Edo Period), and Ando Hiroshige (Edo Period).




http://sawakoart.comART BY SAWAKO UTSUMI (links above)

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http://sawakoart.com – Sawako Utsumi and Modern Tokyo Times artist

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