Japan art and the window of Nagasaki in the Edo period: Chinese Artist Shen Quan (Nanpin)
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The window of Nagasaki in Japan enabled the Chinese artist, Shen Quan (Nanpin), to enlighten several important Japanese artists for roughly two years during the relative isolation of the land of the rising sun. Of course, Edo remained out of bounds for Shen but through Kumashiro Yuhi his work would impact on other Japanese artists throughout several different generations. This notably applies to Katsushika Hokusai, Kishi Ganku, Maruyama Okyo, and So Shiseki all respecting the art of Shen Quan.
One can only imagine how Shen viewed the restraints of Nagasaki in relation to the Chinese settlement. Yet, irrespective of this, the years he spent in Nagasaki between 1731 and 1733 enabled Shen to leave a lasting legacy.
Also, Shen taught several Japanese artists and this cultural interaction benefitted both sides of the cultural fence. Hence, the constraints of Nagasaki equally enabled Shen to focus on art and on enlightening a selected number of Japanese artists. Therefore, this cultural interaction created new concepts for all concerned.
Indeed, despite Shen never returning to Japan after he left the nation in 1733, he still built artistic bridges between both nations. This applies to his Chinese disciples traveling to Nagasaki. For example, Gao Jun, Gao Qian, and Zheng Pei followed the path laid down by Shen and this continuity speaks volumes about how Shen viewed his time in Nagasaki.
Overall, the artistic interaction of Shen and his students who visited Nagasaki shows that the “limited window” wasn’t so limited – even if travel constraints meant that his window was based on a relatively small part of Japan. Despite this, it is clear that Japanese artists had the freedom to learn from Shen.
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