Tanaka Hōji and Japan art: Taoism to Meiji era and words of Lao Tzu

Tanaka Hōji and Japan art: Taoism to Meiji era and words of Lao Tzu

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tanaka Hōji (1812-1885) is a Japanese artist who belongs to the traditions that predate the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Hence, despite the modernizing convulsions of the Meiji Restoration on the art world of Japan, the artist Hōji remained faithful to rinpa (rimpa) art.

Hōji at a young age was lucky enough to study under the esteemed Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1829). Thus one can imagine this period of his life bringing him a firm identity. Therefore, the internal artistic, business, political, religious, and social convulsions of the Meiji era were a world away from his youth.

The calming influence of Hōitsu and his rich cultural knowledge of art, culture, and literature must have impacted heavily on the young Hōji during his informative years. Indeed, Hōitsu had become a Buddhist holy man during the last few decades of his life. Hence, one can imagine the importance and enormous impression of art, culture, and religion on Hōji.

In a past article, I comment, “Fittingly, in one art piece by Hōji, he depicts Jurōjin on his loyal male deer. Jurōjin emanates from Taoist traditions in China but certain fusions happen in Japan. However, with Hōitsu dying when Hōji was still a teenager, it is nice to build a connection.”

Lao Tzu said, “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”

Hence, it is nice to think that the words above by Lao Tzu can be fused with Hōji’s art piece that depicts Jurōjin. Thus the God of Longevity is like the artistic longevity of rinpa but embodied through the prism of art.

Lao Tzu said, “When there is no desire, all things are at peace.”

Equally, rather than Hōji competing with Japanese artists focused on art emanating from Europe, he remained true to himself just like Lao Tzu implies.


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