Japan art and Yosa Buson: Lone seeker to single cuckoo

Japan art and Yosa Buson: Lone seeker to single cuckoo

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The highly acclaimed poet Yosa Buson was born in the eighteenth century during the Edo Period in Japan. However, he also produced intriguing art. Thus this multi-talented individual – who had other high cultural skills – is deeply admired in modern Japan. 

In the art piece below, you have a lone traveler – or seeker – among the backdrop of an amazing landscape. The individual is on a bridge and surrounded by a wilderness that dwarfs the person. However, is the individual a traveler – someone visiting family or friends – a nature lover – or a seeker of the meaning of life? 

The Kimbell Art Museum says, “This scroll depicts a landscape punctuated by a narrow road that emerges from behind a large boulder on the left side of the painting and winds upward through the mountains on the right. A solitary traveler wrapped in a green cloak crosses a footbridge constructed over a swollen, rushing stream.”

The scroll by Buson recites one part of a poem by poet Han Yu (768–824) that pointedly says, “A single path in cold mountains through the myriad streams.”

However, for Buson, the myriad of streams could equate to the myriad of faiths, philosophies, and ideas within this short life. Or – from an orthodox point of view – the one path once discovered shouldn’t be altered by a myriad of other ideas.

The Met Museum says, “One of the most renowned haiku poets of his day, Buson made his livelihood as a painter. Along with Ike Taiga, he is considered to be one of the major figures in the Nanga movement, which adapted the painting of Ming and Qing China to Japanese sensibilities.”

In another art piece, you can see a cuckoo flying high above the trees – with high mountains in the distance. Is the cuckoo about to witness something new before others? Equally, despite the vastness of the wilderness, the cuckoo is at home – but people in their own homes are often not at home!

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