Identification and Creation
Object Number
1985.352.35.A
People
Tosa Mitsunobu, Japanese (active c. 1469-1522)
Title
Spring Shoots II (Wakana: ge), Illustration to Chapter 35 of the Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari)
Other Titles
Transliterated Title: Genji monogatari: Wakana: ge
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting, album leaf
Date
Muromachi period, datable to 1509-1510
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan, Kyôto Metropolitan Area, Kyôto
Period
Muromachi period, 1392-1568
Culture
Japanese
Physical Descriptions
Medium
The thirty-fifth of a series of 54 painted album leaves mounted in an album with calligraphic excerpts; ink, color, and gold on paper
Dimensions
H. 24.2 cm x W. 18.0 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of the Hofer Collection of the Arts of Asia
Accession Year
1985
Object Number
1985.352.35.A
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Genji comforts Murasaki (who feels unwell following her spirit-possession by Lady Rokujo) as they admire lotus blossoms.

Label Text: Cultivating Virtue: Botanical Motifs and Symbols in East Asian Art , written 2006
The lotus is a symbol of the Buddhist faith, signifying the purity of the Buddha’s teachings despite their origin in this world of illusions. Beginning in the eleventh century, Japanese elites became obsessed with the notion of rebirth in the Buddha Amitâbha’s Western Paradise. It was believed that one could be reborn there on a lotus throne if one accumulated enough spiritual merit. Many copies of a text called the Lotus Sutra were created and recited in order to attain this goal.
The painting illustrates a scene from the Tale of Genji in which Genji and his great love, Murasaki, look out toward a pond of lotus plants. Murasaki has partially recovered from a severe illness or spirit-possession through the good offices of a medium and through sutra dedications. She longs to devote her life to Buddhist ablutions, but Genji cannot bear the idea of living without her. During this encounter they recite the following verses (brushed with great flourish on the adjacent calligraphic sheet):

Murasaki:
Before the dew dries
That has clung to the lotus—
O fragile fortune—
Surely it would be foolish
To think I shall not be gone.

Genji:
Bind we by an oath:
Let us be as two dewdrops
On one lotus leaf;
Do not let us be apart,
Dear heart, though not in this world.
[Translation by Edwin A. Cranston]

Publication History

Kaori Chino, "Tokushû: Genji monogatari gajô - Hâvâdo Daigaku Bijutsukan zô" [Special Issue: The Tale of Genji Album in the Collection of Harvard University Art Museums] (Tokyo, Japan, 1997), p. 33

Anne Rose Kitagawa, "Behind the Scenes of Harvard's Tale of Genji album", Apollo, Vol. CLIV No. 477, November 2001, p. 29 / Fig. 2 (left)

Melissa McCormick, "Genji Goes West: The 1510 Genji Album and the Visualization of Court and Capital", Art Bulletin, College Art Association of America (New York, March 2003), LXXXV No. 1, p. 55 / Fig. 1 (left) & p. 57 / Fig. 6 (detail

Le Dit du Genji de Murasaki-shikibu [The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu]: Illustré par la peinture traditionnelle japonaise du XII au XVII siècle [Illustrated by traditional Japanese painting of the 12th through 17th century], Editions Diane de Selliers (Paris, France, 2007 & 2008), Vol. 2 / p. 318 with details on p. 337 & 348

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, Folio Society (2016), vol. 2, frontis

Exhibition History

Plum, Orchid, Chrysanthemum, and Bamboo: Botanical Motifs and Symbols in East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 07/06/2002 - 01/05/2003

Cultivating Virtue: Botanical Motifs and Symbols in East Asian Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/08/2006 - 04/08/2007

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu