A Chapter from the Volume of Liang Hui Wang by Mencius


A Chapter from the Volume of Liang Hui Wang by Mencius

calligraphy / Azuchi/Momoyama

By Nanka Genko (1538-1604)

Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century

Ink on paper


This calligraphy was penned by Nanka Genko, a Zen priest from the Rinzai school of Buddhism. It has an idiosyncratic, non-conventional style. The writing is taken from a compilation of dialogues between the Chinese Confucian thinker Mencius and several monarchs. It features four extracts from the compilation, including Mencius's conversation with King Hui of Liang.
Nanka Genko and other Zen priests of that era helped to introduce classical learning and philosophy to Japan from China, the leading cultural power of the day. They wrote Chinese-style poetry, studied Confucianism, and generally pursued all forms of Chinese culture and learning. They also wielded influence as political advisors and they offered political and spiritual guidance to their patrons, the feudal warlords. The role of politicians changed as the era shifted from the vigorous, decisive Warring States period to an age that prioritized reason and ethics. It was the Zen priests with all their learning who stepped into these roles.
This work is probably an attempt to use the words of Mencius to teach military commanders how to lead as political figureheads. Nanka Genko may also have wished to liken his own relationships with the warlords to those between Mencius and the monarchs as they discussed the ideal, ethics-based form of government.

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