A private letter to Fukui Teien (1783-1849),
published in Collection of Sanyo's letters: Sanyo
Shokan shu, vol. 2, no. 573, p. 462 (1927).
Apparently Sanyo and his friend Teien, a medical
doctor by training but a poet and calligrapher at
heart, have been discussing a particular type of
Chinese poetry: Gafu - Yuefu in Chinese - a
poetry style that intends to imitate Chinese
folk songs. There was a good reason to talk about
Gafu. In winter, towards the end of 1830 Sanyo's
book,"Poems of Japan" (Nihon Gafu), a compilation
of poems featuring remarkable historical events
in Japanese history was published. It was the only
publication that went to press during Sanyo's
lifetime. Teien must have mentioned in the
conversation a Gafu book he owned and wanted to
share with his friend. In this present letter
Sanyo thanks his friend for that book and asks
him to pick it up.
"We haven't seen one another for long time. Then
suddenly you sent me a letter. It was like being
face to face with you and I was very happy. –
Thank you. I knew of the "Gafu," but hadn't yet
seen it. Receiving it from you, I haven't the
proper words to express my gratitude!
Alas, this spring I have not composed any worthy
poems. I have recently been to Arashiyama [a place
on the western outskirts of Kyoto] when Koga Kokudo
[a prominent scholar of Confucian studies (1777-
1836)] came there from Edo. We met, and had a
gathering under the cherry blossoms. Then, I made
a poem and showed it to Old Sekisui [i.e. Shirai
Itoku (1862-1838)]. I will show it to you when I
next meet you."
The poem Sanyo is referring to was published 1833
in his “Selections form Sanyo’s poetry, (Sanyo
Shisho). It is the first poem in the fifth volume.
The poem is decicated to Rai Baishi (1760-1843),
Sanyo’s mother, and her earlier travel to
"Not reaching Arashiyama after five years,
Ten thousand trees and flowers, more beautiful than ever
My happiest mother is resting on a pillow,
That night she sleeps in a fragrant cloud."
Thank you for your great kindness. I am sorry to
write this letter in such a rough manner. - With
best wishes, on this second day of the fourth lunar
month, Noboru [=Sanyo], writing back sincerely.
To you, Goshu Shikun [i.e. Fukui Teien].
[Postscript]: In the next two or three days,
please come to my house anytime. I will ask someone
here to pass the Gafu book to you.
There are two sets of inscriptions on the inside
of the box lid. Certificates of authenticity by Rai
Ryuzo, Rai Sanyo's grand-son (dated 1941) and by
Kisaki Aikichi (1865-1944), scholar and author of
a book on Rai Sanyo (Rai Sanyo sensei, 1935).
Rai Sanyo (1780-1832)
Letter to Fukui Teien, dated 1832
Ink on paper
16.2 44.9 cm (6 1/4 x 17 1/2 in.)
Mounting: 86 x 51.5 cm (33 3/4 x 20 1/4 in.)