Tales of Ueda Sōko

‘Sacrifice 100 peony bushes, learn again the beauty of one’

 

The following is contained in the tales of Zuiryūsai (1660 - 1701), the fifth Iemoto[2] of the Omotesenke School: “On the occasion of welcoming Kōsaku, Ueda Mondō, whom lived in the west, cut away the hundred Chinese peony in his garden and placed but a single one arranged with bamboo from his bamboo grove.” As Zuiryūsai was born ten years after the death of Ueda Sōko, this tale would have been passed down to him by either his father, Kōshin, or one of the people Zuiryūsai was associated with.

 

Serving Asano Nagaakira, Ueda Mondō came to Geishū[3] after the Summer Campaign of the Seige of Osaka[4] with the transfer of Asano from the fief of Kishū[5]. After settling in Geishū, Ueda invited a person called Kōsaku (who this person was is unclear) to a tea ceremony. On this occasion, Ueda cut the his entire 100-shrubs of peony[6] but placed only a single one in an arrangement with 10 ken[7] (18 metre) long lengths of green bamboo. True to the deep affection Sōko had for flowers, a nandina garden, camellia garden and a peony garden are all drawn in vivid colour on our Edo Period diagram of Wafūdō. On the occasion of welcoming Kōsaku, Sōko spared just one shrub and cut away every last one of the others from the peony garden outside the study. He then took this single shrub, roots and all, and arranged it among 10 ken lengths of fresh bamboo laid on their side in the inner roji. Earthen walls enclose the inner roji to the right and it seems that it is here that Sōko chose to place the arrangement.

 

There is an entry in the Sōko Notes that during the brazier season it is acceptable to place a flower in vase at the seated shelter of the inner roji at the time guests are making their initial entrance to the tearoom[8]. On the occasion Kōsaku was received by Sōko, the sight that await him when he opened the entrance to the inner roji[9] - 10 ken lengths of fresh bamboo with a single peony shrub arranged among them – would truly have made a striking impression. This story resembles the tale of Rikyū and the morning glory flower when Rikyū received Hideyoshi as his guest.

 

When Sōko  was 12, he served as a page to Niwa Nagahide.  According to Rodriges who wrote the History of the Church in Japan, a page at the time was very sophisticated in speech, manners, coiffure and short-sword ornamentation. During the Period of Warring States, social order was thrown into disarray and people’s rank and social status were constantly under threat. In order to maintain rank, great importance was placed on etiquette and formalities that governed relationships between people with different social status.  The focus on proper conduct only increased after this period, and considering that the samurai class had to live every moment prepared for battle, these pressures heightened their already intense state of mind. The vivid expression of basara aesthetics, the aesthetics of the Period of Warring States, is possible because of the ‘motion’ and ‘stillness’ that at once exist together in state of mind of a warlord.

 

Living my life in the way of tea, reflecting on oneself with calmness of mind and reflecting on oneself in light of the wabi aesthetic, i.e. contemplating that the life that one has will one day come to an end, is a mindstate I place great importance on for chanoyu. The chanoyu practiced by the warlords of the Warring States Period however was not fixated on the sense of impermanence; it also celebrated the richness of their experience.

 

When I hear this story of Sōko’s ten lengths of bamboo and one peony, I feel both the basara[10] and wabi aesthetics intertwined in the same tale.

 

by Ueda Sōkei, 16th Grandmaster

Translated by Adam Wojcinski 

 

 

宗箇の逸話           

 

-百株の芍薬を切って、一株置いて-

 

表千家五大家元隋流斎[1] (16601701)の話として「上田門トウ、西国二居タカ、しやくやくの咄、高作被参、百カブノシヤクヤクを切テ、一かふ置テ、タケエン十間程二いたされ候」が伝わっている。隋流斎は宗箇が亡くなって十年後に生まれておりますので、父である江心岑かそのまわりの人達から伝え聞いたのでしょうか。

 

大阪夏の陣後、紀州から芸州へ転封になった浅野長晟に従った上田主水(宗箇)が高作(何者か不明)を茶室に招いた折、百株あった芍薬を切って十間(18メートル)の竹に一株置いたとある。私共にある江戸期の上屋敷図面には花をこよなく好んだ宗箇らしく「南天庭」「椿庭」「牡丹畠」が色鮮やかに描かれている。書院の庭の牡丹畠の牡丹を一株だけ残して他は全て切り、内露地に入って右側に土塀がめぐらせてあるので、十間ほどもある青竹を数本横にし、一株だけ根ごと入れたのではなかろうか。

 

『宗箇様御聞書』に風炉の季節、初入に内腰掛の適当な場所に花入れを掛けても良いという記述がある。宗箇に招かれた高作が中潜りをあけ内露地に置かれた十間の青竹数本に牡丹一株が入った光景は、鮮烈な印象であったに違いない。利休が秀吉を迎えた折の朝顔の話を彷彿とさせる。

 

宗箇は十二歳で侍児(小姓)として丹羽長秀に仕える。当時の侍児は、『日本教会史』を著したロドリゲスによると言葉違い、立ち居振る舞い、髪形、衣服、脇差の装飾とどれをとっても見事に洗練されていると述べている。戦国時代は、社会秩序が混乱し地位・身分が常に不安定であり、そのため互いの身分関係の上に成り立つ礼儀作法を重視しその地位を堅持しようと努力する。そのため、その後にも先にもない程の厳しい礼法となったと伝えられている。そして常に戦場と隣り合わせである。戦国時代のバサラの美意識は、そういう動と静を併せ持つ武将だからこそ鮮烈な創造が可能であったのであろう。

 

茶の湯のわびについて自分を見つめる静かな心と、いづれ終わる自分の命を見据えることが茶の湯の大切な心として私自身、茶の湯の日常を過ごしているが、戦国の武将達の茶は、無常感に留まらず常に充実した心として持続していたと言っても良いのではないか。

 

十間の青竹に一輪の牡丹、宗箇の逸話を伝え聞くとバサラとわびは隣りあわせで結ばれているのではないかと感じている。

 

上田宗冏

 



[1] ずいりゅうさい

[2] Head of a School

[3] Presently the western part Hiroshima Prefecture

[4] Japanese: Osaka Natsu no Jin

[5] Present day Wakayama and the southern part of Mie Prefecture

[6] paeoniae radix Japanese: shakuyaku

[7] 1 ken = 1.818m

[8] Japanese: shoiri. Shoiri refers to the first approach and entrance into the tea room at a tea gathering

[9] nakakuguri

[10] Basara is a term in Japanese aesthetics associated with challenging traditional ideals during the Nanbokucho period. It also referred originally to those who were unconventionally dressed and embraced individualistic styles in a form of protest against authority figures.

The refinement and grace of Bushido, or the Samurai Way, and a rebellious spirit both appeal to the aesthetic sense of Basara. Essentially, this style was comprised of two elements, that of individuality and of an extravagant, epicurean life style. Reference to definition: here.