Dreaming of Washeliu Lane, just to resist the sadness of reality

The reaction of the trivial and humble people in the despotism era


Ukiyo-e has undoubtedly become an important cultural symbol in Japan. Many contemporary people love it and put all kinds of cultural and creative works drawn by Ukiyo in their homes. Ukiyo-e has been auctioned at high prices at auction houses, and it has also appeared in the promotional video of the Tokyo Olympics. But the public’s understanding of this art is almost only “good-looking”.
In fact, Ukiyo-e used to be an art of the common people. It was almost in decline, but it played an important role in the innovation of Western art. Many of the Japanese culture we are familiar with today were formed in the Edo period when Ukiyo-e appeared. For example, the famous Ukiyo-e master Katsushika Hokusai Considered the originator of comics… For more “cold knowledge” about Ukiyo-e and Edo literature and art, the Japanese writer, Nagai Hefeng, explained it in “Edo Art Theory”.
Today, I’m going to introduce this classic old book 100 years ago. Luo Danni asked Chen Lingyun, the editor of the Chinese translation of this book. In a question-and-answer session, the two talked about the relationship between art and real politics, the background of Nagai Hefeng’s fascination with Edo art, as well as his writing style and research characteristics. In addition to the content of the book, you can also see the birth process of the Chinese translation of Edo Art, and discover the painstaking efforts put into the book by editors who may not have been aware of it before.

Dreaming of Waseliu Lane,

Just to resist the sadness of real politics

Rodani × Chen Lingyun

Q: If I remember correctly, it seems that in 2020, I heard from Teacher Chen that I wanted to do “Edo Art”, and I had an impression of the name of the book, but I was a little surprised when I saw the printed document for the first time. , It turns out that this topic has been working on and has not given up. In the current publishing environment, we all know that art books are more difficult to sell, and “Edo Art” is such a book that looks cold and seems to be a little far from today’s readers. As a new publishing brand , I don’t know what was the reason for making this book at the time?

A: Books came across by chance. I sent a letter to ask Mr. Li Zhensheng about another book. He talked about translating this book, and I decided to do it right away. I had read the article “The Appreciation of Ukiyo-e” by Hefeng Nagai translated by Mr. Chen Dewen before. When talking about the dark tones of Ukiyo-e, I was very impressed. I have also read Zhou Zuoren’s article on Ukiyo-e, which contains a fragmentary translation of Hefeng’s article. The text is very beautiful, but unfortunately it is only a paragraph. So when Mr. Li Zhensheng mentioned this book, I didn’t feel cold and distant, but felt like a treasure – this book has been published for 100 years, and there is still no complete Chinese translation. (At the beginning of 2020, the traditional Chinese translation of Hou Yongxin has not been published.)


“Edo Art” real shot

In fact, I haven’t read Hefeng Nagai’s novels before, only his prose. Also because of this book, I looked for He Feng’s novels to read. “Sumida River” and “Edo Chitan” are especially suitable for reading together with this “Edo Art”. These two novels are based on the scenery and world conditions on both sides of the Sumida River. One is about juvenile feelings and the other is about old age. The heroines Asi and Yukiko are both geishas. The Sumida River seems to be the spiritual home of the lotus wind. In “Edo Art Theory”, He Feng explained almost frame by frame, the outstanding picture book of Katsushika Hokusai, “A View of Both Banks of Sumida River”, as well as the Edo scenery painted by Utagawa Hiroshige. It can be said that “On Edo Art” and He Feng’s novels jointly constructed Nagai He Feng’s Edo Yume. For readers who love the literature of Nagai Hefeng, this “Edo Art” seems to use ukiyo-e as a flowing background, and it is against this background that the characters of the story come to life.

Of course, the Edo dream of Nagai Hefeng is quite far from our current readers. However, most of the so-called traditions in Japan today were formed in Edo, where the country was closed. Without understanding the literature and art of Edo, it is difficult for us to understand the various characteristics of Japanese culture today. I have seen a promotional video for the Tokyo Olympics shot using Ukiyo-e as the material, and I feel very good. I think classic things are also fresh things. So without thinking too much, I decided to make this book.


Katsushika Hokusai’s “A List of Both Sides of the Sumida River”, Volume 1, Figure 3 / Illustration in the book

Q: What is the most attractive thing about Nagai Hefeng? Why do you think he is so fascinated by common people’s culture and market interest? Why are you obsessed with the arts and literature of the Edo period during the war and turmoil? How do you understand this habit of art in him, do you appreciate him, or do you feel out of place? What does art mean to them?

A: In the postscript of “Hudong Qi Tan”, the September 18 Incident was also mentioned as a background, but he focused on that autumn, when the protagonist (actually the author) and the prostitutes went to see the morning Sparrows fight on the ginkgo tree in the temple. He is using such brushstrokes to relieve the pressure of real politics.

However, his wandering skeleton, his sleeping flower willow, and his dream-seeking Edo are actually an escape and protest against real politics. He said that Ukiyo-e has a tone of sadness and loneliness. This is the sadness that belongs to the East alone, and it is a reflection of the people who are trivial and humble under the autocracy. In the new era, that is, the Taisho and Showa eras of Japan, the inherent autocracy can only be worn. Put on a new mask. He indulged in the literature and art of Edo, in fact, to find solace in paralysis. He said: “Everything in this world is illusory, lonely and hopeless, and makes me sigh for no reason like a dream, which makes me feel amiable and cherishable.” For Japan, which has actively integrated into the West since the Meiji, Nagai, This attitude of He Feng is undoubtedly out of date. But it is also this anachronism that kept Nagai Hefeng away from the militaristic turn of Japanese intellectuals during the war, preferring to remain “silent” rather than speculating on the trend. As teacher Wang Shengyuan said: “Under the heavy pressure of politics, they used the cold watch and uncooperative silence to make the dignity of literature gossamer, but it still survived, thus leaving a rare bloodline for post-war literature. .”

If you have read Tsurumi Shunsuke’s History of Japanese Spirituality during the War, you should be familiar with how state power controls individuals with coercive power, and how individuals turn their minds to meet the overall goals of the state. In it, intellectuals especially show their flexibility. On the contrary, some civilians, it is difficult to reverse their unconscious conscience, resist the tide of nationalism in their daily life. Nagai Hefeng’s fascination with common people’s arts such as Ukiyo-e and Kabuki undoubtedly made him disgust any propaganda in the name of officials or the state, no matter if such propaganda is in the name of progress or civilization. Think about it, a prodigal son who sleeps in flowers and willows, under the tide of nationalism, stands firmer than most intellectuals and moralists. How cool!


Q: “Edo Art Theory” is actually a classic old book, its readers can be described as luxurious, and there are many scholars and scholars who like Nagai Hefeng. The portrait of Mr. Xu Zhiyuan has been Nagai Hefeng in recent years. So I want to know, from an editor’s point of view, what is his charm? Also, why do you think these people like Nagai Hefeng so much, and what are the qualities of him? But on the other hand, whether in Japan or in our reading circles, he has always had mixed reputations and no public recognition. What do you think of the reasons?

A: Actually, I found out later that there are not so many readers who like Nagai Hefeng. As far as novels are concerned, I also think Tanizaki Junichiro of the same period looks better than Nagai Hefeng’s. It may be because Tanizaki Junichiro’s novels are more in-depth and delicate at the psychological level, and they are also more intense. He Feng’s novels are more crude. The good-looking parts of his novels are, instead, depictions of the world at that time. Take the “Sumida River” and “Eastern Chitan” I mentioned earlier. After reading it, you may be more impressed by the style of the Sumida River and its banks, and the characters, such as those in Ukiyo-e, are shadowy. of. His novels are also not very dramatic, but rather prosaic. Rather than saying that he cares about personal joys and sorrows, it is better to say that he cares more about the scenery and human feelings that have passed away. And such embrace and sustenance, for the current readers, there may be a little distance.

But for some readers who don’t care much about the story, He Feng’s works have a kind of sparseness. It’s like, when you are close, you see characters, actions, and drama; when you are farther away, you see the scenery of the world, the futile hard work, the fading and passing away of an era.

Teacher Xu Zhiyuan likes Nagai Hefeng. I think it has something to do with the similarities in their temperament, their detached handling of the times, and maybe it has something to do with them both like to wear slippers.


“Edo Art” real shot

Q: If you were asked to list one reason why young readers and friends can get to know and get to know Hefeng Nagai, what reason would you give?

Answer: There is such an uncle, neatly dressed and polite but a little down-to-earth. He has seen the world in Europe and America, but he is obsessed with the art of the Liba people. He will never persuade you to be motivated and strive. He only likes to chat with you about the past and the past , talking about Willow Lane, Washer Flower Street, Goulan, and sneering at today’s so-called fashion… He is the troubled boy and the son of a prodigal you have heard of, but he writes a good article. The key is that you are with him will be very relaxed. Would you like to meet such an uncle?


Nagai Hefeng

Q: There are actually quite a few exhibitions of Ukiyo-e, and young people have many opportunities to see the original works of Ukiyo-e. There are also many books about Ukiyo-e published, some of which are very beautifully printed. So what’s so special about this book?

A: Anyone familiar with Western art history will know that Ukiyo-e influenced Impressionism and Post-Impressionism at that time. Recently I read an article titled, “Without Ukiyo-e, Van Gogh Wouldn’t Be Van Gogh”. I feel exaggerated. But at that stage in the development of Western art, when they wanted to liberate color from sketches and to liberate visual reality from rational fiction since the Renaissance, Ukiyo-e came. Ukiyo-e participated in the process of Western art innovation, so it has attracted much attention. But in Japan, Ukiyo-e was all but dying before Western attention reawakened their appreciation for this popular art.

But can the artistic value of Ukiyo-e be determined only by the weight of Western artists? From another point of view, Chinese painting may have little influence on Western art, and it has not participated in the development process of the so-called global art history, so its value, for us, should be discounted?

I think Nagai Hefeng must have thought deeply about these issues when he wrote these articles about Ukiyo-e. Of course, he looked at Ukiyo-e on the basis of Western researchers, but he put Ukiyo-e back into the cultural context in which it was created and developed. The development of Ukiyo-e was closely related to, or even integrated with, the flourishing of common folk arts in the Edo period, such as kabuki and kangaroo picture books. So he spent a lot of space to introduce Kabuki and Rage. These are rare in other Ukiyo-e books.

Katsushika Hokusai is certainly the most recognized Ukiyo-e master in the world, but He Feng compared him with Utagawa Hiroshige and felt that Hiroshige was a painter who was more relaxed, elegant and interesting in Japan. In Hiroshige’s works, He Feng did not choose the most famous “Hundred Views of Famous Places in Edo”, thinking that its red and green colors were a little tacky, and focused on the rarely talked about “Famous Places in the East”. These are the insights of Nagai Hefeng with personal characteristics.

Watching Hefeng talk about Ukiyo-e, Kabuki, mad song and other Edo literature and art, there is a kind of thoughtful feeling from the inside. This is a rare feeling of reading introductions and research books of Ukiyo-e in Europe and America.


Utagawa Hiroshige’s “Eastern Famous Place: Yoshiwara Shigenocho Night Sakura” / illustration in the book

Q: What was the hardest part of the book from an editorial point of view? Which part of the editorial workload is the most? The original book of this book has no pictures. It is written in plain text. When I read the editor’s notes, I know that you have included nearly 280 ukiyo-e illustrations. I would like to ask, whose idea is this? Why do such a laborious thing? With pictures, it means that the printing cost will be doubled, and the price will be higher. Will you regret it now?

A: Mr. Li Zhensheng’s translation, when I first read it, I felt very good. He seems to be translating these articles in Hefeng’s Chinese vernacular, which is about the same period when Hefeng wrote these articles. I don’t understand Japanese, but I also read the original text. Whenever I find a certain word a bit awkward, I go to the original text, and often find that this Chinese character or word is used by Hefeng. I have compared the translations of the same passage by Zhou Zuoren, Chen Dewen, Hou Yongxin and Mr. Li Zhensheng, and I have also read some He Feng’s novels or prose translated by the translators. I personally feel that Mr. Li Zhensheng’s translation seems to be more considerate and more readable and chewy. . The translations by different translators seem to be clothed with Hefeng’s original text with different materials. The suit made by Mr. Li Zhensheng seems to be soaked with water and clings to Hefeng’s body. Therefore, the processing of translations does not require much effort. The main work is still on the map.

In the original Japanese version, this book has no accompanying pictures. may be limited by the conditions at the time. However, He Feng’s discussion is closely related to the picture of Ukiyo-e. Without a picture, it is difficult to grasp his narrative.

Sometimes He Feng seems to be thinking about the Ukiyo-e he has seen. He describes it purely in words, without giving the name of the work. We have to select all the pictures we can find that match his description when matching pictures. of. Fortunately, there are search sites for Ukiyo-e on the Internet, but in order to find a matching picture, it is possible to look at hundreds of pictures, and choose the best quality. I don’t remember very clearly. It seems that in order to find a picture of Utagawa Guozhen, I have read all the pictures of Zhang Guozhen over 30,000 on the website, maybe not once, or maybe more than once. Fortunately, at that time, because of the epidemic, I was locked at home. In order to avoid interruptions by children, I work at night until the next morning before going to bed. I spent many nights watching Ukiyo-e one by one. It’s actually quite a luxurious time. The price is eyelids twitching for months.


Utagawa Kunisada “Sunrise Scenery at Ise Futamiura” / illustration in the book

Sometimes, He Feng is just talking to the picture or picture book in front of him, like a tour guide, especially Hokusai’s “A View of Both Sides of the Sumida River”, we put the whole twenty pictures into the book. in. Due to the limited space, some pictures can only be put in a smaller size to see the general meaning.

Using pictures to corroborate the narrative of the text, there will be other discoveries. There is a Hefeng quote from the writings of the Englishman Holmes and listed the names of the paintings. I attached the pictures at first, but when my colleagues read them, they found that they did not match the descriptions. Through the Internet, I went to find the original work of Holmes that he quoted, only to find that He Feng misquoted the title of the work when citing it. The pictures and texts corroborated each other, and it turned out that He Feng’s small mistakes were found.

There are also some picture books. Although they are not so visually appealing, we will try to include them as much as He Feng has explained. It can be said that for the pictures in this book, we pay more attention to the information conveyed by the pictures, rather than just pursuing the dazzling pictures.

When I print the book and read it again, I will think, if Nagai Hefeng himself comes to compose pictures for this book, the selected pictures may differ from what we have chosen, which is two or three out of ten.

Of course, the accompanying pictures, and the four-color printing, all raise the price of the book. However, I also want to say that if readers read some of He Feng’s words, and the picture he described happens to appear, there is actually a solemn intention behind this bland and reasonable thing. of.




“Edo Art” real shot

Q: The content of this book was scheduled earlier, but it took a lot of effort to select paper and proofing later. In fact, I have always wanted to ask you about this. It seems that casting always chooses such a thankless project, as does Lao An’s “A Little Rest”. Why do you invest so much in the material and printing of a book? ? Do you think it’s worth it? Can you share a little detail or two that you put a lot of effort into implementing?

A: From the beginning, we decided to use uncoated paper, so that the effect of the printed pictures will be closer to the temperament of the original Ukiyo-e. In particular, He Feng mentioned at the beginning of the book that the characteristic of Ukiyo-e lies in its color tone:

Ukiyo-e is usually printed on Fengshu paper or Nishinouchi paper. It seems that a layer of color has faded, and it is light and dull. If you compare it with oil paintings with vibrant colors, you can’t help but think: one The sight is as impressive as the flames of the sun, and the dimness of the sight is like a shadow like a lantern. There are strong meanings and ideas in the colors of oil paintings, which can quite show the spirit of the maker. On the contrary, in the sleepy colors of woodblock prints, although there is also the spirit of the maker, it is better to say that they are all trivial and humble in the autocratic era. reflections of people’s hearts. In alluding to the horrors, sorrows, and exhaustion of the dark ages, I could hear the forbearance sobbing of prostitutes, and could not forget the tone of sadness and loneliness behind it.

Hefeng’s aesthetic for Ukiyo-e is based on the “sad and lonely tones” of Ukiyo-e, while Ukiyo-e books in the market mostly use matte copper or coated paper, which is glossy and shiny, far from Ukiyo-e. spirit is far away.

However, uncoated paper must be able to print well, restore the basic tone of Ukiyo-e, and ensure that the book of more than 400 pages is not transparent or heavy, and can not interfere with the beautiful pictures while seeing the beautiful pictures. Hefeng’s quaint characters keep the bookish air of the whole book. It’s really hard to find such paper. We tried a dozen of them in total.


“Edo Art” real shot

In the end, we chose a Japanese imported paper recommended by a paper trader friend. As soon as I used it for a sample, I knew that I had to use it. Although it was the most expensive, I did not hesitate to give up other papers I tried before. Because this paper not only meets the above requirements, but also is particularly soft. I have heard people say that when good paper is flipped, the sound is as soft as falling snow, while ordinary paper is as clear as rain. If you turn the paper of this book by your ear, it seems that you will really hear the snow falling in Edo.


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