Biwakou 琵琶行
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Ch: Pipaxing. A painting subject based on the Song of the Lute, a narrative poem by the mid Tang dynasty poet, Bai Juyi (Jp: Haku Kyoi 白居易; also known as *Haku Rakuten 白楽天, 772-846). The biwa 琵琶, usually translated 'lute', was a lute-like instrument with four or five strings played with a plectrum. The long ballad, written in 815 when the poet was serving as a minor official in Jiujiang 九江, tells of an autumn night's encounter with a biwa-playing woman. The poem, which first contrasts her happy youth with her present life of 'drifting and deprivation', makes the poet realize the true melancholy of the exile that he is experiencing. The Song of the Lute--a painting theme in both China and Japan--is usually pictorialized by showing a woman strumming a biwa in a boat. A good example is the hanging scroll by Hanabusa Itchou 英一蝶 (1652-1724).


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