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Youkihi@—k‹M”Ü
KEY WORD :@art history / paintings
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Ch: Yangguifei (719-756). The famous Chinese beauty and concubine of Emperor Xuanzong (Jp: *Gensou Œº@, 685-762), whose many depictions in painting and sculpture epitomize the feminine ideal of the Tang Dynasty. The wife of Xuanzong's son, Yangguifei caught the eye of the aged-emperor, over sixty at the time, and became his consuming passion. As his favorite she used the emperor's affection to secure high positions for her family, and so aroused much resentment. During the 755 rebellion led by An Lushan (Jp: An Rokusan ˆÀ˜\ŽR, ?-757), the emperor and Yangguifei fled the capital for Sichuan Žlì with loyal troops. When the entourage reached the village of Mawei ”n›Ê, the soldiers demanded the execution of Yangguifei, the perceived cause of the social unrest. Heartbroken but powerless, the emperor permitted Yangguifei to be killed. After suppressing the rebellion and returning to the capital, the emperor was haunted by the desire to see Yangguifei again. He summoned a Taoist wiseman to search for her spirit. The sorcerer eventually found her living on Penglaishan (Jp: *Houraisan –H—‰ŽR), the Isle of the Immortals, and he returned with some momentoes and a message for the emperor. This tragic story is told in the famous narrative ode The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Ch: Changhenge, Jp: Chougonka ’·¦‰Ì) by the Tang poet Bai Letian (Jp:*Haku Rakuten ”’Šy“V; 772-846). The poem became popular in Japan, especially at the Heian court, where it's influence extended to GENJI MONOGATARI Œ¹Ž•¨Œê (The Tale of Genji ; early 11c, see *genji-e Œ¹ŽŠG). In Japanese eyes, Yangguifei is an enormously sympathetic character. Her story was eventually adapted into the *nou ”\ play, YOUKIHI, by Konparu Zenchiku ‹àt‘T’| (1405-1468) and retold in popular songs of the Edo period. The 13c sculpture, Youkihi Kannon —k‹M”܊ω¹ at Sennyuuji ò—OŽ› in Kyoto, said to have been made in prayer for Yangguifei's happiness in the next life, is one early example of representations including religious images that were created out of her legend.
The earliest Japanese painted depictions of Yangguifei are in illustrations of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow. In the 16-17c, interest in the ode had developed into a broader taste for screen paintings of imaginary Tang court scenes, featuring beautiful Chinese women. Chief among these paintings are scenes of elegant battles, fuuryuujin •——¬l, showing two teams of courtiers, led by Xuanzong and Yangguifei, holding flowers as if spears. Yangguifei has long been associated with erotic themes, evident in Edo period painting subjects such as "Youkihi mounting a horse" and "Gensou teaching Youkihi to play the flute" found in paintings by Gen Ki Œ¹‚« (1747-97) and Iwasa Matabee Šâ²–”•º‰q (1578-1650, MOA), as well as in many *ukiyo-e •‚¢ŠG,.
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