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Pictures of social networks : transforming visual representations of the Orchid Pavilion gathering in the Tokugawa period (1615-1868) Kameda-Madar, Kazuko


This thesis examines the cultural networks that connected people holding common ideological values in the Tokugawa period by surveying a range of visual representations of the Orchid Pavilion Gathering. It explores the Tokugawa social phenomena that gave rise to the sudden boom in the Orchid Pavilion motif and how painters of different classes, belonging to different schools, such as Kano Sansetsu, Ike Taiga, and Kubo Shunman, came to develop variations of this theme in order to establish cultural identity and to negotiate stronger positions in the relations of social power. Probing the social environment of artists and their patrons, I demonstrate how distinct types of Orchid Pavilion imagery were invented and reinvented to advance different political agendas. The legendary gathering at the Orchid Pavilion in China took place in 353 CE, when Wang Xizhi invited forty-one scholars to participate in the annual Spring Purification Festival. At this event, Wang Xizhi improvised a short text that has come to be known as the Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Gathering. In Japan, while the practice of the ritual gathering and the text describing it were introduced in the Nara period, its pictorial representation in the format of a stone rubbing was not imported until the early seventeenth century. The Orchid Pavilion theme belongs to the genre of “elegant gatherings” depicting an idealized community of Chinese scholars, including the “Elegant Gathering in the Western Garden” and the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove,” which had been frequently painted since the preceding Muromachi and Momoyama periods. During the Tokugawa period, however, the “Orchid Pavilion” became one of the most important and popular painting themes. Tokugawa society is commonly thought to have been rigidly stratified, and the Tokugawa period a time of peace. The Pax Tokugawa, however, was a peace brought by military force, and although the lives of people under the Tokugawa regime were at times heavily and unfairly oppressed, people of all classes retained enough power to voice resentment. From the different perspectives voiced through cultural activities like the Orchid Pavilion Gathering, I demonstrate the class permeability and dynamism of Tokugawa society.

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