Section of a handscroll mounted as a hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper
10 3/8 x 10 1/8 in. (26.4 x 25.7 cm)
Promised Gift of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto (L.2011.54.1a–c)
Refined aristocrats of Heian-period Japan exchanged thoughts and sentiments—both public and private—through waka, thirty-one-syllable poetry. Thirty-six poets were selected in the late tenth century as the Immortal Poets (Sanjûrokkasen), and soon thereafter imaginary portraits of these poets (kasen-e) were made. The present fragment once belonged to a long handscroll known as the Narikane version of the Thirty-Six Immortal Poets, so named because its calligraphy was attributed to Taira no Narikane (died ca. 1209). It is the only portion known to be in an American collection. The poem was inscribed in small, evenly spaced letters that seldom flow into one another. It was composed upon the celebration of the First Day of the Rat, in Kii Province (modern Wakayama Prefecture). It reads:
On the First Day of the Rat A tiny pine stands in a roped-off field; Rather than plucking it Why not wait a thousand years they cast thick shade.