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Tale of Genji Chapter Book: “Exile to Suma” (Suma)


Not on view

This thirteenth-century chapter book and the one nearby are among the oldest manuscripts of the tale. These books use the “section-binding” (tetchōsō, tetsuyōsō, or retsujōsō) technique, in which stacks of several sheets of soft mulberry paper are folded in half and stitched at the crease to create one of several signatures that are then bound together. Pages of both volumes bear striking decorations that enhance the reading experience.

The spread here uses the “flowing ink” (suminagashi) technique, in which swirling patterns of ink dropped in water are captured on paper laid on the water’s surface, creating patterns that resemble marble, wood grain, or water. The latter seems especially relevant in the case of “Exile to Suma,” which refers to the location along the Inland Sea (present-day Kōbe) where Genji retreats in self-imposed exile.

On view from March 4–June 16, 2019.

Tale of Genji Chapter Book: “Exile to Suma” (Suma), Thread-bound manuscript book; ink on decorated paper, Japan

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