Study Groups and Achievements

Systematization of Illustrated Materials and Its Dissemination

Task 3: Compilation of Pictopedia of Everyday Life in East Asia

We endeavored to compile a pictorial dictionary of everyday life observed in two cultures in East Asia to test whether Japanese-originated Ebiki or pictopedia could serve as method for disseminating cultural information in non-Japanese societies or cultures, namely China and the Korea. Numerous illustrations from medieval Japan exist. In early modern times, Japanese people came to be exposed to drawings in their daily lives and even drew sketches and motifs themselves for their records or to convey a message. We can say that initial preparations for our project were already completed during those times. In contrast, in other regions of East Asia, there was not such a close link between people’s daily lives and illustrations. Many such artworks were produced, used by people to decorate walls with paintings. Nevertheless, most of them depicted idealized images of landscapes and people rather than reality. Thus, it was a daunting task to find pictorial materials realistically capturing peoples’ everyday lives. After a considerable discussion, we agreed to choose illustrations for the volume on China from a 12-meter-long picture scroll called Flourishing Suzhou , capturing scenes from the lives of townspeople in Suzhou and to publish the finished work as Jian Nan, the Chinese version of a pictorial reference of life in East Asia. Regarding the Korea, we took a similar approach. Namely, we selected scenes of daily lives from a series of genre paintings of the Josoen period and published a Korean genre painting version of the pictorial dictionary.

When compiling pictopedias, we cannot grasp details if we only rely on existing publications containing reproductions of illustrations from earlier times. It is necessary to take a close look at original pieces, analyze the depictions and identify distinctive characteristics. During the five years of our joint research, we traveled to the countries concerned. Thanks to the kindness of local museums, we could examine each illustration exhaustively. Flourishing Suzhou illustrates what Suzhou in Jiangsu Province was like in the 18th century. The more realistic a particular drawing is, the more crucial field research becomes, since identifying the location depicted in such an illustration is a must. To this end, we visited the area several times. Moreover, we arranged meetings with Chinese and Korean researchers so that we could learn from their accumulated knowledge of illustrated materials.

For the volume on Jian Nan, China, we selected 50 scenes from Flourishing Suzhou and assigned numbers to illustrated objects and actions, adding captions and commenting on the overall meanings of the scenes. For the Korean version, we first chose 6 pieces of genre paintings depicting daily life in detail, narrowing down the number of illustrations to 50. During actual compilation work, numerous challenges hindered our progress. The most burning issue was how we should grasp and express life in China and the Korea in our language. That was the case even when we knew of a specific object. We learned that we cannot simply look it up in a dictionary and copy the definition in order to express it accurately in Japanese, avoiding any misinterpretation. It required a great deal of time to find an appropriate caption for each object. This struggle continued right to the end of the process. The second issue was that some items in those illustrations did not match or could not be compared to those seen in the Japanese materials. Captioning such items was also difficult. For the volume on the Korea, we added captions both in Japanese and Korean to overcome this problem and make it easier to understand depicted objects. In addition, we offered brief explanations for such items in the index section at the back of the pictopedia. We believe that these solutions can be adopted from now on, to enhance understanding of Korean culture. Having conducted joint research on this subject and published what we achieved, we believe that we have presented a paradigm of joint research in the field of humanities.

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