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Parodies of the “Tangshi xuan”

Parodies of the "Tangshi xuan"

As urban culture continued to mature, we have comic versions of the poems of the Tangshi xuan.

Tsūshisen shōchi (A Humorous Tōshisen)

Old Book Fig.1 Tsūshisen shōchi (A Humorous Tōshisen), Tenmei 3 (1783) edition You can find the poem introduced in this step at the pink bar indicated on the above image
Click to take a closer look, full text is available (See [1][2]).

The design of the page mimics that of the Tōshisen shōko (Step 4.5), with commentary “wrapped around” the original poems. The word shōchi in the title is also very similar to shōko. Next, let us look at one of the poems.

Hekusai (Stinky bottom)

Let’s take a look at one example from this book.

“Chinese” veresion Japanese reading English translation
一夕飲燗曝 Isseki kanzamashi o nomi One evening, I drank cold sake
便為腹張客 Sunawachi harahari no kyaku to naru and immediately got a bloated belly;
不知透屁音 Sukashibe no oto o shirazu I know nothing of the sound of a silent fart
但有遺矢跡 Tada unko no ato ari All I see are the shit marks.

The original poem is “Deer Enclosure” by the Tang poet Pei Di (J. Haiteki). It describes the deer enclosure at Wang Wei’s Wang River villa (Wang Wei is another famous Tang poet).

Rokusai (Deer Enclosure)

Original Chinese Japanese reading English translation
日夕見寒山 Nisseki kanzan o mite wa In the evening light, I gaze at the cold mountain
便為独往客 sunawachi dokuō no kyaku to naru and immediately, I become a lone wanderer;
不知松林事 shōrin no koto o shirazu I know nothing of the pine grove
但有麏麚跡 tada kinka no ato ari all I see are the tracks of the buck


Wang Wei’s “Deer enclosure” (which is part of a sequence with Pei Di’s poem) also appears in the Tangshi xuan and, like Pei Di’s poem, paints a quiet sunset scene. In the parody, this delicate, melancholic world is turned into a toilet humor laugh fest. Although the same rhyme words (seki, kyaku) are used, and many words in the parody sound similar to words in the original (kanzan > kanzamashi; koto > oto), the end result could not be more different.

The authors were a close-knit group of comic verse enthusiasts. The main member was Ōta Nanpo (1749-1823), who was also a poet of the Writing in the Ancient Style school. Of good social position, samurai in the government’s service or wealthy merchants by trade, in their literary pursuits they let go of the restraints of official life and composed poems in this vein.

To fully appreciate the text, some familiarity with Edo humorous literature and social customs is required. A detailed commentary can be found in Satake Akihiro ed. Neboke Sensei bunshū; Kyōka saizōshū; Yomo no aka (See Also[3]).

© Keio University
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