Hōjōki

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Hōjōki (方丈記, literally "square- record"), variously translated as An Account of My Hut or The Ten Foot Square Hut, is an important and popular short work of the early Kamakura period (1185–1333) in Japan by Kamo no Chōmei. Written in 1212, the work depicts the Buddhist concept of impermanence (mujō) through the description of various disasters such as earthquake, famine, whirlwind and conflagration that befall the people of the capital city Kyoto. The author Chōmei, who in his early career worked as court poet and was also an accomplished player of the biwa and koto, became a Buddhist monk in his fifties and moved farther and farther into the mountains, eventually living in a 10-foot square hut located at Mt. Hino. The work has been classified both as belonging to the zuihitsu genre and as Buddhist literature. Now considered as a Japanese literary classic, the work remains part of the Japanese school curriculum.

The opening sentence of Hōjōki is famous in Japanese literature as an expression of mujō, the transience of things:

The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world. (Chambers)

This invites comparison with the aphorism panta rhei (everything flows) ascribed to Heraclitus, which uses the same image of a changing river, and the Latin adages Omnia mutantur and Tempora mutantur.

The text was heavily influenced by Yoshishige no Yasutane's Chiteiki (982).[1] In addition, Chōmei based his small hut, and much of his philosophical outlook, on the accounts of the Indian sage Vimalakīrti from the Vimalakīrti Sūtra.[2]

Manuscripts[edit]

Unusually for works of the period, Chōmei's original manuscript survives. Numerous copies have been made and circulated. These are divided into two major categories: kōhon (complete) and ryakubon (incomplete). The kōhon category is further subcategorized into kohon (old) and rufubon (popular), while the ryakubon is subcategorized into Chōkyō, Entoku, and Mana. The Chōkyō and Entoku editions are named after the era date in the afterword and both include extra passages. The Mana editions are written entirely in kanji replacing the kana in the kohon editions.[3]

Translations[edit]

Hōjōki is one of the earliest Japanese works that was brought to the attention of foreigners, mainly because of its Buddhist elements. Although the first mention of the work in English goes as far back as 1873, the first English translation was attempted by Natsume Sōseki in 1891, one of the most prominent Japanese literary figures in modern times. He translated it into English upon the request of James Main Dixon, his English literature professor at Tokyo Imperial University. Dixon consequently came out with his own translation of the work that was greatly based on Sōseki's translation.[4] Later on William George Aston, Frederick Victor Dickins, Minakata Kumagusu, and many more translated the work into English again. Similarly, the work has also been translated into many other foreign languages.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kubota (2007:315)
  2. ^ Kamo, Yanase (1967:57, 68)
  3. ^ Kamo, Yanase (1967:154–57)
  4. ^ Reception of Hōjōki with a focus on Sōseki's English translation
  5. ^ Celebrating Chomei (Shimogamo Shrine)

References[edit]

  • Kamo no, Chōmei (1212). Yanase, Kazuo, ed. Hōjōki (1967 ed.). Kadokawa Bunko. ISBN 4-04-403101-0. 
  • Kamo no Chōmei; Trans. Donald Keene (1955). "An Account of My Hut," in Anthology of Japanese Literature. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-5058-6. 
  • Kamo no Chōmei; Trans. Anthony H. Chambers (2007). "An Account of a Ten-Foot-Square Hut," in Haruo Shirane, ed., Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-13696-X. 
  • Kamo Chōmei; Trans. Yasuhiko Moriguchi and David Jenkins (1996). Hojoki: Visions of a Torn World. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-22-1. 
  • Kubota, Jun (2007). Iwanami Nihon Koten Bungaku Jiten (in Japanese). Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 978-4-00-080310-6. 
  • Sadler, A.L. (1928). The ten foot square hut and Tales of the Heike. Angus & Robertson, Sydney. OCLC 326069. 
  • Sadler, A.L. (1971). The Ten Foot Square Hut and Tales of the Heike. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-0879-1. 
  • William R. LaFleur (1983). The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-05622-1. 

External links[edit]