Hatsuyume, Ichi-Fuji Ni-Taka San-Nasubi



Hatsuyume, Ichi-Fuji Ni-Taka San-Nasubi
Scroll, ink on paper, mounting on silk
Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1769)
Edo period, 18th century
H. 22.8 in (58cm) – W. 12.4 in (31.5cm)
H. 41 ¾ in (106cm) – W. 28 in (71cm)

Hakuin Ekaku was a famous Zen monk of the Rinzai sect. It is said that he played an important role in the rejuvenation of this sect, and he is considered one of the most important monks of Zen. He was born and raised in the village of Hara, in what is now Shizuoka prefecture, a place from which Mount Fuji is visible. He served for over forty years as abbot of Shōin-ji temple in the same village. It was undoubtedly inevitable that the volcano would become a frequent subject of his, and he left a number of paintings of it.

In this painting, he took the “hatsuyume” (the first dream in the New Year) motif and added a poem and a dedication. In the Edo period, it was considered to be particularly good luck to dream of Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant. There are several theories, one of which suggests that this combination is auspicious because Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain, the hawk is a clever and strong bird, and the word for eggplant (nasu or nasubi) resembles one which signifies achieving something great (nasu 成す). It became a proverb, which it is said originated in the area in which Hakuin lived.

一富士 二鷹 三なすび

Hatsuyume ya
Ichi-Fuji Ni-taka San-Nasubi
The first dream of the new year
First, Mount Fuji, second hawk, and third eggplant

He rendered the subjects quite simply. Mount Fuji is painted with one stroke of the brush. And he depicts the hawk with two crossed feathers. The three eggplants are plump and one of them is white. A somewhat erotic poetic dedication accompanies the painting of Mount Fuji:

霞の小袖 ぬがしやんせ
Kasumi no kosode
Yuki no hadahega
Take off your robe
of haze Miss Fuji
I want to see your snowy skin

He likens Mount Fuji covered with snow to a fair-skinned woman. It seems humorous and perhaps a touch vulgar at first glance, but he probably merely wanted to make analogy that would allow viewers to grasp an inner meaning behind an outward form. He used this dedication for many of his paintings of Mount Fuji.
A painting by Hakuin of exactly the same subject is in the Eisei-Bunko Museum in Tokyo.