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Nōgakuzue, Tsūen

Nōgakuzue, Tenko

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Tsūen 通円

(Kyōgen 狂言)

(Tsūen, The Tea Priest)

from the series Nōgakuzue

by Tsukioka Kōgyo, 1899

Nōgakuzue, Jinen Koji

IHL Cat. #944

About This Print

One of 261 prints from the series Nōgakuzue (Illustrations of Noh). The print depicts a scene from the kyōgen Tsūen, a parody of the Noh play Yorimasa.

The Play - Tsūen

Source: Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology of Plays, Karen Brazell, Columbia University Press, 1998, 284.
A small group of kyōgen plays (mai kyōgen, or “dance kyōgen”) are direct parodies of noh ghost plays.  In noh, it is usually the ghost of a well-known warrior or a talented or beautiful woman who comes to life on stage, whereas in kyōgen the human ghosts are more lowly [such as] an overworked teahouse proprietor in Tsūen.

In addition to spotlighting incongruous heroes, these plays create humor parodying the language, structure, and performance practices of noh.  One of them, Tsūen, contains an almost line-by-line parody of the battle scene from the noh warrior play Yorimasa.  The warrior Yorimasa fought against overwhelming odds, and then, when defeat was certain, he took his own life.  The tea master Tsūen, overcome by the crush of too many customers on the occasion of the dedication of new bridge at Uji, whisks himself away from life.  The setting for both plays is Uji, famous for its tea. 

Source: A Guide to Kyogen, Don Kenny, Hinoki Shoten, 1968, p. 272.
Shite    Ghost of Tsuen
Waki     Priest
Ai         Villager

This Kyōgen is a Nōgakari, meaning it is written in the form of a Noh Drama.

A Priest comes along the road to a tea house, and finds it without a priest in charge of making and serving teas. He asks the reason of a Villager who tells him that this tea hourse belonged to a Priest named Tsūen. It has been kept as a memorial since he died, and that today is the anniversary of his death. Then the Villager asks the Priest to pray for Tsūen’s soul. The Priest begins to pray, and the Ghost of Tsūen appears, tells the story of his life, dances, and serves the Priest tea.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #944
 Title  Tsūen 通円 (Tsūen, The Tea Priest)
 Series  Nōgakuzue 能樂圖繪 (Illustrations of Noh)
 Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927)
Red letter seal in a cup on a table shape
 Date Printed on September 20, 1899 / Issued on September 25, 1899 (Meiji 32)
明治三十二年月二十日 印刷仝年仝月廿五日発行

The ARC database entry for their print arcUP1045 carries a later date than this collection's print, as follows: 
Date of Printing: October 1, 1901; Date of Issuance: October 10, 1901
 Edition  unknown
 Publisher  Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya Heikichi 大黒屋平) [Marks: pub. ref. 029]
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent
 Genre  ukiyo-e
 Format  oban yoko-e
 H x W Paper  9 5/8 x 14 1/4 in. (24.4 x 36.2 cm)
 H x W Image
 8 3/4 x 13 in. (22.2 x 33 cm) area within printed black border
 Collections This Print  University of Pittsburgh Special Collections 20091209-kogyo-0388; Scripps College Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery 2009.7.47; Art Institute Chicago 1939.2258.197; Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University AcNo.arcUP1045 CoGNo.arcUP0840 AlGNo.arcUP0840 and AcNo.arcUP0836 CoGNo.arcUP0735 AlGNo.arcUP0735
 Reference Literature