Le Vieil Homme Qui Vendait Du Thé: Excentricité et Retrait Du Monde Dans le Japon Du XVIIIe Siècle

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François Lachaud, Le vieil homme qui vendait du thé: Excentricité et retrait du monde dans le Japon du XVIIIe siècle (Les conférences de l'École Pratique des Hautes Études 4) Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2010. 153 pp. Paperback, euro16. isbn 978-2-204-09272-2.

This monograph is based on lectures given in the context of Jean-Noël Robert's chair of Japanese Buddhism at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. It focuses on the figure of Baisao... (Ko Yugai ..., 1675-1763), a widely admired "eccentric" (kijin), whose career has been presented in English by Norman Waddell (1984, 2008). Such marginal figures acquired literary and spiritual prestige in the conformist society of the Edo period. Since Baisao was not a prominent intellectual, writer, or religious leader, he is likely not to be on the radar screen of Western scholars of Japanese philosophy and religion, who may consign him to the vague realm of aesthetics.

To illuminate his philosophical and religious significance, Lachaud refers to a line of literary hermits stretching from Kamo no Chomei (1155-1216) to Nagai Kafu (1879-1959), as well as to Chinese poets and artists of the Song period and earlier, who provided a model for combining eremiticism with the conviviality of a literary coterie. Sinophilia prevailed among Edo practitioners of Chinese verse (kanshi), calligraphy, go, playing the kin, and painting (32). Neo-Confucianism had more appeal than Buddhism. Baisao was an adherent of Obaku Zen, which communicated a fresh view of a living Chinese culture to the Japanese. Lachaud does not refer to the Rinzai Zen poet and eccentric Ikkyu Sojun, perhaps because Baisao is remote from the tradition of libertine monks. Rather he stands for a rough-hewn, natural lifestyle, emblematized in his championing of sencha ... in opposition to the refinements of the tea ceremony.

Lachaud also refers, perhaps over-generously, to Western figures such as Cicero, John of the Cross, Izaac Walton, La Rochefoucauld, Nerval, Champfleury, Cézanne, Heidegger, Kerouac, and Ginsberg, in order to show that the contemplative freedom of Japanese eccentrics has universal value. …