ARCHIVED ONLINE EVENT - Japan Society Book Club: Essays in Idleness and Hojoki by Kenko and Chomei
Monday 11 October 2021
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Free for Japan Society Members
The activities of the Japan Society are made possible thanks to the support of its members. This event is free of charge and open to all. We realise that this is a difficult time for many people. However, if you are planning to attend and do not have a membership subscription as an individual or through your employer, please consider making a donation. You can find details of membership and how to join the Japan Society community here.
Written by Buddhist monks from medieval Japan, these two works on life's fleeting pleasures each show a different world-view. In the short memoir Hojoki, Chomei recounts his decision to withdraw from worldly affairs and live as a hermit in a tiny hut in the mountains, contemplating the impermanence of human existence. However, in Kenko’s collection of anecdotes, advice and observations, he displays a fascination with more earthy matters. From ribald stories of drunken monks to aching nostalgia for the fading traditions of the Japanese court, Essays in Idleness is a constantly surprising work that ranges across the spectrum of human experience.
Chomei was born into a family of Shinto priests in around 1155, at at time when the stable world of the court was rapidly breaking up. He became an important though minor poet of his day, and at the age of fifty, withdrew from the world to become a tonsured monk. He died in around 1216.
Kenko was born around 1283 in Kyoto. He probably became a monk in his late twenties, and was also noted as a calligrapher. Today he is remembered for his wise and witty aphorisms, 'Essays in Idleness'.
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