Prof. Sarah Moate lectures on Ōtagaki Rengetsu

On Friday 4 September we were delighted to host a lecture by Prof. Sarah Moate (Komazawa University), who spoke on “The Moon of the Fields: the Calligraphy and Poetry of the Japanese Jōdo-shū nun Ōtagaki Rengetsu.” We were especially honoured to host Prof. Moate’s lecture due to the fact she is the President of the Asiatic Society of Japan.

Prof. Moate’s lecture provided a fascinating account of the life and work of Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875), who is known as “Lotus Moon” in English. Rengetsu was a famed calligrapher, poet and potter. Prof. Moate provided an introduction to Rengetsu’s early life, which was marked by tragedy and loss; she became a nun in her early thirties having endured the untimely deaths of two husbands and all of her young children. Rengetsu’s art and poetry reflected not just her personal experience of life but also her response to a time of great social change within Japanese society. Themes of suffering, joy, and nature recurred frequently in the poems highlighted by Prof. Moate.

Prof. Sarah Moate addresses the audience
Prof. Sarah Moate addresses the audience

The audience enjoyed several of Rengetsu’s wonderful poems, read in Japanese and English by Prof. Moate. Prof. Moate also included digitized examples of Rengetsu’s exceptional calligraphy, which made for a remarkable visual experience. Prof. Moate even brought some examples of the calligraphy which were on display in the lecture theatre during her talk. To complete the aesthetic feast, the presentation was rich with typically beautiful Japanese architectural and horticultural images that were greatly enjoyed by the audience. The lecture was followed by a wine reception.

We have had few lectures recently due to the summer holidays, and are very happy that Sarah Moate’s lecture is the first of many that we will enjoy over the coming months. On 16 September we have a lecture by Dr. Fozia Bora on “Did Salah al-Din destroy the Fatimids’ books? An historical enquiry”, and on the evening of 24 September, we are hosting a musical performance on the oud by Joseph Tawadros. Then on Saturday 26 September, we host “Updating Hodgson: A study day on the work of Brian Houghton Hodgson, ‘Father of Himalayan studies'”, which is followed that evening by the launch of Charles Allen’s book, “The Prisoner of Kathmandu: Brian Hodgson in Nepal 1820-43”. This event is supported by the Bagri Foundation. We hope that you will join us for some of these exciting events.

Posted by Ed Weech