Ye Ming 葉銘 was one of the founders of the Xiling Seal Society (Xiling Yinshe 西泠印社), established in 1904, and is known for having compiled several works on seal engraving. In this article I clarify his views on the history of seal engraving and show where his distinctiveness lay.
In Section 1, I focus on an album of seal impressions in his own collection that Ye Ming compiled. It includes various styles of engraving, but works by seal engravers from Zhejiang 浙江 account for a considerable proportion of the seal impressions, and it is evident that this album was centred on engravers of the Zhe 浙 school.
In Section 2, I show how in his Guang yinren zhuan 廣印人傳 Ye Ming extracted from Zhou Zaijun's 周在浚 Yinren zhuan 印人傳 and Wang Qishu's 汪啓淑 Xu yinren zhuan 續印人傳 passages showing master-disciple relationships in the history of seal engraving and seal engravers' affiliations to schools of seal engraving, and it is clear that even when enlarging his Zaixu yinren xiaozhuan 再續印人小傳 to produce the Guang yinren zhuan he consistently attached importance to the Zhe school.
In Section 3, I focus on passages in the Guang yinren zhuan showing master-disciple relationships and engravers' affiliations to schools of seal engraving. It is clear that even as he surveyed the entire history of seal engraving from the Yuan 元 dynasty down to the Republican period, Ye Ming took the view that the Zhe school lay at the centre of the history of seal engraving.
In Section 4, I focus on treatises about seal engraving written by Ye Ming in the late Qing 清 and early Republican period. Whereas contemporary studies of seal engraving described master-disciple relationships and engravers' affiliations to schools of seal engraving in a fragmentary or purely linear fashion, a distinctive feature of Ye Ming's biographies of seal engravers can be seen in the fact that he turned his attention to the overall history of seal engraving and positioned the Zhe school as the orthodox school, relatively speaking, among the various schools of seal engraving.
In both his albums of seal impressions and his biographies of seal engravers, Ye Ming turned his attention to a broad range of schools and viewed them in the context of the overall history of seal engraving, as a result of which he clearly showed in his writings that engravers of the Zhe school lay at the centre of the history of seal engraving. His distinctiveness lay in the fact that, while presenting an overall picture of the history of seal engraving, which was difficult to gain solely on the basis of contemporary studies, he showed that the Zhe school had represented a preeminent force in seal engraving.
The manuscript of the Eiga taigai 詠歌大概 held by the National Institute of Japanese Literature has been copied together with six other selections of poems. In this article, I examine its provenance and handwriting and show that it is in the hand of Shōkadō Shōjō 松花堂昭乗, and I also consider its position as a treatise on poetry and touch on connections with Shōjō's calligraphic activities.
First, with regard to its provenance and handwriting, I examine it in relation to the Wakan rōeishū 和漢朗詠集 in Shōjō's hand (copied in Keichō 慶長 17  and held by the Department of Japanese Literature, Faculty of Letters, Hōsei University). This manuscript of the Wakanrōeishū and the Eigataigai held by the National Institute of Japanese Literature have bibliographical points in common, and it is to be surmised that they were transmitted together. Further, through a comparison with character shapes in the Wakan rōeishū and other works by Shōjō, the Eiga taigai held by the National Institute of Japanese Literature can be considered to be the work of Shōjō. That is to say, it may be assumed to have been copied by Shōjō around the same time as he copied the Wakan rōeishū.
Next, I examine textual characteristics of the Eigataigai held by the National Institute of Japanese Literature by taking up “Poems by Thirty-Six New Immortal Poets” among the poems included in this work. Among manuscripts belonging to the same line of texts and predating Shōjō's text there is the Shinsanjūrokuninkasen 新三十六人哥仙 (Thirty-Six New Immortal Poets) in the hand of Reizei Tamehiro 冷泉爲廣 (copied in Eishō 永正 4  and held by Jingū Library), and through a comparison of the two texts it can be pointed out that Shōjō's “Poems by Thirty-Six New Immortal Poets” preserves the best text of these poems. It may also be noted that the text of these “Poems by Thirty-Six New Immortal Poets” was later copied by Shōjō or his disciples onto coloured square sheets of paper and handscrolls. It is to be surmised, in other words, that the existence of this work also became a wellspring for new works of calligraphy in Shōjō's circles.
As moves towards establishing institutional systems for art accelerated on the part of the administration during the Meiji 明治 era, calligraphy too underwent major changes. The realities of these changes were strikingly demonstrated by the emergence of the so-called Six Dynasties school of calligraphy. It is generally acknowledged that the Chinese scholar-collector Yang Shoujing 楊守敬 came to Japan with a large corpus of materials related to bronze and stone inscriptions, whereupon Kusakabe Meikaku 日下部鳴鶴 and other Japanese calligraphers who were stimulated by their contact with him established the new style of Six Dynasties calligraphy, sweeping away old calligraphic conventions. But this does not necessarily accord with actual developments thereafter. The new style of calligraphy proposed by Meikaku and others had a strong correlation with existing Tang-style calligraphy, and its character was such that it could be better referred to as “new Japanese-style calligraphy.” Subsequently the direction taken by Meikaku and others came to form the central axis of calligraphy during the Meiji era, but it was only natural that calligraphers and groups advocating a different orientation should have appeared, and the Six Dynasties school of calligraphy assumed a multilayered character.
In this article, I first examine the actual substance of the Six Dynasties school of calligraphy as advocated by Meikaku and others, and then I undertake an examination of the activities of the Ryūminkai 龍眠会 (Society of the Slumbering Dragon) founded by Nakamura Fusetsu 中村不折 and others who lay at the opposite pole among the various parties espousing Six Dynasties calligraphy. Research into the history of Japanese calligraphy during the modern period has until now been primarily concerned with publicly recognizing outstanding calligraphers individually, and a stance that would clarify their relationships and trace historical developments has been wanting. In this article, I compare ideas of differing character that were put forward in relation to the Six Dynasties school of calligraphy while also ascertaining changes in calligraphy over time and the circumstances surrounding calligraphy with a view to making a start on forging links between past individual studies.
The Korea Art Exhibition, held by the Government-General of Korea from 1922 to 1944, was the first government-run exhibition to be held in Korea. Calligraphy was included as Section 3, alongside painting, sculpture, and so on. There was no calligraphy section in government-run exhibitions in Japan, but it was established from the outset at the Korea Art Exhibition, only to be abolished a mere dozen years later. What possible reasons could there have been for this? In this article, taking into account prior research, I focus on the calligraphy section at the Korea Art Exhibition, and by tracing the circumstances behind its establishment and abolition, I examine changes in contemporary calligraphers' perceptions of calligraphy and the background to these changes.
It has been pointed out in prior research that the circumstances leading to the abolition of the calligraphy section were influenced by the position of calligraphy in Japan at the time. In addition, it has also become clear from statements made by contemporary painters and calligraphers that importance was attached to whether or not the art was technically outstanding in comparison with that displayed at exhibitions in Japan. Further, it has become evident that not only were the artistic qualities of calligraphy criticized for being inferior to Eastern and Western painting, but calligraphy and the classical subject matter of traditional painting (orchid, chrysanthemum, bamboo, and plum) were regarded as symbols of the detestable “unmodernized” feudal system prior to the colonial period and were subjected to criticism primarily by younger painters who had received a Japanese art education. At the same time, calligraphers among former scholar-officials and educated professionals (chungin 中人) deliberately chose to preserve traditional ideas about calligraphy even during the colonial period and sought venues for their activities outside the Korea Art Exhibition. This represented a view of art that they themselves chose in Korea as it was being “modernized.”
Nakagawa Kazumasa 中川一政 (1893-1991) was a Tokyo-born painter, calligrapher, poet, and writer. His artistic endeavours were extremely wide-ranging, covering calligraphy, painting, seal engraving, poetry, essay-writing, and pottery. It goes without saying that he was a prolific painter, but he also produced many works of calligraphy and seal engraving, and in this article I examine his seal engraving and his views on this subject.
Nakagawa's speciality was painting, but he did not remain a mere painter. While there have been many studies that touch on his painting and calligraphy, there has been virtually no prior research examining his seal engraving. I investigated and studied materials and documents at the homes of the Nakagawa and Yamada 山田 families in Tokyo and at the Nakagawa Kazumasa Art Museum in Manazurumachi 真鶴町 and also received responses to questions about Nakagawa's career and seal engraving that I posed to people who had been associated with him. In this article, I present some new material, especially documents and materials held by the Nakagawa family.
There exist several works that reproduce impressions of Nakagawa's seals, representative of which are Kazumasa inpu 一政印譜 (Kyūryūdō 求龍堂, 1974) and Nakagawa inpu 中川印譜 (Kanzankai 寒山会, 1972). On the basis of the seal impressions reproduced in these albums, I probe the distinctive features and beauty of his seal engraving.
It is true that Nakagawa was a minor seal engraver, but his seals are imbued with a beauty that cannot be rivalled by specialist engravers. His refined and unaffected style of engraving, distinctively Japanese, and his diversity could be described as peerless. In particular, in the history of Japanese seal engraving his ceramic seals may be said to represent a form of engraving art on a par with that of Tanabe Gengen 田辺玄々 and Yamada Kanzan 山田寒山. Nakagawa may be counted among modern engravers, and if a sequel to Nihon injin den 日本印人傳 by Nakai Keisho 中井敬所 is ever compiled, his name should definitely be included.
Further, his views on seal engraving were underpinned by his experience in actual engraving and his experience in painting and calligraphy and are for this reason all the more convincing. In this article, I examine his views on seal engraving on the basis of his collected writings (Nakagawa Kazumasa zenbunshū 中川一政全文集, 10 vols., Chūō Kōronsha 中央公論社, 1986-87) and other works.
In brief, this article provides a detailed evidential investigation and comprehensive discussion of Nakagawa Kazumasa's achievements in the realm of seal engraving.