A poem-composing contest among various artisans

A poem-composing contest among various artisans. Nine inscriptions. One certificate. Inscription in gold on box.

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Historical period(s)
Nanbokucho period, 1333-1392
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 32.9 x 680.6 cm (12 15/16 x 267 15/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Japan, makimono, Nanbokucho period (1333 - 1392), poems

To 1906
Hara Tomitaro, Yokohama, Japan, to 1906 [1]

From 1906 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), given by Hara Tomitaro in 1906 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Makimono List, L. 931, pg. 304, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Hara Tomitaro (C.L. Freer source) 1868-1939


A poem-composing contest among various artisans. Nine inscriptions. One certificate. Inscription in gold on box.


One autumn evening in 1214, a group of believers gathered for prayer at Tohoku-in, a temple in Kyoto, according to introductory text in this scroll. Seduced by the beauty of the moon, they soon turned their gathering into a poetry contest (uta awase), composing linked verse on the theme of love and the moon. This painting is based on an earlier, well-known version produced in the early fourteenth century.

The participants were people from the common trades (shokunin). The shokunin uta awase derived its humor from casting commoners in aristocratic roles and offered multi-leveled satire on class pretensions. Six sequences feature verses exchanged between a fortune-teller and physician; smith and carpenter; sword sharpener and caster; female fortune-teller and gambler; fisherman and merchant and finally, a picture mounter serving as contest judge.

Published References
  • Great Drawings of All Time. 4 vols., New York. pl. 911.
  • Mayuyama Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo. pl. 148A-B.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 15, vol. 2: p. 157.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 103.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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