Nanboroku (also pronounced "Nanporoku") is an old book which has been handed down in the Tachibana clan in Hakata (a part of Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture), as a book of SEN no Rikyu's secret teachings. Because it had been highly appreciated by researchers, as an important material, it had a great influence on formulating a concept of today's 'Wabicha' (wabi style of tea ceremony).
There are two theories about the title of the book. If a sentence in "Cha Jing"(The Classic of Tea) saying 'Tea is a good tree in the south ("nanpo," written as 南方)' is deemed to be the source, the pronunciation should be 'Nanporoku'; if it is deemed to come from Sokei NANBO (written as 南坊), the author's name, the pronunciation should be 'Nanboroku' with a voiced consonant.
The title of the Tachibana book (a copy owned by the Tachibana family) and that of the Engaku-ji Temple Book (a copy owned by Engaku-ji Temple) are both written as '南方録.'
Today it is commonly pronounced 'Nanboroku,' regardless of the characters.
It is said that some words in this book such as 'Sado' (Japanese tea ceremony), 'roji' (the garden outside a ceremonial tearoom) and 'Kaiseki ryori' (a simple meal served before a ceremonial tea) were not usually used in the age of Rikyu; based on that, some say it is an apocryphal book.
Sokei NANBO, the author, is said to be a Buddhist monk of Shuunan Monastery in Nanshu-ji Temple in Sakai City and also Rikyu's apprentice, but some point to the possibility that he was a fictitious character because he never appeared in any other materials. It was Shigemoto TACHIBANA who made the transcription called the Tachibana book, the original book of many "Nanboroku" copies currently in circulation; today's research has proposed the view that "Nanboroku" could be a compilation of materials which Jitsuzan (a pseudonym as a priest of Shigemoto TACHIBANA) collected in Hakata and Sakai (a city in Osaka Prefecture). The Tachibana book was made by Jitsuzan in 1690, the 100th anniversary of Rikyu's death. Some researchers read something intentional in the number of 100.
Among seven volumes of the Tachibana book, the first five volumes, from 'Memorandum' to 'Daisu' (a stand for utensils used in the tea ceremony), were copied in 1687 from the treasured volumes kept by the House of Sen (based on Okugaki (postscript) of Nanboroku) or 'the person who has the five volumes of a book of Rikyu's secret teachings for Tea Ceremony' (based on cho (official documents) of Kirobengi (The Tea Book of Jitsuzan Tachibana)); the other two volumes, 'Sumibiki' (Cross out) and 'Metsugo' (After Rikyu's Death), were copied in 1690 from the book owned by 'Sosetsu NAYA, a blood relation of Sokei' in Sakai. From this, it is presumed that the first five volumes and the last two volumes have different backgrounds; this should be taken into consideration in dealing with them.
Construction and characteristics
It is a seven-volume book, and its construction is as follows.
"Memorandum" is the record of Rikyu's dialogues written by Sokei NANBO based on oral recollections. "Kai (parties)" is the record of Rikyu's tea parties. "Tana (Shelves)" is about the rules of tanakazari (the arrangement of tea utensils on a shelf) for Joo shelf, "chuojoku" table, and others. "Shoin (reception room)" is about the rules for shitsurai (putting decorations suitable for the season or ritual in appropriate indoor places). "Daisu" has illustrations of daisukazari (the arrangement of tea utensils on a stand) in the kanewari measurement system which will be mentioned later. "Sumibiki" is the volume on theories, specifically on the kanewari measurement system, with a title meaning to paint out with India ink because it's a secret teaching. "Metsugo" is reminiscences written by NANBO after Rikyu fell on his own sword.
The lost original book written by NANBO in his own hand (except for 'Metsugo,' which was added after Rikyu's death) is said, after Sokei NANBO finished writing, to be given Rikyu's Kao (written seal mark) (along with the notes saying only 'Sumibiki' should be burned) to prove it's the original; but according to the theory that Nanboroku was written by Jitsuzan, everything was organized by him.
The characteristic of this book is that it emphasizes 'wabi' (an aesthetic ideal that finds surpassing beauty and deep significance in what is humble or commonplace and appears natural or artless), taking the definite stand for Buddhism (Zen sect)-centrism which defines it as 'pure and clean Buddha's world.'
"Yamanoue Soji ki" (The Record of Soji YAMANOUE), a reliable book of secrets in Rikyu's day, was also written with emphasis on the Zen sect, but Nanboroku obviously placed more emphasis on the spirit than other tea books of the same age; in addition, it used words similar to the ones in tea books of Edo period such as "Zen tea."
On the other hand, 'Daisu' and 'Sumibiki' describe the details of the complicated rules called the 'kanewari measurement system' for arranging utensils on daisu used in shoin. The 'kanewari measurement system' is a theoretical system based on Chinese principles of Yin and Yang, originally used by carpenters and craftsmen for taking measurements in the right proportion. There are little materials about the 'kanewari measurement system' for tea ceremony, except for "Nanboroku." It is unclear when the kanewari measurement system originated; according to Matsunosuke NISHIYAMA, it was first applied to accomplishments in the early Edo period.
In sum, two different, individual tea-drinking cultures coexist together in this book: 'wabicha' and 'tea ceremony in Shoin (traditional style of Japanese residential architecture).'
That is why the claim this book makes is theoretically inconsistent.
This part has supported the opinion that Rikyu sublated 'tea ceremony in Shoin' learned from Dochin KITAMUKI and 'wabicha' learned from Joo TAKENO, but the clear difference between the thoughts can be assumed to be, as described later, the sign of compilation from several books of secrets.
Toyotaka KOMIYA first posed the possibility of forgery, then Sutemi HORIGUCHI, Tadachika KUWATA and others followed.
The theory was based on the fact that this book has descriptions which are hard to believe to be the ones of those days; for example, although Rikyu's days put a premium on chaire (tea container), the book says, 'Nothing is more important than Kakemono (a hanging scroll; a work of calligraphy or a painting which is mounted and hung in an alcove or on a wall).'
In addition, some other contradictions had been pointed out, including that a person who died before the period of the record appears in 'Kai.'
A major turning point was that Isao KUMAKURA analyzed 'Kai,' demonstrating that it was a fiction made by embroidering 'Rikyu's Tea Parties' included in the sixth volume of "Rikyu's Tea Ceremony" (1680) ('The origin and the background of "Nanboroku"' by Isao KUMAKURA, carried in "Chanoyu" vol.11).
However, Hiroichi TSUTSUI and others have been suspending judgment about the reliability of "Nanboroku." That's because it is confirmed that not only "Rikyu's Tea Ceremony" but also "Sakaikagami" (a topography of Sakai) and other materials are quoted in Nanboroku, so that no one can deny the possibility that lost materials about Rikyu were included in the ones for the compilation. In fact, it is easily presumed that Jitsuzan, living in Hakata, collected these materials when he stopped at Sakai or Kyoto.
Sokei NANBO called himself Shuunan the Second. Jotei GIO (Sojun IKKYU's own child and disciple), the founder of Shuunan Monastery, is said to be born in 1428 (according to a supplementary note in 'Nanboroku,' published by Iwanami bunko); which means he was 94 years old when Rikyu was born in 1522. If Sokei succeeded the name as the second in those days, because Sokei is presumed to be at least 30 years older than Rikyu, his age was well over 100 when Rikyu fell on his own sword. He wrote 'Metsugo' two years later; it comes down to his being a formidably old priest. From the fact that such priest was never mentioned in other records, his real existence has become doubtful. It is also said that GIO formed a close friendship with Joo TAKENO to 'enjoy chatting over tea,' but GIO was already 74 years old when Joo was born (1502). If he chatted over tea with Joo, who determined to learn tea ceremony when he was over 30; it means he was a centenarian and there's no denying that it is unnatural. These are the doubts caused by the far-fetched view that Sokei was the master of Shuunan Monastery.
The status of "Nanboroku" in modern times
This book is used by modern researchers as the material showing the true state in the Edo period: 'Sado' was expected to return to Rikyu's style, but it grew into a complicated theory. On the other hand, viewing from the perspective of 'Sado,' it is considered to be one of the heights where Sado's idealism reached (although the tea-ceremony system complicated by secret teachings, like the ones in "Nanboroku," is not necessarily the same with Rikyu's style).
It is significant that, when Sado aimed to return to Rikyu's style, too much emphasis was placed on the Zen sect as its logical basis.
(Another opinion is that one of the characteristics of Nanboroku is that it's not biased in favor of the Zen sect.)
As a result of this, some facts were arbitrary ignored in the history of tea ceremony, including that Juko MURATA was a believer of the Jodo-shu sect and Dochin KITAMUKI was a believer of the Nichiren sect; this is the material for reflection.
(An interesting theory has been proposed in recent years, saying Rikyu's master was not Joo but Gensai TSUJI, a believer of the Nichiren sect.)
("What is 'Wabi' for SEN no Rikyu?" by Asao KOZU, published by Kadokawa Group Publishing Co., Ltd.)