Yamanoue no Soji ki (The Record of Soji YAMANOUE) (山上宗二記)
YAMANOUE no Soji ki is a book of secrets written in 1588 by Soji YAMANOUE, who was a highly regarded disciple of SEN no Rikyu. However, information from owners of utensils suggests that establishment of the book dates back to 1586.
Because the book mainly focuses on records of meibutsu (distinguished objects), it never had as great an impact on the tea ceremony world as "Nanpo roku" (Nanpo record) did. But from the 20th century and on, when Nanpo roku came to be acknowledged as a pseudograph, YAMANOUE no Soji came to assume more importance among scholars as a valid reference of the Tensho era.
Denpon (existent books of transcription and published books)
The original book was owned by Soji, who was the author, and transcription books transcribed by Soji himself were distributed to different sectors. Because Soji transcribed the book and gave the transcriptions to several disciples, about 10 transcriptions authenticated to be written in his own hand exist. Because the original book didn't have a title, transcriptions were given different titles, including 'Hyoan Chadan' (Tea Talk at Hyoan Hut) and Juko Isshi Mokuroku (Juko's diary about the method of judgment). The book is also included in "Gunsho ruiju"(Collection of historical documents compiled by Hokiichi HANAWA) as 'Chaki meibutsu shu' (Collection of Great Tea Utensils). The transcriptions are categorized into two groups according to their colophons; one is the 'new year edition' written at the new year of 1588, and the other is the 'February edition' written in February of the same year.
The Fushin-an edition inherited by the Omotesenke school is highly regarded as one of the transcriptions written in his own hand, and is included in the Iwanami bunko edition of 'YAMANOUE no Soji ki.'
However, since some articles in other editions are missing from the Fushin-an edition, it will be necessary to review as many different editions as possible to study the book.
Structure and features
Mainly, tea utensils, such as tea caddies, leaf-tea jars, and hanging scrolls, along with respective owners, are listed according to their ranks from the highest one, revealing the tea utensil hierarchy at the time. Also, notes are added for each utensil but they are often interrupted with the word 'kuden' (oral instruction), suggesting that the secrets were inducted in exchange for money. The latter part of the book describes the mental attitude as a tea practitioner as the 'ten elements of preparedness for tea practitioners', in which the concept of 'once-in-a-lifetime encounter' is included. Especially emphasized of all, however, is the attitude of being a 'wabi-suki' (a realm of seasoned simplicity and tranquility) who doesn't own any 'meibutsu' (distinguished utensils) yet remains undaunted in front of celebrities, and the idea is not the type of extreme Zen mind found in "Nanpo roku" (Southern Record).
Juko Isshi Mokuroku' (Juko's diary about the way to becoming a connoisseur) included at the beginning of the 'February edition' states that his Way of Tea was originated from Juko MURATA (1423 to 1502), thus authorizing his practice. However, the part stating that Juko instructed the Way of Tea to Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA (1436 to 1490) in the Higashiyama period (cultural and artistic period of the mid-Muromachi period) via Noami (1397 to 1471) lacks credibility, because it was in 1475 and after Noami's death that Yoshimasa left Ogawagosho Palace and went into seclusion in Higashiyama. On the other hand, it was in 1464 when Yoshimasa decided to go into seclusion and he had already started his hobby career before the Higashiyama period by having Noami compile Kundaikansochoki (book of secrets about zashiki-kazari (decoration of room or study with shoin (one of Japan's most important residential architectural styles, established in the Momoyama era))); the possibility that Juko instructed the Way of Tea to Yoshimasa during his years at Ogawa-gosho Palace still remains. The brushwork of the first half of 'Juko Isshi Mokuroku' is obviously different from the rest of the book, suggesting that the volume noted 'the book received from the bozu (Rikyu) was lost in a disturbance of the present owner' was copied precisely.
The scholarly value of "YAMANOUE no Soji ki "
The fact that it mainly deals with introduction of 'meibutsu' despite its nature as a book of secrets reveals that the expertise acquired through contemplating those utensils was a prerequisite for connoisseurs at the time.
The book also categorizes tea utensils into 'meibutsu' and 'suki dogu' (tea devotees' utensils). The former is the authoritative utensils mainly consisting of karamono (utensils imported from China), and the latter is the utensils with 'quiet simplicity' that are favored by connoisseurs in Sakai. This can be interpreted as people in Sakai of enterprising spirit were trying to innovate the Way of Tea by denying the established authority in times of its stagnation. In that sense, the birth of 'wabicha' (a tea ceremony style that appreciates the beauty of simplicity, austerity and poverty) is a good example of denying the values of praising 'meibutsu'.
The change in values is clearly reflected in the hierarchy of utensils; according to the 'new year edition', the order of chaire (a ceramic tea caddy used to make thick tea) was 'chaire' placed higher than 'chaire', whereas the order of the two was reversed in the later 'February edition.'
This is explained by the theory that the values given by connoisseurs may have shifted from 'nasu' (eggplant) style tea caddies, which were considered suitable to Shoin (reception room) rooms, to 'katatsuki' style tea caddies, which were suited to small tearooms.
Such social climate contributed to the emergence of 'wabicha', and the book vividly conveys the atmosphere at the time.
The book is also precious for its inclusion of a number of tea-room plans. The description, 'the sanjo-jiki (a tea room with three tatami mats) rooms had been dedicated to the wabi-suki style without using utensils up to Joo's time,' is an essential reference material in studying the development of Soan (thatched hut) tea houses. Among all, the 'Joo yojohan (Joo's tea room with four and half tatami mats)' plan, which has been repeatedly discussed by scholars, vividly depicts the tea-room style right before the advent of Soan.
The present position of YAMANOUE no Soji ki
After "Nanpo roku" was found to be apocryphal and unauthorized, the top priority of the researchers of the tea ceremony history was to rebuild the image of Rikyu free of its influence. YAMANOUE no Soji ki was highly regarded as a valid reference material of the Tensho era, and came to be regarded as the most important material in discussing the 'wabicha' conducted by the merchant class in the city of Sakai.
With a variety of editions being available, research on the book was conducted by members including Junichi TAKEUCHI, who is a ceramist. The product of the research has been open to the public on many occasions, including the exhibition titled 'YAMANOUE no Soji ki, the eye in the 14th year of the Tensho era' (1995) held at The Gotoh Museum, where Takeuchi was working at the time.
At present, however, it is questioned whether it is appropriate to simply equate the Way of Tea practiced by Soji with that of Rikyu only because he was a highly regarded disciple of Rikyu, and qualitative difference of the two by comparing the book with its contemporary materials on Rikyu has emerged as a new subject to be explored.