Ichikawa Beian (市河米庵)

Beian ICHIKAWA (October 25, 1779 - August 26, 1858) was a Japanese calligrapher and kanshi (Chinese-style poems) poet of the late Edo period.

His given name was Sangai and Chinese courtesy name was Koyo and, besides being called Beian, his pen names included: Rakusai ("楽斎"), Hyakuhitsusai ("百筆斎"), Ekiten (or Yakuten or Mataten) dojin ("亦顛道人"), Shosanrindo (or Koyamarindo or Oyamarindo or Kosanrindo, written as "小山林堂"), Kinto-sanjin ("金洞山人"), Kin-u-sanjin ("金羽山人") and Seiyashi ("西野子"). His common name was Kozaemon.

Brief Personal History

Beian was the eldest son of the kanshi poet Kansai ICHIKAWA. Beian was given the birth name Sangai (which was written as "三亥" in Japanese) to reflect the fact that the same Japanese Character "亥" appeared three times at the time of his birth, i.e. in the zodiac month, day and hour, hence the use of character for three "三."

He studied under his father Kansai as well as from Jussai HAYASHI and Ritsuzan SHIBANO, and in terms of Japanese calligraphy he traveled to Nagasaki to learn penmanship studying under a Qing master named HU Zhaoxin (Choshin KO in Japanese, written as "胡兆新"). Subsequently, Beian came to deeply respect the works of Beisong-dynasty calligrapher MI Fei (or MI Fu, or Futsu BEI in Japanese, written as "米芾"), and Tang-dynasty calligrapher YAN Zhenqing (Shinkei GAN in Japanese, written as "顔真卿") and others, and devoted himself to studying their styles of penmanship. The pen name Beian ("米庵") was named after Mi Fei ("米芾").

Beian was noted for his skill in demotic semi-square styled (reisho) and standard or square styled (kaisho) calligraphy, and in 1799, at the age of 20 he opened a private calligraphy school called Shosanrindo ("小山林堂"). Later, he built up a large estate in front of the west gate of the mansion of Lord Todo at Izumibashi, and is said to have had over a total of 5,000 pupils. He gave lessons even to daimyo (feudal lords) such as Owari-Tokugawa clan, Tsu-Todo clan, Tokuyama-Mori clan and Sabae-Manabe clan.

He was a distinguished member of the Edo karayo-ha school (literally, Edo Tang Chinese style school) of calligraphy. Like Beian, a calligrapher named Ryoko MAKI (1777-1843) opened his doors in Edo, as did Kaioku NUKINA (1778-1863) in Kyoto, and together they are counted as the three major calligraphers of the Bakumatsu (last years of shogunate) era.

In 1811, Beian served Toyama Domain, but in 1821, he went to serve the Maeda Clan of Kaga Domain for an annual stipend of 300 koku and commuted between Kanazawa and Edo to teach.

He became skillful in his hobby of making seals and compiled an inpu (book about seals) titled "Soken shitetsu." Beian reveled in his love of bunbo shiho (literally, the four treasures of the study, referring to calligraphy implements: brush, ink stone, ink stick and paper) and was known for his collection and study of calligraphic works and paintings of Tang and Jin dynasties. Further, Beian had an appreciation for sencha (mid-grade green tea) and gave Seibei KAGAYA, who owned Matsui Choko ("松井釣古"), a pen name Fusentei. Beian wrote a number of books including "Beian Bokudan" (literally, Beian's Ink Talk).

Having no heir, he adopted Okuzan INAGE's son who became Kyosai ICHIKAWA (1796-1833), but Kyosai died prematurely and subsequently, Suian ICHIKAWA (1804-1884) was adopted. However, when Beian was 60 years old, he was blessed with a son: Manan ICHIKAWA (1838-1907). Beian died in 1858, aged 80. His grave is located at Hongyo-ji Temple in Nishi-Nippori (present-day Arakawa-ku Ward, Tokyo).

Kazan WATANABE painted a portrait of Beian known as 'A Portrait of Beian ICHIKAWA' (a collection of the Kyoto National Museum, Important Cultural Property).