Nukina Suo (貫名菘翁)

Suo NUKINA was a Confucian scholar, calligrapher; literati painter (from July 26, 1778 to June 21, 1863).

His family name was Yoshii (later, returned to NUKINA, old name of Founder of his family). His first name was Shigeru. His azana (Chinese courtesy name which was, historically, the name formerly given to adult Chinese men, used in place of their given name in formal situations; scholars and the literati of Japan adopted this custom of courtesy name) was Kunmo and Shizen. His common name was Seizaburo and later Shogo and furthermore changed to Yasujiro. He had many go (pen name) (a second name or alias) such as Kaisen, Kaikyaku, Umiya, Umiso, Tekishonin, Tekisuo, Suo and so on. In addition, Hochikusanjin, Shuseishujin, Sangenshujin and so on. Umiya and Suo were commonly known.


He was born as the second son of Naoyoshi YOSHI, a feudal retainer of Tokushima Domain of Ogasawara school etiquette family, under Tokushima-jo Castle. His mother was the daughter of Tsunehiro YANO, Goyo-eshi (a purveying painter to the government) of Domain.


Firstly he studied Confucianism under Ranko KIMURA and Sekisui TAKAHASHI. At the age of seventeen he went up Mt. Koya depending on Reizui, an uncle on his mother's side, and studied hard reading the books in the library on the mountain.

Later at the age of twenty-two he became a disciple of Kaitokudo (a school which had a style of Rangaku, and was located in Osaka, Japan during the Tokugawa Era) in Osaka and studied keigaku (study of Keisho in Confucianism) and history under Chikuzan NAKAI and finally became the school manager.

When he moved to Kyoto around 1808, he opened a private school Shuseido and taught mainly Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism).

Suo said his first duty was learning and in fact he earned a living on it.

"Sashu" edited by Barika and Rikuko and "Niju-ni shi sakki" (Reading memo on twenty-two historical books) by Choyoku of the Qing dynasty were translated into Japanese by him.

In his later years, he moved and lived near Shogoin Temple and named himself Suo after the noted product vegetable su (an old name of suzuna). In his latest year he secluded himself in Shimogamo. In 'the list of book collection in Tadekura Library,' which was a list of his books dedicated to Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, 3,386 books (11,252 volumes), centering on keigaku and history, were listed, which shows Suo emphasized the learning.


He learned prose and poetry under Kaiu YAGAMI. He was introduced as a Confucian and Chinese poetry in 'Heian Personal Profile' issued in 1822 at the age of 45. He liked the poetry during China's Tang Dynasty and it is well-known that he discussed theory of sound with Sanyo RAI. In those days zekku (a form of Chinese poem) was popular and Suo's Chinese poetry appeared in many zekku books such as "Bunsei era seventeen poets' zekku" and so on. It is said that there existed "Shuseido poetry anthology," but it does not remain now for some reason. According to a vulgar belief, Soin NAKAJIMA, who thought Suo's Chinese poetry was not good, stopped its publication, but it needs to be proven.

He published 'Added notes on Poetry Rules' and 'Summary on Poetry Laws' by Jobunhitsu as the reference book for his disciples.


In his boyhood, he learned the calligraphic style of Gensho BEI (Mi Fu) under Nobuyuki NISHI.

He was strongly inspired by Kukai's shinseki (one's true handwriting) on Mt. Koya. Afterwards he continued to admire the calligraphy by Kukai and at the age of 58 he moved to Shikoku and stayed in Hagiwara-ji Temple (currently, Hagiwara, Onohara-cho, Kanonji city, Kagawa Prefecture) and copied the treasured 'Kyujosho' by Kukai (stored in Hagiwara-ji Temple, Important Cultural Property). Later he published it as bokutaku and wrote the batsu (a postscript). In the batsu he wrote that the famous 'Fushinjo' (the letters Kukai wrote to Saicho) in To-ji Temple and 'Kyujosho' were the best in Kukai's calligraphy, seeking the origin in ASANO no Nakai during Nara period, and furthermore Nakai originated from the copying of a sutra during Tang Dynasty.

Many of bokujo in those days were shabby and could not be the example for practice. Suo tried to understand for sure the true tradition of Nio (Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi (O Kenshi)). For this reason he emphasized classics and shinseki and if it could not fit, he collected copybooks printed from the works of old masters of calligraphy or inscriptions and copied and learned them. As for Tei Shinsoku's calligraphy during Tang Dynasty also, he went up all the way to Mt. Hiei and copied it.

Compared with karayo (Chinese style) of Ming and Qing Dynasties, popular in those days, his calligraphic style was considered as Tang and Jin (Dynasties) style, and his kaisho (block script) was considered to have been influenced by Ouyang Xun, Shinan YU, Cho Suiryo and Gan Shinkei, and his gyosho (cursive style of writing Chinese characters) by Wang Xizhi and Cho Suiryo, and his sosho (very cursive style of writing Chinese characters, more abbreavuated and flowing than gyosho) by Son Katei. Meikaku KUSAKABE was surprised that Suo's power in brush strokes had become stronger and stronger as his coming closer to his latest years.

He became famous for his calligraphic works and paintings, but especially he was regarded as one of three famous ancient calligraphers during the end of Edo period as well as Beian ICHIKAWA and Ryoko MAKI and was called 'the top of noshoka (master of calligraphy) during the early-modern times.'

When he was eighty-five years old in his later years, he fell sick with paralysis, but he was not discouraged and continued to produce calligraphies. The works at that time were called 'paralysis style,' and was regarded as his masterpieces.


As for paintings he learned the method of Kano school under his uncle, Norihiro YANO, but since he saw 'The Spine-Chiller sausui-zu (a painting of the landscape)' by Senkoku during Ming Dynasty, he was very much into literati painting. After he grew up, he deepened exchanges with the top literati painters in those days, such as Shungaku KANAE and Kyodo HAMADA in Osaka and Shunkin URAGAMI, Chikuto NAKABAYASHI, Baiitsu YAMAMOTO in Kyoto and meanwhile he seems to have acquired the method of literati painting. Just before his kanreki (celebration of turning sixty years old), he learned the method of nanga (a school of painting originating in China) from Tetsuo SOMON in Nagasaki.

Chikuden TANOMURA highly praised Suo's 'Soan-zukan' as well as Sanyo RAI and Kaiseki NORO in his book "The record of friend and teacher in Takeda house." In addition to elaborate Sansui-ga (Chinese-style landscape painting), bamboo, chrysanthemum, pine and so on were painted by him as his subject matter. There were many excellent literati painters as his disciples.

Also, Suo was good at the painting theory and when he was fifty-six years old, he preludized for the theory on Chinese paintings "Sansuikoshu" (High Atmospheric Landscape) by Yozan HAMACHI in Ise and commented for "Rongashi" (Theory on painting and poetry) by Kino Shunkin.


He liked traveling and had visited Kyushu three times. And he loved the nature of Hida Takayama and had stayed there for three years since he was sixty-one years old.


The calligraphy by Kaido NUKINA (the name was Shuku, 1750 - 1850) was very similar to that of Suo in the power in brush strokes and thus was often mistaken for each other in the market. He was considered as one member of Suo's family or his disciple, but it is not clear for the reason that he was from Tarumi ward, Harima Province and that he was much older than Suo.