Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The Expression of Chinese in The Pillow Book:
The Section of “When the Empress Was Staying
in the Third Ward”

ZHANG Peihua

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies, Department of Japanese Literature)

Key words:

Ancient Chinese Festival of the Fifth Day, Aozashi, Hana ya chō ya, Collected Works of Bai Juyi, Sentimental poetry

Fujiwara Shōshi (988–1074) became the new empress (chūgū) of the Emperor Ichijō (980–1011) on February 25, 1000, and Fujiwara Teishi (977–1001), who had previously been chūgū, was designated kōgō (also translated as empress, but the title indicated a diminution of imperial favor in this instance). Teishi then moved into the Third Ward, where, after giving birth to the third princess, she passed away on December 16, only twenty-five years old (Nihon kiryaku).

The section of “When the Empress Was Staying in the Third Ward” is a narration about the festival of the Fifth Day of the year 1000, when the first Princess Shōshi was five years old and the second Prince Atsuyasu was two years old. On this day there were some festive things such as herbal balls which were presents from the Palace. Notably, there was something called an aozashi. Sei Shōnagon picked it up, placed an elegant cover on it, and presented it to Empress (kōgō) Teishi. Teishi, who was three months pregnant, perceived what Shōnagon meant to convey, received the aozashi and quickly composed a splendid poem in response, using the phrase “hana ya chō ya”: “Even on this festive day, when all are seeking butterflies and flowers, you and you alone can see what feelings hide within my heart.”

This clearly dated passage is regarded as quite important, and it has been discussed by many scholars. However, some problems of interpretation remain unresolved. Firstly, what is the meaning of the word aozashi? Secondly, from the Nara period to the Heian period, there were only a few waka which used the word butterfly, so what feelings were hidden by Empress Teishi between the “flowers and butterflies”? This essay suggests that the answers to these questions can be discovered in the influence of ancient Chinese expressions.