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Do you read kanji or hangul?
Old 11-15-2006, 08:54 PM   #1
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Do you read kanji or hangul?

I appreciate all the translation help I got last year, and spouse has been cruising the garage sales again.

This time she brought home four framed watercolors. Each is about 48" high and 12" wide, framed for hanging on a wall. They're in pretty good shape and have fairly modern framing so I think they're less than 50 years old but we don't know. (The former owner thought they were 25 years old but claimed she didn't remember where she got them.) Each shows an Oriental scene of a village at a different season of the year with appropriate outdoor activities... working, playing, cooking, eating, planting, harvesting, and so on.

The former owner insists that the watercolors are Korean, but this is Hawaii-- they could be from just about any Asian culture and she'd be just as insistent because that's what her family or friends told her they are. (Maybe she was selling a relative's crap or peddling stolen goods?) The winter watercolor has a scene that looks suspiciously like pounding mochi but I could be wrong. The characters could be kanji or hangul (or something completely different) but none of them seem to say "tae kwon do" so I can't tell.

Rather than lose the details to get down to 64Kb I've posted them in a Photobucket folder. But let me see if I can post them as images:

Winter watercolor.
[img width=562 height=750]http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a191/Nords_Nords/Mystery%20pictograms/IMGP0285.jpg[/img]

Winter watercolor characters.
[img width=562 height=750]http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a191/Nords_Nords/Mystery%20pictograms/IMGP0279.jpg[/img]

Spring watercolor characters.
[img width=562 height=750]http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a191/Nords_Nords/Mystery%20pictograms/IMGP0280.jpg[/img]

Summer watercolor characters.
[img width=562 height=750]http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a191/Nords_Nords/Mystery%20pictograms/IMGP0281.jpg[/img]

Fall watercolor characters.
[img width=562 height=750]http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a191/Nords_Nords/Mystery%20pictograms/IMGP0283.jpg[/img]

Any ideas what they're saying?
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?
Old 11-15-2006, 09:54 PM   #2
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?

At a glance I'd guess Japanese (and I agree that the winter scene looks suspiciously like mochi pounding), but will have to take a closer look later after putting out some fires. They seem to be signed by someone named Matsuda, and written in kanbun (all Chinese characters, no Japanese or Korean phonetic characters).

BTW, the winter text is a bit blurry -- do you have a sharper version of it?
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?
Old 11-16-2006, 06:39 AM   #3
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?

Ok, at a second glance, I still think they are Japanese. The artist's name is circled in the attached picture, appearing twice -- once written with a brush, once appearing on a name stamp. The name, Matsuda, is a common Japanese family name. (Also, two-character family names are not typical of Chinese or Korean names.) The calligraphy also looks Japanese to me, and not Chinese. (I am not familiar with Korean calligraphic styles.)

No date is given, though if they did come from Korea that may suggest that they come from the period of Japanese control and annexation of the Korean peninsula (1905-1945). (I wouldn't necessarily put a lot of money on this suggestion, just a thought.)

The legends/poems seem to be kanbun, classical Chinese, which I assume that Matsuda wrote. (This would be similar to the once-common use of classical Greek and Latin in educated circles of Europe.) The themes relate to the seasons depicted. I can't read it all, but for example, the summer one says something like:

Not cold, not hot, <something> splendid/beautiful time
Five types of grain, 100 flowers <something...>

Anyway, that's as far as I get. You'll need a Chinese expert if you want more detail.

Hope that helps.

Edited to add:
Quote:
They're in pretty good shape and have fairly modern framing so I think they're less than 50 years old but we don't know.
If my guess is right, they probably weren't originally meant to be framed, so the frames would not tell you much. From the shape they look like hanging scrolls for display in a tokonoma, in which case they were probably meant to be shown one at a time, rotating from one to the next with the seasons.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg matsuda.JPG (9.1 KB, 3 views)
Attached Files
File Type: jpg_thumb matsuda.JPG_thumb (14.3 KB, 0 views)
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?
Old 11-17-2006, 03:05 AM   #4
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?

Third glance. Some of this is pretty tenuous and uncertain, but a final stab:

Winter:
Farmer awakes, opens gate, snow in the high mountains
Cloudy weather when it snows, peace at sunset

Spring:
Wife raises kids ... house, natural ...
Man's work is public thoughts or hermitic benevolence

Summer:
Not too cold, not too hot ... beautiful time
5 types of grain and 100 types of flower ... relaxed period
(Summer time and the living is easy, I guess)

Autumn:
Now seated, report to heaven, make clear vows
Grow old together in an ordinary way, white headed administrator

Seems to be some linkage of natural seasons with the seasons of life.
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?
Old 11-17-2006, 01:41 PM   #5
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Re: Do you read kanji or hangul?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bpp
Third glance. Some of this is pretty tenuous and uncertain, but a final stab:
Thank you very much, bpp. This is far more than we ever hoped to find!

I wanted to hang them left-to-right in "winter, spring, summer, or fa-a-all" like the James Taylor song, but I think your metaphorical interpretation is a much better way to justify it. Although I guess that should be right-to-left... since there's not much seasonal rotation around here we'll just hang them all. They make a great impact on the entryway.

The Internet really needs a good Google version for interpreting these types of characters. It might be lifetime employment!
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