Although Sansetsu was excluded from the projects of the mainstream Kano School in Edo to decorate the Tokugawa properties, he was supported by prominent aristocrats and Buddhist temples in Kyoto, who were oppressed by the Tokugawa regime. A number of textual sources record evidence of the relationship between Sansetsu and his patrons, which is visually encoded in his Orchid Pavilion Gathering painting. Sansetsu also depicted a scene of the tea ceremony in the Orchid Pavilion Gathering folding screen. During the Kan’ei cultural upheaval of the early seventeenth century, when Tokugawa authority was still in its infancy, the tea ceremony remained a key means of sociopolitical intercourse among military men, aristocrats, priests and even merchants. Sansetsu’s involvement with tea can be traced from his social life as well.
This paper examines narration and narrativity in the seventeenth century visual representation through investigating the Orchid Pavilion Gathering folding screen by Kano Sansetsu (1590-1651). Sansetsu was the second generation leader of the Kano School in Kyoto, which was marginalized under the military state. He illustrated the well-known event in China, when Wang Xizhi (321-79) invited forty-one scholars at the Orchid Pavilion to participate in the annual Spring Purification Festival. In this painting, Sansetsu included the iconographies of other painting themes to visually incorporate stories that suggest his association with the Kyoto’s cultural networks. I augment the process of adaptation of the Orchid Pavilion Gathering painting theme from the Ming-dynasty ink rubbings to Sansetsu’s folding screen by explaining the political struggle of the Kano School in Kyoto.