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Unformatted text preview: up all sorts of buildings and had tea gardens and tea rooms that
surpassed those of other people in stylishness. . . . People still talk about
him. . . . He took hardly any interest in business and spent his time in amusements.13 Here is the story of another merchant devoted to pleasure whose
interests, like that of the first merchant, centered especially on the tea
ceremony: 182 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture Fig. 53 “House of Entertainment” (detail), ca. mid-1640s (Honolulu Academy
of Arts, Gift of Robert Allerton, 1960 [2758.1] )
[He] became extraordinarily dissolute and spent money in abandoning himself to promiscuity. . . . Taking up the tea ceremony as his profession, he carried on just as he liked and finally went blind and died at the age of forty-two
or forty-three. As his fortune gradually declined in view of these things, he
pawned his utensils and so on and crashed when advances to daimyo were
not repaid.14 The spawning grounds of townsman culture were the pleasure and
entertainment quarters that formed, almost like extraterritorial enclaves,
within the great cities: the Yoshiwara of Edo, the Shinmachi of Osaka,
and the Shimabara of Kyoto (fig. 53). Abounding in brothels, theatres,
teahouses, public baths, and sundry other places of diversion and assignation, these quarters were the famous “floating worlds” (ukiyo) of Tokugawa fact and legend. Ukiyo, although used specifically from about this
time to designate such demimondes, meant in the broadest sense the
insubstantial and ever-changing existence in which man is enmeshed.
To medieval Buddhists, this had been a wretched and sorrowful existence, and ukiyo15 always carried the connotation that life is fundamentally sad; but, in Genroku times, the term was more commonly taken to
mean a world that was pleasurable precisely because it was constantly
changing, exciting, and up-to-date.
In view of the tremendous pressure that Tokugawa society placed on
the individual to conform to the rigid rules of Confucian behavior, sec- The Flourishing of a Bour...
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- Spring '13