To Japanese

Yasō Kidan Vol. 2/2

Kwashin Koji Kwoukonsau (Kwashin Koji - A Twilight Tale)

By Kousai Ishikawa 


Trial translation of Chinese Text by Masatoshi Iguchi [1]



In the era of Tensho[2], in the north district of Kyoto was a man, called “Kwashin Koji”, of sixty odd years of age. He wore a hermit-style hood and his beard and whisker were as white as snow. At the shrine of Gion [3], he hung a picture which showed the phases in the hell [4] under the tree. Various cruel punishments, such as the poking, grinding, tearing and boiling [5], were so vividly depicted that people could not but shuddered. Pointing the picture with a wand [6], he preached the principle of retribution or “the virtue rewarded and vice punished” to guide people into Buddhism. The heap of coins thrown by the old and the young crowd was like a mountain.


At that time Nobunaga Oda governed Kinai, or the area around Kyoto. A certain Arakawa[7], a vassal of his who saw and intrigued with the picture reported it to Ufu (=The Minister of the Right, alias Nobunaga as he held the administrative position)[8]. Ufu sent a man to invite Koji. The hanging scroll was opened. The picture was detailed and coloured. Yama[9] or the king of the hell and various criminals looked like acting. After a while, fresh blood gushed out and cries and groans were heard.

As nothing adhered to a finger when touched to the picture, Ufu became suspicious. Asked who painted it, Koji said, “Soutan Oguri [10] purified his body and prayed one hundred days to the Kwan-non of Kiyomizu Temple [11] and then painted this.”


Ufu wanted to have it and delivered his will through Arakawa. Koji said, “This hanging scroll is my treasure to continue my life. If I were to lose it, then my gourd bottle (for sake) will be empty and my life will not be achieved. If you dare to want it, I ask you to pay one hundred golds for food of my elderly life. If you do not pay the sum, then I cannot hand it over!” Ufu was not pleased. Arakawa was angry to the Koji’s greedy demand. Playing up to his master, he planned a stratagem and delivered it to Ufu in a covert manner. Ufu nodded. They gave some small money to Koji to let him leave the palace.


Arakawa chased after Koji. The day was about to get dark. At last at a foot of mountain, he caught up with Koji. Seeing no people in the front and rear, Arakawa arrested Koji and said, “You grudged a picture and coveted one hundred golds. I have a three-foot long piece of iron. I will give it to you!” Before ending his words, he drew his sword and slayed Koji down to the roadside. He robbed the hanging scroll and returned. Next day, Arakawa attended the palace. Ufu was delighted but when spread out the hanging scroll was blank. Arakawa was aghast and his sweat penetrated his clothes. Due to his guilt for deceiving his master, he was sentenced to closing the gate of his house and being confined inside [12].


Ten days later, a colleague came and told Arakawa, “Yesterday when I passed by the Kitano Shrine[13], a monk was collecting alms, hanging up a picture underneath an old tree. His feature and garment were not different from those of Koji. He must be Koji!” Arakawa was suspicious. Wishing to expiate his former guilt, he led his men and went to Kitano but Koji was already gone. Arakawa got angrier but he could not do anything. It was already the time of Bon Festival [14] and temples were holding memorial services.


A man said, “At Kiyomizu Temple [15], Koji set up a place to guide non-believers to Buddhism.” Arakawa was delighted and rushed there accompanying his men. The street was crowded and people were tangled as if they were woven. So, the whereabouts of Koji was not found. Arakawa and his men ran here and there to search Koji but there wasn't anyone who looked like him. Arakawa became depressed and hopeless. On their way back they passed by Yasaka.


Koji was drinking in a pub sitting on a chair. One of his men saw him and reported it to Arakawa. Arakawa confirmed the man was indeed Koji. Arakawa immediately entered the pub and caught Koji. Koji said, “Wait for a while!” He was about to finish drinking, having drunk dozens bowl of sake to end a devouring. He said, “Enough!”. He was tied and brought to the front of the court.


Arakawa accused Koji and said, “You deceive people with your magic. Your guilt is extremely serious. If you present the real picture, then you will be pardoned. If you hide it and lie, then you will get a heavy penalty.” Koji laughed laud and said to Arakawa, “I am innocent from the beginning. To flatter your master, you killed me and robbed my hanging scroll. It was a serious crime. Fortunately I was not wounded and I am here now. I can let a hanging scroll be robbed by you. The one I have now is a copy. You hid the real one and deceived your master with a white paper. Then, to cover your guilt, you have caught me and demand the real picture. I don’t know how I can do?” Arakawa got angry, wanted to torture Koji and get the real one. However, the higher officer suspected Arakawa and reproached him. It was impossible to judge the case. Koji was removed to another room and Arakawa was severely interrogated. Arakawa was not fluent. He could not defend himself. He was heavily tortured. His muscles broke out and bones were broken. He was almost dying.


Koji heard this and said to the gaoler, “Arakawa is a nasty dwarf. I want to punish him, temporarily give him a severe punishment. You, please tell your higher officer! Actually Arakawa doesn’t know the matter, I will explain it!” The higher officer called Koji and asked. Koji said, “A masterpiece has a spirit. If it is not at the hand of rightful owner, the picture may not remain as it was. Once Hōgen Motonobu [16] painted A Group of Sparrow (on a sliding screen). One or two of them escaped from the picture and their traces remained in the picture. When a horse was panted, the horse went out every night to eat grasses. [17] These examples are well known. I think Ufu is not the rightful owner, so the picture disappeared. If one hundred golds are granted, then the picture may revive. Please, grant me one hundred gold tentatively! If the picture did not revive, then I will return the money.” Ufu was interested in the words and gave one hundred golds. When the scroll was opened, the picture appeared but, compared to the previous picture, the stroke of brushing was less powerful and the colouring was less skilful. Then, Ufu rebuked. Koji said, “The previous painting was a treasure of unlimited value, whereas this picture is worth one hundred golds. Why could they be the same?” The higher officer and other officials could not cope with him. Then the two men, Koji and Arakawa, were pardoned.


Buichi, a younger brother of Arakawa, deplored the fact that his elder brother was tortured and his muscles and bones were broken, and wished to kill Koji, regarding him as an enemy. Secretly he followed Koji and saw him drink in a bar. He jumped into the bar and slashed Koji. Everybody around was surprised and scattered away. Koji fell down under the bench. Buichi cut off Koji’s head, wrapped it up with a cotton cloth, robbed Koji’s purse, returned home and gave them to his elder brother. The elder brother was delighted. When the wrapping was opened, a piece of sake bottle appeared to their disappointment. When they saw the purse, a ramp of clay was in it. Buichi champed with anger and reported to Ufu. They searched for Koji but his whereabouts was never known.


After a long while, there was a drunkard lying down by the gate of the palace. His snoring was as noisy as thunder. When inspected, the man turned out to be Koji. He was arrested at once and thrown into the prison but he did not awake. The laud snoring surprised the surroundings. Even after ten days, he did not awake.


At that time, Ufu was in Adzuchi, preparing to campaign westward. He led his army and sojourned at Honnouji Temple (in Kyoto). Mitsuhide [18] rebelled, killed Ufu and took over the power of Kyoto government. He heard of the wizardry of Koji opened the prison to invite him. Koji woke up at last and came to the palace of Mitsuhide. Mitsuhide treated him, offering sake, and asked, “Teacher, I heard you like sake. How much do you drink?” Koji said, “I do not know the amount. I stop just before intoxicated.” Mitsuhide took out a huge bowl and let courtier pour sake in it. Poured and drunk up. Poured and drunk up. After several dozen bowlfuls, stock bottles were emptied. People sat around were surprised. Mitsuhide asked, “Teacher, is not it enough?” Koji answered, “I feel a little satisfied. Please, let me show a technique!” Raising his hand, he invited a boat in a picture of Oumi-Hakkei (Eight Scenic Spots in Oumi) [19] painted on a folding screen. Pitched and rocked, the boat came out of the screen. The boat was several (five to six) feet long. Then water flooded all over the room. All attendants were astonished. They tucked up their Hakama (bottom ware) and stood up. Suddenly they were soaked up to their hip. Koji was now on the boat. The captain rowed the oar and the boat calmly left. Where they had gone is unknown.



Returning sails at Yabase” by Kwan Kubota, signed as Beisen, painted on a folding screen. Kan Kubota (久保田寛, 1852-1906), born in Kyoto, was a painter and stage artist. He was in charge of all the illustrations in Yasō Kidan Vol. 2/2 (Robert Campbell). The digital image, from: 2308_Yasokidan_2.pdf, Toyama University Library.


Once it was heard in Nishijin (in Kyoto) there was a man called Juan Kataoka[20]. He was a doctor and fond of wizardry. A monk came. He saw Juan and told, “Your sacral bone must be corrected”. Then he presented an elixir, the size of which was as that of a kernel of jujube. When Juan took it, he felt light and refreshed. Also he did not think about food. But he quarrelled with his servant all the day. He got violently angry. He struck his servant with his cane. Soon the monk intervened and said to Juan, “You have not renounced worldly passions. You cannot enter the Buddhism.” Then the monk hit the back of Juan with his wand. The elixir that Juan had taken came out of his mouth. The monk took it up and left there. After that Juan devoured food as before. Someone said, “The monk was Kwashin Koji.”



Notes and references

[1] "Kwashin Koji Kwoukonsau (果心居士黄昏艸, lit. Kwashin Koji - A Twilight Tale)" is a novel written by Kousai Ishikawa (石川鴻斎) and included in his book: Kousai Ishikawa, Yaso Kidan (Night Window Demon Talk Vol. 1 and 2), Toyo-do, Tokyo, 1889 (Meiji 22)) Yao Kidan (石川鴻斎: 『夜窓鬼談 上巻・下巻』, 東陽堂, 東京1889 (明治22)), together with other 79 titles. All novels were written in Chinese. An excellent Japanese reading by Prof. Robert Campbell is available, In: Ichiro Ikezawa, Shuta Miyazaki, Takeshi Tokuda, Robert Campbell, Shin-Nihonbunngaku-taikei 3 - Meiji, Iwanami-Shoten 2005 (池澤一郎, 宮崎修多, 徳田武, ロバート・キャンベル: 『新日本古典文学大系 3 - 明治編』, 岩波書店, 2005), but no English translation has been found. This translation has been conducted with reference to the Prof. Campbell’s article.

Note: Chinese documents are basically written in simple and compound sentences, and no compound sentences with relative pronouns and subordinating conjunctions are available in the grammar. Also, all sentences are written in the present tense as no past tense exists in the grammar. In this translation, the structure of the original Chinese text was followed as much as possible, although the sentences and paragraphs have to become tedious as English.


Kousai Ishikawa in his study. Frontispiece in: Kousai Ishikawa, “Yasō Kidan 1/2”. 1893 (Meiji 26).

2307_Yasokidan_1.pdf, Toyama University Library.

[2] The eras of Emperors Ōgimachi and Goyouzei (正親町・後陽成天皇) from 1573 - 1591 (A.D.), corresponding to Adzuchi-Momoyama Age, when Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi were in power.

[3] “Gion Shrine (祇園社)”, well known as Yasaka Shurine (八坂神社), in the present-day Gion-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.

[4] The phases in the hell = 地獄變相圖. An example from Robert Campbell’s article, below.     


“Dzigoku Hensou Zu”, by Ougyo Maruyama, copied by Heifukku Hooan. In: Kaiga Soushi, No. 6.
円山応挙画,平福穂庵写「地獄変相図」(『絵画叢誌』6号) (Robert Campbell)

[5] 舂磨割烹(しょうまかっぽう). The interpretation by Robert Campbell.

[6] Wand, or a ceremonial sceptre, used by monks on the occasion of giving preaching and memorial services. The original word: (Nyoi).

[7] Among the retainers of Nobunaga was a certain Shimpachiro Arakawa but he had died in a battle in in 1574 (Tensho 2). Thus, the Arakawa in this story must be a fictional character (Robert Campbell).

[8] Nobunaga Oda (1543 - 1582), a powerful lord from Owari (the present-day Aichi Prefecture). He won wars and constructed a great castle at Adzuchi in 1576 (Tensho 4). He was appointed the Udaijin (or Ufu. The Minister of the Right) under the Emperor in the Impeerial Government.

[9] 閻魔 (Emma) in the original text.

[10] Oguri Sōtan was a great religious artist who flourished in the early part of the fifteenth century. He became a Buddhist priest in the later years of his life.

[11] Otowasan Kiyomizu Temple, the main temple of North-Hosso fact of Mahayana, located at Kiyomizu-cho, Higasiyama-ku, Kyoto.

[12] Closing the gate of his house and being confined inside = House arrest. 閉門蟄居, in the original text.

[13] A shurine, called Kitano-Temmangu, at Bakurou-cho, Kamigyou-ku, Kyoto, which enshrines Duke Michizane Sugawara (845-903) of Heian Era..

[14] Traditionally the festival was conducted on the 13th - 16th July in the Lunar Calendar.

[15] Ref. 11

[16] Kanou Motonobu (1476 - 1559) was a painter, the second master of the Kanou School. Hōgen (later Kohōgen) was his honourable title. Whether he painted “a group of sparrow) is unknown: A painting, entitled “Escaped sparrows (Nuke suzume)”, painted by Nobumasa Kanou (1607 - 1658) on the sliding-screen in Chion-in Temple (知恩院, Rinka-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto) is well known (Robert Campbell).

[17] A horse painted on the corridor of imperial palace went out of the picture every night and ate bush-clover painted on the door and rice plant in the farmland (In: Kokin-chomon-shu (古今著聞集) Vol. 11. Robert Campbell). A horse painted by Tanyu Kanou (1602 - 1674) on a picture scroll in Ryuzenji Temple, Hamamatsu, went out night to eat vegetables in nearby fields (Kiyoshi Mitarai, “Enshu nana-fushigi-no-hanashi (Enshu seven wonders)” by Enshu Densetsu Kenkyu Kyoukai 1982. The date of the second tradition is obviously later than the time of Kwasin Koji or Nobunaga.

[18] Mitsuhide Akechi (1528 (?) - 82), a lord and retainer of Nubonaga, given the fief of Yamashiro, east to Kyoto. As written in the text, he betrayed and attacked Nobunaga who was on sojourn in Honnouji Temple in Kyoto, forcing Nobunaga to suicide. The event was on the 2nd June 1582 (Lunar Calendar). He was counterattacked by Hideyoshi Toyoyomi, another retainer of Nobunaga, and killed eleven days later on the 15th June 1582 (Lunar Calendar).

[19] The scenic spots around Lake Biwa selected in analogous to the Eight Scenic Spots of Xiaoxiang (瀟湘) in China. They are: Clear breeze at Awazu, Evening glow at at Seta, Evening bell at Miidera, Evening rain at Karasaki, Returning sails at Yabase, Autumn moon at Ishiyama, Wild geese returning home at Katata, and Evening snow at Hira. Many of the paintings were made after the early modern period (Robert Campbell).



An Illust of 'The case of Kwashin Koji' in "Tamahahaki", Vol.3

(Picture from Kindle Edition. Backgrund cleaned.)


[20] 片岡壽安 (壽菴). Details unknown (Robert Campbell).