Posted by Hans Olof Johansson (188.8.131.52) on April 24, 2004 at 21:22:36:
In Reply to: Re: Eisen bijin-ga posted by Theo de Kreijger on April 24, 2004 at 00:17:26:
Theo and Guy,
Like many other series titles this one seems to have two different meanings, maybe even three.
The second character is a variant of Nelson 3510: 'kami' or 'shi', meaning 'paper'. The furigana indicates that it should be pronounced as 'shi' in this title.
The third and fourth characters are clearly Nelson 4694 and 1194, together forming the word '˘gi', meaning 'courtesan'. However, according to Koop & Inada,in "Japanese Names", it is also used as a 'punning phrase' for '˘gi' meaning 'fan', which is nomally written with another character. In this case, the fan shape of the title cartouche indicates that this double meaning was intended by the artist.
Theo appears to have read the first character as 'hy˘' (Nelson 108), meaning 'outside' or 'cover'. The two first characters would then be 'hy˘shi' ('outside paper'), usually meaning book cover or binding.
I had read the first character as 'mugi' (Nelson 5385), meaning 'wheat' or 'barley', assuming that this and the second character together would mean 'paper made from (wheat or barley) straw'. Thus one possible meaning of the title would be 'Straw Paper Fans', or perhaps simply 'Paper Fans'.
However, I find it difficult to interpret the furigana for the first character as 'mugi', even if the very first furigana looks a bit like the standard hiragana for 'mu'. At least you need a little less imagination to interpret the furigana as 'hy˘', so Theo may be right.
Another possible meaning of the title would then be 'Book Cover Courtesans' ('Hy˘shi ˘gi'). Even if it reminds us of expressions like 'cover girls', it doesn't make much sense, though. Maybe the meaning of 'hy˘shi' in this case is 'wrapping paper'? The courtesan seems to be portrayed as a pedlar selling bundles of paper, and the title might refer to this.
I don't know if this is of any help at all, but at least it illustrates the great difficulty interpreting and translating Japanese print titles from the late Edo period.
Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will comment
on my interpretation attempt.
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