By the reckoning of the Chinese Calendar, my birth year extended from 08 February 1959 until 27 January 1960 (depending on where you were born). Officially, the New Year began on the first New Moon half-way following the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. A month was repeated every two years and eight months to adjust the lunar calendar to the solar year. I was born in the 36th year of the Sexagenary Cycle (sixty-year), which always begins on lichun (about 4 February). The cycle began on 05 February 1924 and ended on 01 February 1984. I was born Yin (receding or female aspect) Earth Year of the Pig (or Boar). The end of the twelve year cycle.
At least I was born at the head of the pig.
Some I know weren’t so lucky….
I say this simply because the Japanese nobility of the Heian period were obsessed with beauty; they believe a person’s outward appearance accurately reflected what was inside.
And being born at the tail end of the pig must certainly have been viewed as being ugly….
Maybe I should quote Tsubaki Sanjuro by way of illustration. That’s not his real name. He made it up. Tsubaki means “Camellia”. And Sanjuro means “About Thirty”.
The implications of the red and white camellias in the black and white movie go all the way back to Genpai War. The fight for control. For Imperial Power…. To be considered the Beautiful People…. The Elite… The Aristocracy…. The Divine….
White is the color of the destroyed Taira clan… and suggests purity…. Red is the color of the Minamoto clan…. When the emperor demoted Genji from the line of succession, making him an “ordinary noble”, he was given the surname Minamoto… which when pronounced in the more aristocratic Chinese… becomes Genji…. Genji is known as “The Shining Prince”. He falls in love with his step mother (who resembles the Emperor’s dead wife, so HE marries her)… kidnaps her daughter (as a child) and holds her hostage… and raises her to be just like his beloved… the Emperor’s wife…. He married the child. Yet… he sneaks into the Emperor’s wife’s chamber and impregnates her…. Has a series of affairs with other court noblewomen…. All while married to someone he doesn’t get along with…. No wonder he was removed from the line of succession! He is finally exiled…. For a while….
Oh… the White and the Red of the Japanese flag come from the Taira and Minamoto clan respectively. The Emperor of Japan sent an envoy to the Emperor of China a few centuries before proclaiming that the Divine Emperor from the Land of the Rising Sun sends greetings to the Divine Emperor of the Land of the Setting Sun… proclaiming equality….
My point is that “The Shining Prince” Minamoto or Genji was considered the highest goal to which one could (or should) aspire. He was the epitome of the Yokibito… the Good People… the Beautiful People… the Nobility…. The kind of person people told stories about…. The most popular people of the day…. Women loved him…. He was the dashing Prince Charming…. He was handsome…. Losing weight just made him more beautiful…. And he could sing and dance and play musical instruments and compose poetry and make beautiful small talk….
Genji… was just like a larger than life Hollywood celebrity… making the rounds… in all the highest political circles… exercising Political Power… because he was perceived as being Politically Correct….
A Beautiful Person… totally lacking substance…. But… very powerful politically….
Genji lives during the Heian Period (Heian means Tranquility or Peace) and spends most of his time at the Imperial Palace in Heian-kyo (in the West we know it as Kyoto, or the Capital City) which means City of Tranquility or Peace.
The Samurai story of Sanjuro takes place a few centuries later. In the Warring States Period. An Sanjuro is a rustic warrior. Rude. He kills people seemingly unnecessarily to attain his goals. He is an unsheathed sword. Not a politician. Not Politically Correct. Nothing more than effective weapon…. Horrifying to gaze upon…. Or hear….
I can understand why the politically estute would not care to hear his words. He tended to speak the brutal… but honest… truth…. Which the politik ruthlessly avoided…. They gazed only upon the smooth surface….
Sanjuro was considered uncouth. Offensive. The Samurai was offended to hear such words coming from someone he considered below him.
“That’s just his way. He can’t help it.”
Professor Marshall McLuhan was famously quoted: “The media IS the message.”
Not only in Modern Western Culture apparently. Maybe it always has been so. Even under Buddhist influence….
Yet… Tsubaki Sanjuro was ruthlessly efficient….
Like when he stated to one of the young samurai her was trying to help in his follow-up to Yojimbo (means bodyguard and is basis for a few Spaghetti Westerns): “You’re an idiot! Were you born in the Year of the Ox…?”
Nope. I’m a pig. But… I suppose… could have been worse….
At least I was born at the head-end… not the twisty tail….