Philobiblon: More Sei

Sunday, October 17, 2004

More Sei

You might ask about her life; little is known except what the Pillow Book reveals, and it is by no means a conventional diary. Her father was a poet and a scholar, and she may have been briefly married to a court official and had a son. The introduction says: "There is a tradition that she died in lonely poverty; but this is probably an invention of moralists."

A few more of her words:

Item 74: Things That Lose by Being Painted
Pinks, cherry blossoms, yellow roses. Men or women who are praised in romances as being beautiful.

Item 75: Things That Gain by Being Painted
Pines, Autumn fields. Mountain villages and paths. Cranes and deer. A very cold winter scene; an unspeakably hot summer scene. (p. 138.)

Item 174. The Way in Which Carpenters Eat

The way in which carpenters eat is really odd. When they had finished the main building and were working on the eastern wing, some carpenters squatted in a row to have their meal; I say on the veranda and watched them. The moment the food was brought, they fell on the soup bowls and gulped down the contents. They they pushed the bowls aside and finished off all the vegetables. I wondered whether they were going to leave their rice; a moment later their wasn't a grain left in the bowls. They all behaved in exactly the same way, so I suppose this must be the custom of carpenters. I should not call it a very charming one." (p. 255.)

More here and here.


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