|| This paper is based on information on the ancient literatures of China, Japan, and Korea, and it includes analytical results of archaeological materials from China and Japan. In addition to comparing Chinese literary works from relevant historical periods and discourse concerning the formation of the image of the “mandarin orange” in ancient Japanese literature as having a mythological characteristic of “immortality,” this paper also discusses the process by which this image was transformed into one related to human life that was then passed on through the Nara Period to the Heian Period, from the Man'yōshū to the Shin Kokin Wakashū. This study also addresses the poetic imagery associated with the mandarin orange in waka (Japanese poems) and its relationship with story development within The Tale of Genji and The Izumi Shikibu Diary, two representative works of mainstream female literature in the Heian Period.
In the myths of Kiki(the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki),, the mandarin orange is an exotic fruit brought back from Tokoyo no Kuni (the Land of Immortality); however, the association of Tokoyo no Kuni with the origin of the mandarin orange has long been overlooked. For this reason, the author has chosen to address this topic; regardless of the variety of edible mandarin orange involved, the imagery given to “mandarin orange that truly exist in literature” serves as the basis for discussion in this paper.
In the first section, this paper discusses the establishment of the literary image of the mandarin orange. In this section, the author consult sources and infers that the birthplace of the concept of the immortal characteristics of the mandarin orange was the ancient Chinese state of Shu.
In the second section, this paper studies the transformation of the imagery associated with the mandarin orange from mythological imagery to imagery related to humans, whereby mandarin orange symbolize eternal prosperity. Research shows that the poets of the Man'yōshū represent an extension of the consciousness of previous generations in appreciating the beauty of the pure white flower; the mandarin orange blossom represents the noble identity of women. Furthermore, marriage in ancient Japan was polygynous, and as such, the mandarin orange blossom and cuckoo are intertwined to denote the moods of the one who waits (mandarin blossom) and the one who is waited upon (cuckoo). Finally, this section reexamines the reasons that the association of the mandarin orange with the cuckoo does not occur in Chinese poetry.
In the third section, this paper discusses the appearance of mandarin orange in poems of farewell in Quan Tangshi (Complete Tang Poetry) and the imagery of reminiscence related to the scent of mandarin orange in Japanese waka. While the imperial examination system of the Tang dynasty influenced the Chinese poems of farewell in relation to mandarin orange, the reminiscence associated with mandarin orange in Japanese waka stemmed from the impermanence of life associated with mandarin orange. After the Kokin Wakashū, Japanese poets used their literary works to impart a new life to the past; the unchanged aromas of mandarin blossom resist the impermanence of life and alter unalterable realities.
In the fourth section, the view of impermanence and the idea of rebirth in female literature of the Heian Period is explored in the The Tale of Genji and The Izumi Shikibu Diary. In The Tale of Genji, male characters always attached to thoughts women with whom they have previously been in relationships, and so the author Murasaki Shikibu allows “stand-ins” for the departed female characters to reunite with male characters. The process by which the image of reminiscence derived from the mandarin orange yields a concept of rebirth follows the sequence: mandarin orange (blossom) scent – reminiscence – emotions towards impermanence – generation of the idea of rebirth. However, the marriage system in this work is the same as that in reality, meaning that the image of rebirth collapses as the story develops, leaving the image of reminiscence and impermanence. In The Izumi Shikibu Diary, with regard to Izumi Shikibu, who was tricked by fate, the mandarin orange blossom season might be a good season to find new romance. As such, divorcing literary spaces from reality can be considered a form of resistance to the impermanence of romance.
In summary, this paper examines the imagery associated with the mandarin orange, the symbol of eternally unchanged leaves, whose flowers represent the beauty of young women, the scent of whose flowers causes people to reminisce on the past, and the falling of whose blossoms causes people to ponder impermanence. Falling flowers represent a strong prelude; if the fruit represents an offering for the prosperity of future generations, then the falling flowers are a necessary part of raising new generations. The image of rebirth indicated by the “stand-ins” in the stories examined here are only temporary, dramatic images. As the story ends, this image of rebirth collapses and disappears.