Asian Traditional Archery Research Network (ATARN)
30, Plunketts Road,
The Peak, Hong Kong.
Tel: (852) 2895-4488
Fax: (852) 2808-2887
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Letter #2 of December 1998
|Letter of Jan 1999|
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Sorry! Late with my homework again.
I've been on the move again, and I'm holding down two jobs here, so time is hard to find. Anyway, my schoolteachers never accepted such lame excuses, and I expect you won't either.
I found an interesting bow in London. An antique dealer had had a Japanese yumi in his shop for months and couldn't shift it because it was too big for anyone to want to take it away. Originally he had two: one, dated 1737 in traditional Japanese dating, was a fine, lacquered bow and very valuable. The other was a much plainer bamboo-wood composite yumi of no great age. Finally, he let me have it at a knock-down price and it came in the luggage hold to Hong Kong.
A member asked me the other day how I take big bows by plane. Actually, I've done it a few times. Never box them up. Although it looks safe, airport staff have no respect for anything in an anonymous box, and serious damage may ensue. Instead, wrap the bow (unstrung) in several layers of bubble-wrap, paying special attention to the bow-tips, grip and string bridges if they are present. Let the 'bow shape' be visible to anyone looking at it. Check into the luggage hold, but as airline staff to put a 'fragile' sticker on it. I have had no accidents yet like this. (Don't try to take arrows as hand luggage: it sends security staff into a spin.)
Back to the yumi. When I got it back, I read off the Japanese maker's name and sent off a query to eClay and Yoshiko Buchanan.
They came back with the exciting news that the bow was a special one made by one of Japan's leading recent bowyers, Higo Saburo. Higo made a number of special bows that he was in the habit of giving away to valued friends and eminent archers. eClay says that Higo made up a proverb saying that the archer should "listen for the frost climbing up the ridgepole of a traditional Japanese hut." That was a reference to the subtle cracking that a Japanese archer's glove gives out as the string is drawn back.
To show my gratitude, I am presenting Members with a copy of something else Japanese that I picked up in London's antique shops: two magnificent Ukio-e ('floating world') woodblock prints of Japanese archery by the artist Chikanobu (1838 - 1912).
The prints, dated the second lunar month of Meiji 30 (spring 1898), depict Japanese archery games on foot and on horseback.
I donate these reproductions into the public domain, so members can copy them and distribute them freely (and turn them into Windows wallpaper!)
Target Archery with the Yumi. Woodblock print by Chikanobu, 1898
Horseback archery with the Yumi. Shooting at a running dog with a whistling arrow. Woodblock print by Chikanobu, 1898
This print puts me in mind of the Horseback Archery Event at Fort Dodge organized by Yumi and Meg Beshey from 7 - 11 November. ATARN has obtained sponsorship from a generous business donor to bring three archers from Mongolia to the event, including the national champion, Munkhtsetseg. We hope to have an interpreter handy for the event. Munkhtsetseg can also speak some Russian (although she doesn't like to much.)
I shall be there, and I do hope as many of you will come to this extraordinary event as possible.
Best regards. Please remember to use my new email address when writing to me.