Tsūen 通円

Tsūen, The Tea Priest

orig. 1927-1928

by Yamaguchi Ryōshū

IHL Cat. #2693


Depicting the ghost of the priest Tsūen in the play of the same name, this print is from the print collection "Kyōgenga taikan." Originally published in 1927-1928, this collection's print may be from the original edition or one of the later editions using the original blocks, issued in 1966 and again in 1976.

For another depiction of this play see Tsūen 通円 from the series Nōgakuzue by Tsukioka Kōgyo.

TSŪEN (Tsūen, The Tea Priest)

Source:  A Guide to Kyogen, Don Kenny, Hinoki Shoten, 1968, p. 271-272.

Shite [lead role] GHOST OF TSŪEN

Waki [supporting role] PRIEST


A Priest comes along the road to a tea house, and finds it without a priest in charge of making and serving tea. He asks the reason of a Villager who tells him that this tea house belonged to a Priest named Tsūen. It has been kept as a memorial since he died, and that today is the anniversary of his death. Then the Villager asks the Priest to pray for Tsūen's soul. The Priest begins to pray, and the Ghost of Tsūen appears, tells the story of his life, dances, and serves the Priest tea.

What is Kygen

In formal terms it is "the medieval comic form [dating from the mid-14th century] that evolved alongside the serious noh and, like noh, became a seminal influence on kabuki and puppet theater."[1] While "noh is usually about gods and spirits . . .  kyōgen is always about human beings."[2] It is noh's comedic counterpart, "sandwiched between two noh plays, or even between two halves of a single drama."[3] Today, there are two schools of kyōgen, the Ōkura school 大蔵流  and the Izumi school 和泉流.

"The kyōgen doings are based on a slender repertoire of situations. [About 260 plays.] A lord has a stupid servant (always called Tarō Kaja. . .) who cannot tell a fan from an umbrella [as in the play "Suehirogari"], or who inadvertently gives away to his mistress his master's philanderings, or who drinks up all the sake and fills up the bottles with hot water and then tries to talk the master into thinking he is getting drunk. Tarō is joined by a large cast of comic characters, each as distinctive as himself, each sublimely stupid, as gloriously sly, as eternally innocent. [I]t is our foibles that kyōgen celebrates.[4]

[1] New Kabuki Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten, Samuel Leiter, Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 374.

[2] A Guide to Kyogen, Don Kenny, Hinoki Shoten, 1968, p. 7. 

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid., p. 8.

Print Details

Oni Shimizu

蓼洲作 Ryōshū saku with Ryōshū seal

Print as it was originally issued (1927-1928), tipped into a volume of Kyōgenga taikan.