10 Minute Biographies Chapter 9 (Absolute Beginner Book Club)

According to jisho, it’s not necessarily for ‘going to the capital’. It’s just going/sailing up a river. I took the ‘capital’ from 都の北京.
BTW: In France you say ‘monter à Paris’ (ascend to Paris) when you go from the province to Paris.

Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that’s the only meaning of 上る. But I was commenting on that third definition in Jisho. And I think in English you can probably do the same thing - to say “ascend to the capital” meaning “go to the capital”.

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p. 133

Sesshū burned every single one of those in his memory and carefully sketched them.
In Beijing he was asked to draw a picture on the wall of a public office.
Thereupon the Chinese people were impressed: “Was this really drawn by a Japanese? In our country there are very few people who have such skill.”
As for his art of painting, Sesshū has never learned from anyone.


I think the も could do with a bit more emphasis: “Even in our country…” What do you think?


Yes, you are right.

p. 134

For Sesshū, the best teacher was the wilderness of China that he saw on both of his boat trips on the canal.
When Sesshū returned to Japan, he did not paint what he had seen in China such as it was.
(It’s not good to paint the Chinese landscapes as they are.
I have to paint as a Japanese, otherwise Japanese people would not appreciate the ink paintings from the bottom of their hearts. — not sure about the grammar of this sentence —
But what does it look like …)
Sesshū found the answer by traveling through Japan and painting.

It would be great if someone could grammatically decompose the sentence about painting as a Japanese!


I’d be really curious about that too. I’m trying to do my own breakdown of that particular sentence and I’m not sure that it’s helped much.

I remember in a past book club someone had a tool that would parse the sentences and try to graphically lay it out so you could see how the parts fit together better than something like ichi.moe. I just wonder if I’m off with the entire grouping of the sentence.

(日本人の私 [でなければ描けない、日本人が心から良いと思う] 水墨画を描かなければ。)

I must ink wash paint as a Japanese person, if I’m to paint for Japanese people to sincerely appreciate.

I’m assuming it’s something like this if DeepL is getting close at all with it’s translation.

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OK, I’ll give it a try :slight_smile:

日本人の私 - I, being Japanese,
でなければ - negative ば form of です、i.e. “if not me”
描けない - cannot draw
日本人が - this is the noun that gets qualified by all above it, i.e. “Japanese who cannot draw like me”
心から良いと思う水墨画を - ink paintings where they think from the bottom of their heart that they are good
描かなければ。- this is an ellipsis (with ならない・いけない・ダメ), i.e. “I must paint”

So, putting it all together, I get at: I must paint ink paintings where Japanese who cannot draw like me think from the bottom of their heart that they are good.

I’m not convinced of this either, hehe… curious to find out about the true meaning!


Nice try, thanks. But I have a little doubt concerning the “Japanese who cannot draw like me”, especially because of the comma between 描けない and 日本人.

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I can see that the comma is quite irritating, but I’ve often encountered it as a means to group all the stuff that qualifies what comes after the comma :woman_shrugging:
So I no longer see the comma as a device to separate stuff but rather as a device to connect stuff.

Also, to give you another argument that’s more based on grammar than on experience: you cannot just have a sentence part end with an unconjugated i-adjective, can you? It would be required to be something like 描けなくて if the sentence was meant to be split there.

The comma does indeed denote two several attributes of 水墨画 in my opinion.
日本人の私でなければ描けない(水墨画): paintings that nobody can paint other than a Japanese person like me (Not as him being superior to other Japanese people, but considering his background as a Japanese person)
日本人が心から良いと思う水墨画: paintings that the Japanese will think are good from the bottom of their heart
を描かなければ: such paintings I have to paint.

In total:
„I have to paint ink paintings that nobody other than me as a Japanese person can paint, and that the Japanese people will find good from the bottom of their heart.“

Connecting to the previous sentences: Basically, he won’t just paint the landscape as-is, but he wants to paint things from his unique Japanese perspective.


Oh wow, I did not expect the first part to connect to the ink paintings! Thank you :slight_smile:

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:clap: :clap:

p. 135

Instead of drawing a landscape as it was in reality, he wanted to draw a painting that would remain in the people’s hearts.
It became a very powerful ink painting where various techniques were incorporated.



A scene painted as it truly is doesn’t exist, so he thought he would paint just like it remains in someone’s heart.


Thus, it became his ink wash painting that adopted diverse and powerful techniques.

I swear this chapter started not too difficult for me but quickly became a nightmare to understand. Feels like most sentences start OK and then turn to gibberish in my brain.

p. 136

Thus Sesshū perfected the “Japanese ink painting”, without imitating the Chinese ink painting.
Even so, it is said that Sesshū was not satisfied and continued to practice painting during his whole life, until he died at the age of 87.

Sesshū (1420-1506)
He was also a great monk
When Sesshū went to China, he did his best not only in practicing painting but also in training as a monk.
At Tiantong temple, he became “?? - best in class?”.
This means that he was the best of all those who studied at the Tiantong temple.
Sesshū was so delighted that he even wrote this in his paintings after returning to Japan.

I couldn’t find a translation for his title at the temple.


I believe that translates roughly as “level four laser lotus”…

EDIT: After searching I think it might actually be something like “First Meditation Monk of Siming Tiantong Temple”, which I was sort of thinking 第一座 might mean first seat/chair. I guess it has to do with seating within the Meditation Hall being by rank.


Chapter 10 thread is up ready for tomorrow.


I want to thank all people in this club! I’ve being following along threads for few chapters from “10 minutes” books to ease into reading. My grammar level is still too low to understand more complicated sentence structures, variety of conjugations etc. However, here and there I see simpler bits that now I can get on my own.

Special thanks go to @2000kanji! Your translations allow me to understand the stories. Without them it would be too frustrating to follow along.

Unrelated, I believe people expressed that this chapter was maybe a little bit more difficult than other?


Yes perhaps a little harder but not too bad. Some of it was more unfamiliar vocab but we’ve already done the work for you on that one! Glad your enjoying reading along, do shout out if any questions.