Ko Fuyo (高芙蓉)

Fuyo KO (April 30, 1722 - June 13, 1784) was a Confucian scholar, tenkoku (seal-engraving) and painter in the mid Edo period. He established the insho seido (sealing system) in Japan and is admired as insei (master of sealing).

His family name Ko was after the name of his birth place, Takanashi County, Koshu, which he started to use; his original family name was Oshima. His name was Mohyu, his azana (adult males' nickname) was Juhi, the second name or alias was Fuyo, and other names were Dosha SANGOKU, Gashi NAKADAKE, Sanjin HYOGAKU and Sanbo FUGI. He also used the name Kantankyo. Since his original surname was Minamoto, he sometimes called himself as Mohyu MINAMOTO. His familiar names were Itsuki OSHIMA and Itsuki KONDO.


His grandfather Yoshiyuki SHOZAEMON served Mitsukuni MITO as a dozoban (storehouse keeper), but he was involved in a theft case while at work and got fired, and went back to Takanashi County, Kai Province. His father Iugen was a doctor in the Nagata Tokuhon-ryu (school of Tokuhon NAGATA). Fuyo at first went into medicine and studied in a private school of Choshunin TAKEDA (武田長春院), a doctor of shogunate, when he was 20 years old. However, he decided to go into literature rather than medicine, and was itinerant toured Kyoto.

In Kyoto, he learned Yusoku kojitsu (court and samurai rules of ceremony and etiquette) by following the Higashibojo family, and had close relationships with Teikan TO and Tsunetada NAKAGAWA of Ise, who had extensive knowledge in this field. He loved books, collected shinseki (one's true handwriting), copybook printed from the works of old masters of calligraphy and inscriptions and copybooks, and studied about the books written by forerunners. He did mokoku (to engrave letters in order to print on paper) of copybook printed from the works of old masters of calligraphy written by Mengfu ZHAO and Wen Zhengming. He also worked hard on academic studies, and read through Chinese classics all by himself. He gained a lot of knowledge in the fields of keigaku (study of Keisho [most important documents in Confucianism]) and Chinese classics. It is said that during this period, he called himself Itsuki KONDO, lived on Koromonotana Shimodachiuri, or Marutamachi Aburanokoji, earned his living by giving lectures and private lessons.

Fuyo interacted with lots of men of literature such as Kien YANAGISAWA, Kenkado KIMURA, Baisao, Kenjo DAITEN and Kanga NAGATA. He gave three stamps to Baisao who was 80 years old at the time. He had a lifetime friendship with IKE no Taiga and Tenju KAN, and the three of them went on a trip to Mt. Fuji via Mt. Haku and Mt. Tate.
As a memory of this trip, each of them called himself 'Dosha SANGOKU.'

He was good at painting and the transcription of Mt. Fuji, 'Hyaku fuyo zu' (100 Fuyo's drawings), is especially famous. He also had detailed knowledge about sencha (green tea of middle grade), and is said to have invented kibishiyau (small teapot). In addition, he was a critic of utensils such as bronze ware, beads and coins.

As described above, while Fuyo was a person varied attainments and fond of taste, especially his talent bloomed in the field of tenkoku (seal-engraving). At that time, Koshu SAKAKIBARA, Doun IKENAGA and Kotaku HOSOI were famous in Edo in the field of tenkoku, but all of them were in the wake of Shinetsu TOKO, a naturalized priest. This style was similar to the 'Hikodo' school, which was popular in China during the late Ming and early Qing periods, and is called 'Kintai-ha' school. However, Fuyo was not satisfied with this school and rather was fascinated by the impression of a seal of kodoin (a kind of seal) which had just began to be seen in the ship loads. He did mokoku of "Senshi inryaku" (abbreviation of the Sen clan's seal) volume four by Sosen, a tenkokuka in the Ming period, which was acquired by Kenkado KIMURA, and published his comment on "Insho" (record of seal) by Kanyo, who was also from the Ming period. This is how Fuyo tracked back to the origin of seals up to Qin and Han periods by reading old Chinese Inpu (compilation of seal marks) and literature. Then he finally found the schools of seal marks and established the insho seido in Japan. His friends including Kien MINAGAWA and Ritsuzan SHIBANO regard that Fuyo achieved perfection in the field of insho and praised him as 'insei' (master of sealing). In addition, Shikin KATSU who was famous for his Chinese poetry was known to have been a high-caliber disciple of Fuyo, who was called 'Inken' (sage of seal). The style of his favorite disciple Gakusen SODANI (also known as Soshii) is said to have been very similar to Fuyo. Other disciples include The 1st Zoroku HAMAMURA, Kyoshu MAEKAWA, Ennen YO, Seichi YABU, Shunmin TO, Okuzan INAGE, Baizan FUTAMURA and Iryo GEN. This school was called 'Kotai-ha' school (one of the seal-engraving schools) and was popular throughout the country until the early Meiji period.

Fuyo was also known to have been a teacher for Mokubei AOKI. Mokubei, who used to live near Fuyo's residence in Gion, visited Fuyo often and began to learn painting and tenkoku. This relationship began when Mokubei was a little boy until he turned 18 years old. Also, Fuyo provided education to Ryokuin YAMAMOTO.

In 1784, Fuyo was invited by Yorisuke MATSUDAIRA of the Shishido clan of Hitachi Province to Edo, where he went with his wife and children. It is said that Fuyo took this offer because Shishido clan of Hitachi Province was a division of the Mito clan where his grandfather used to serve and Fuyo felt connection. However, as soon as he arrived to the hantei (residence maintained by a daimyo in Edo) in Mejirodai, Edo, he fell ill (Severe Febrile Diseases) and died a few days later. Died at the age of 63. Buried at the Koishikawa muryo-in Shrine. Later transferred to the Tentoku-ji Temple, Shiba (Minato Ward, Tokyo Prefecture).

About his birthplace

His birthplace, 'Takanashi County, Kai,' cannot be confirmed at present. A theory says it is Hino Village, Kamitakai County, Shinano Province (present Suzaka City, Nagano Prefecture); however, there are more credible theories including that his birthplace was Takanari or Taka-machi in the Kofu City area, or Kai City (former Ryuo Town, Nakakoma County [Yamanashi Prefecture]).


One volume of "Tengen" (a book of tenkoku)
Four volume of "Kanten senjimon" (Han's seal, Thousand Character Classic)
One volume of "Kokin koshi inki" (record of ancient and modern times, public and private seal)
Two volume of "Saishin Inpu" (a book of Inpu)
Three volume of "Kokin insen" (selection of old and new seals)
Six volume of "Insoreiko" (report on the investigation into seal sample)
Three volume of "Kuninsoko" (a book of seal)
Six volume of "Yuno nikki" (The Diary of Fuyo KO)
Three volume of "Fuyohen" (compilation of Fuyo)
Four volume of "Nakadakeko" (draft of Nakadake)

[Original Japanese]