What is this "Lucky"?
There is a great tradition in Japan of paintings combining elements considered to bring good fortune. Some of these themes are obvious enough, such as Mt. Fuji, or the characters of the twelve-year Chinese calendar cycle, but others rely on wordplay in Japanese. For example, nanten, the plant sometimes known as "Heavenly bamboo", sounds the same as Chinese characters nan meaning "troubles", and ten meaning "to (over)turn", so it has gained an association with overcoming difficulties. This is rather as if in English-speaking countries we painted four people playing the flute, and said it meant "four-tune".
The philosophical underpinnings of all this are rather diffuse. There does not seem to be any direct connection to Buddhism, but ancient Chinese mythology, and miscellaneous folk beliefs have all been brought into play. Mark Schumacher's "Buddhist Corner" pages are a wonderful source of information.
All of the puzzles on this page relate to the successive years of the Chinese calendar animal cycle. For more pictures in this auspicious genre, try the following other pages...
- Gods - features sets of four and seven
- Traditional themes - Red Fuji, and lucky flowers, fish, animals and birds
- Tigers - the auspicious white tiger, and the ferocious yellow one
- Dragons - dragons alone and facing their arch-rival the tiger
- Kaname - painter of traditional lucky themes, particularly various animals
The Imaginatorium's resident Blinkered Empiricist has issued a disclaimer: These are attractive puzzles, but we make no claim that they will have any supernatural effect whatsoever!
For reference: you can view all the puzzles from this page that have gone out of print in the Attic.