Study of a newly donated item, a biwa (a type of lute) with mother-of-pearl designs of flowers and birds named Ko-Cho-Gen, in the Saga Prefectural Museum
Recently donated to the Saga Prefectural Museum, a biwa (a type of lute) with mother-of-pearl designs of flowers and birds and named Ko-Cho-Gen was studied by the Institute’s Izumi TAKAKUWA and Prof. Haruko KOMOTA of the Musashino Academia Musicae. This biwa was imported by the Taketomi Family from their original home of Ming Dynasty China. This biwa is said to have been bought from a Qing merchant by the father of TAKETOMI Rensai (1638～1718), who built O-takara Seido. It is also said that Rensai played this biwa in the presence of the Emperor Gomizunoo and that it was Imperially bestowed the name “Ko-cho-gen.”
The instrument has mother-of-pearl inlay on its back, which Mr. Tomio KOIKE of the Tokugawa Art Museum identified as a technique from Ming Dynasty China. However, the trunk of the biwa is plumper than other popular biwa from the Ming Dynasty, so this biwa is thought to belong to the Nan-pi Biwa tradition from south China. A bridge of this biwa, a part that was specific to Chinese biwa, may have been taken off in order to perform Japanese music. Plans are to conduct further studies by comparing this biwa to biwa in China.