6 Zhang Hanyao


In Basho’s journey, when sorrowful changes happen–drama of seasons, illness and separation from partners— he is always calm and faces them frankly. Basho’s attitude towards evanescence is based on his acceptance and understanding of form. Basho’s journey is like the path to truth, experiencing bitterness and moving along through the way of Justice and attempting to achieve the truth, or kata. During his journey, after resting poorly in an old hut, he and Sora keep the journey on and he writes the following:

“I felt uneasy over my illness, recalling how far away our destination was, but I reasoned with myself that when I started out on this journey to remote parts of the country it was with an awareness that I was risking my life. Even if I should die on the road, this would be the will of heaven” (Basho 62).

This monologue shows that Basho has realized the possibility that he might die on the road to Oku. Nevertheless, he accepts this realization fearlessly, because he admits that death is one of the forms he has to follow. Basho shows that, while people learn to accept and follow kata by embracing evanescence, they are not afraid of evanescence anymore, though sorrow remains. In the last several pages of the book, Sora has to stop the journey with Basho because of stomach illness. Before Sora leaves, he writes a poem for Basho:

All through the night

I listened to the autumn wind

In the hills behind  (Basho 57)

and Basho writes, “Though but a single night separated us, it was as if by a thousand miles. That night I too lay sleepless in the priest’s study hall listening to the autumn wind” (Basho 128). Knowing and accepting that they must part, two men have a silent farewell. Evanescence does not disturb them so much, but brings more sorrow into their lives. It is not so sad to know what change is coming, but it is sad to realize that you cannot do anything to change that situation. Because people cannot change the fact of evanescent life, after they know the truth, they go back to the secular life and live with that sorrow and calmness. Basho and Sora, two men who understand and accept kata and evanescence, find sorrow in their heart, but are able to continue the journey.

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