Day 80, No. 80. Masako Natsume as Tripitaka

Masako NatsumeHAIRCUT 100: Day 80, No. 80. Following on from yesterday, Masako Natsume as Tripitaka (AKA Xuanzang) in the cult Japanese TV show, Monkey (Saiyûki, 1978-1980). The original Xuanzang (c.602–664) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, and translator who travelled overland to India in a journey that took seventeen years in search of the original Buddhist scriptures. His pilgrimage was fictionalised in the Chinese Epic Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en (c.1592). In the story, he is accompanied and protected by three divine but fallen guardians appointed by the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin, the spiritual figure of mercy and compassion as venerated by Mahayana Buddhists): Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, Zhu Bajie, the boar or ‘Pigsy,’ and Shā Wùjìng (‘sand aware of purity’), or ‘Sandy,’ a water buffalo. And as we know, the spirit of Monkey was irrepressible!

‘Tripitaka’ is actually the traditional term for the Buddhist scriptures, originally composed around 500BC, meaning ‘Three Baskets’ in Sanskrit: The Vinaya Pitaka is the Basket of Discipline, the Sutra Pitaka is the Basket of Discourses or Teachings, and the Abhidharma Pitaka is the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine. In the story, it is an affectionate but satirical name bestowed upon him by Monkey which also functions at a much deeper symbolic level in the text.

Masako Natsume was an award-winning Japanese model and actress who rose to prominence as the ‘Campaign Girl’ for Kanebo Cosmetics. She died tragically young of leukaemia in 1985, aged 27. The Masako Natsume Sunflower Fund is a charity for Japanese women suffering from cancer. ‘It is the beginning of wisdom to say “I don’t know.”’

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