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San'an

産安

This is a piece of genre Koten from the Dokyoku / Chikushinkai School. Also Known As : Shunza.

History (Yokoyama Katsuya):

Komuso played this piece for a pregnant woman as a kind of prayer for her easy delivery.

San'an appears on the following albums

AlbumShakuhachiKotoShamisen
Bamboo In Zen Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos

Bosatsu Taniguchi Yoshinobu

    Folklore has it that when the wife of a shakuhachi player became pregnant, he would pass grains of rice through his flute and play this song while cooking the rice for his spouse as an offering for safe birth. Some Buddhist sects believe that at a certain level one's soul or spirit chooses one's parents and karma determines the place and/or conditions into which one is reborn. This feeling of wanting to be born safely into the conditions and with the people one chooses is the attitude of prayer involved here.

    Although many recognizable rhythms make this piece easy to play from memory, interspersed throughout are melodies full of strong passion. This is somewhat different than the image of honkyoku as serenely meditative. Meditative energy can, indeed, be very powerful and dynamic. This song is also the most technically demanding of all the dokyoku. Throwing a unique sound into the middle of a melody that is flowing along smoothly can be a real challenge. From a technical standpoint, linking up sounds that are quite diverse is the big difference between honkyoku that move along slowly and honkyoku that progress at a swifter pace.

    A word of note: Yokoyama-sensei admitted that he played San An all four times his wife was pregnant, praying for a boy on each occasion! Playing this piece earnestly many times is undoubtedly how he came to master it. Nevertheless, one must recognize some inherent limitations when dealing with the gods as Mrs. Yokoyama gave birth to four daughters!


Breath-Sight - Yearning for the Bell Volume 1 Riley Kelly Lee

    Safe Delivery

    This piece is from the Echigo District of northern Japan, where it was used as prayer for safe delivery during childbirth. It is also a prayer for charity and virtue in this world. Played on a 2.1 shaku instrument.


Esprit d'Orient Yokoyama Katsuya


Floating Clouds Michael Chikuzen Gould

    Long ago, when one's wife went into labor for childbirth, the husband would let grains of rice flow through the shakuhachi. Then, while cooking the rice, he would play this song as a prayer for safe birth, then give the rice to his wife after she bore the child.

Hotchiku (CD) Watazumi Doso Roshi

    ("Safe Birth")

    The name of this piece comes from an old saying that playing it for a pregnant woman means she will give birth safely. San-An originally came from Sanya, which is connected to the practice of begging for alms.

    San-An comes from the Hokuriku region, and its techniques show the traits of that region.
    It is known for its extensive use of the yurine techniques of kanmuri.

    A 2.55 shaku hocchiku was used for this piece.

In Dead Earnest Ishikawa Toshimitsu

Japan - Music of the Shakuhachi Yokoyama Katsuya

    San'an is one of the pieces belonging to the group known as Sanya which forms a part of the classical honkyoku associated with the Fuke sect. The origins of the word sanya, which can be written with several combinations of Chinese characters, are not altogether clear. The etymologies variously attributed to the word include, first, the Sanskrit word samaja meaning 'gathering'; second, the Japanese Buddhist term sanmai (Sanskrit, samadhi), meaning concentration of the mind on a single object; third, the three (san) 'undulations' (ya) which appear in the pieces; and fourth, a place name. Another theory assumes that the pieces are intended to presage safe childbirth. These pieces are thought originally to have been performed at ceremonies of the Fuke sect. With their subtle and complex ornamentation, they are considered to be amongst the most technically demanding in the repertoire.

    San'an is an improvisational arrangement made by Wadatsumidoso of an earlier piece entitled Jinbo sanya which was itself an arrangement by Jinbo Masanosuke, a komuso master of the Meiji era, of a version of Sanya transmitted in northeastern Japan. The pieces composed and arranged by Wadatsumidoso are known as dokyoku. Three of these belong within the sanya category, and each has its own distinctive features.

    San'an is the most brilliant of the three. Subtle, technically difficult ornamentation is featured throughout, and the fingerings are also of considerable complexity. In accordance with one of the theories concerning the etymology of the genre, a distinctive passage in the upper register appears three times. Yokoyama Katsuya, whose rendition of the piece is featured here, learnt the piece directly from Watatsumidoso. He performs it on a long shakuhachi measuring two shaku and two sun (60.7 centimeters), whose sound, imbued with the spirit of Zen Buddhism, creates a powerful religious impact.

Japan - Tajima Tadashi, Master of Shakuhachi Tajima Tadashi

    Wish for an easy delivery, B-flat, 2.2 shaku

    The piece may have been used in ceremonies performed by the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism, in which komuso (mendicant priests ) cooked the rice offered to them during their mendicant performances. Before cooking the rice, it was washed in a bamboo tube; the resulting rice gruel was given to women in the process of childbirth in the belief that the babies would be delivered as easily (and painlessly) as the rice passing through the bamboo tube and that they could be safely reared on breast milk, thus emphasizing the value of new life.

Japanese Folk Songs


    An ancient composition originally representing a woman's prayer for safe delivery during childbirth, in time it acquired a more generalized significance. representing the struggles and hardships involved in the creation of something new and depicting a heart pacified by its final calm. It is said that this melody is dedicated to being and nonbeing.

Japanese Traditional Shakuhachi Yokoyama Katsuya

    Niigata and its vicinity. A prayer for easy delivery of babies. This piece is also called "Jimbo-sanya" or "Ohshu-sanya" since the master player Masanosuke Jimbo (active in the last years of Tokugawa shogunate period) is believed to have transmitted the piece.

Japon - Musique Millenaire Yokoyama Katsuya

    On pense qu'à l'origine, c'était la prière d'une femme sur le point d'accoucher, pour implorer une prompte délivrance. Toute l'oeuvre suggère les efforts de la création et l'apaisement de l'âme au sortir de dures épreuves. C'est une sorte de méditation sur l'être et le néant.

Japon L'art du shakuhachi Yokoyama Katsuya

    San An (Peaceful Birth)

    "San an" seems to have been derived from a piece called "San ya", which originated from the North of Japan (possibly the region around Fukushima or Yamagata, or thereabouts). "San an" has in fact a structure in three parts which is very close to that of "San ya": first an introduction in the low-pitched register, evolving into a medium part in the high-pitched register, and lastly a coda, again in the low-pitched register. It also tells the same (probably imaginary) story: a woman peacefully gives birth to her child while listening to her husband playing the shakuhachi in the room next door.

Katsuya Yokoyama Plays Shakuhachi - 1 Yokoyama Katsuya

    Niigata and its vicinity. A prayer for easy delivery of babies. This piece is also called "limbo-sanya" or "Ohshu-sanya" since the master player Masanosuke limbo (active in the last years of Tokugawa shogunate period) is believed to have transmitted the piece.

Koten Shakuhachi Kakizakai Kaoru

    This music, from the Niigata area, is said to be a prayer for "safe delivery during childbirth". In playing San'an, I feel that the prayer for safe delivery should have been unimaginably earnest in ancient times.


Marco Lienhard - Shakuhachi Marco Lienhard

November Steps - Take no Miryoku Yokoyama Katsuya


Ren-Men Andrew MacGregor

Sangai Rinten - 3 Yokoyama Katsuya

    This traditional piece is one of several having the name "Sanya no Shirabe" all of which have been transmitted in various forms in various regions. This piece is from the Echigo District where it was used as a piece praying for "safe delivery" (sanan) in the birth of a child. It also seems to have been used as a prayer for charity and virtue in this world. The piece has a rather poignant and emotional melodic line which accounts for its unique existence among normally serene honkyoku.

Sea Drift Riley Kelly Lee

Shakuhachi - Classical Modern Best 30 - 03


Shakuhachi - Ryudo - 01 Takahashi Ryudo


Shakuhachi - The Art of Yokoyama Katsuya Yokoyama Katsuya

    Although this piece is generally called "San'an," the title is a direct pronunciation of the two Chinese characters for the word "San'ya." ("San'an" means 'Safe Childbirth.' The two original Chinese characters given to "San'ya" mean 'Three Valleys'.) this piece is one of the various tunes included in various "San'ya" repertoire, which originated in Oshu, now known as the North East region, and was spread throughout the country by komuso.

    In koten honkyoku, there was a custom called "one temple, one melody." Each komuso temple had its own melodic movement and as a result there are many different tunes sharing the same title, "Reibo" and "San'ya" are the typical examples. The former is distinguished by tune titles crowned by place or temple names: "Kyusyu reibo", "Kyo reibo", "Izu reibo", "Futaiken reibo" etc., and these are so distinct that they could be called totally different tunes. The latter does not have such clear regional differences and each "San'ya", say, "Echigo san'ya," "Futaiken san'ya," "Jinbo san'ya" and "San' ya" (the Chinese characters mean Mountain and Valley), share the same structure. Beginning softly with 'shirabe', the tune gradually becomes more elated and reaches a climax known as 'takane'. Then the atmosphere suddenly changes in a part called 'hachigaeshi', and it finally returns to how it began. This structural format was particular to the Oshu area and all "San'ya" share this format as well as the rolling, melismatic melodies.

    In the folk tales, it was said that a woman would deliver her baby safely if she heard this tune after eating gruel made from rice that was given to a komuso and had been poured through his shakuhachi. The tune itself has a beautiful and affectionate melody. Some say that the original tune was from Futaiken temple's "San'ya" but the melodic construction rather resembles "Jinbo San'ya."

Shakuhachi Nyumon Yokoyama Katsuya

Shika no Tone Shakuhachi Koten Meikyoku Shusei - 1 Yokoyama Katsuya

    The Komuso, a priest and Shakuhachi player, played this piece for a pregnant woman as a kind of prayer for her easy delivery.


Spirit of Wind, The Iwamoto Yoshikazu

    The title "San An" does not render itself into an adequate translation in the proper sense. It only seems to be a corrupted form of the popular title "San'ya" (Three Valleys), the music of which spread and evolved into a number of regional variants in the past. There was once a komuso (litterally "priest of nothingness", a mendicant shakuhachi player), Jimbo Masanosuke (1841-1914), who was so renowned for his playing of "San'ya" that his version was crowned with his name and called “Jimbo San'ya". The present "San An" is of the same origin as “Jimbo San'ya" but its interpretation was developed further by Watazumi Doso and Katsuya Yokoyama in more recent times.

Tajima Tadashi Shakuhachi no Sekai II Tajima Tadashi

Take Ippon II Yokoyama Katsuya

    A piece of Niigata district origin. From old times this piece was a prayer for easy delivery of baby. This piece is also called "Jimbo-sanya" or "Oshu-sanya" since the master player, Masanosuke Jimbo (active in the last years of Tokugawa shogunate period) transmitted the piece.

Watazumido-so Roshi Watazumi Doso Roshi

World of Zen Music, The - Saji Nakamura Akikazu

    The title of this piece is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit terms samadhi, meaning concentration on a single object in the context of meditation, or samaya, referring to the fundamental vows taken by Buddhas and bodhisattvas when they first aspire to enlightenment. The Sanskrit term changed into the Japanese form sanya and then into the form san’an.

    On the musical level, San'an is thought to have developed out of a piece entitled Jinbo sanya. It bears considerable similarities with the piece Sanya from the Echigo region (modern Niigata Prefecture) and Sanya sugagaki, a piece transmitted in the Nezasa-ha (one of the original branches of the komuso tradition; also known as the Kinpu-ryu).

    There is a legend surrounding this piece that if an expectant woman passes rice through a shakuhachi on which this piece has just been played and then cooks the rice and eats it, she will be assured of a smooth delivery. Watazumidoso believed that the piece expressed the pains of creation and, by extension, the realm in which the spirit can find peace.

    Of the many pieces in the komuso repertoire, San’an has the most complex and subtle melody and technical requirements and is considered to be the most profound.

Zen - Katsuya Yokoyama - 01 Yokoyama Katsuya

    The Komuso, a priest and Shakuhachi player, played this piece for a pregnant woman as a kind of prayer for her easy delivery.


The International Shakuhachi Society - 2014