Colophon by Ekai Duisōzu (1701-1765):
“In cups of gold the spring brew is hot,
from the earthen brazier comes the scent of tea;
White-bearded old Taoists
face each other over the stones for go.
‘Pleasure within an orange’
for long the firm foundation of Heaven and Earth,
deeply rooted for numberless years.
During the first month of spring of the year 1764 within the Hōreki era, inscribed by Ekai Daisōzu.”
According to the Yugui Lu, “A man from Baqiong (Szechuang) had an orchard of orange trees. After a frost the oranges were all harvested. Some were as large as a three-peck basin. The man regarded these with great wonder and then cut them open; within each were two old men, their hair and eyebrows white and their bodies a luminous red. Each was playing chess with another, and they went on talking and laughing as before. One of the old men said: ‘Pleasure within an orange is not less than that on Shang Mountain; however, not having deep roots and a firm foundation, (the orange) can be plucked by any fool.’ The story became so wide-spread that the expression “pleasure within an orange came to have a very specific meaning: “When asking a person to play weiqi, one says: ‘Do you want to enjoy pleasure within an orange with me?’ The painting thus illustrates the story with great inventiveness and humor and would have been an ideal gift for any friend of the artist who shared his pleasure in that captivating game. The recipient may in fact have been Ekai Daisozu (1701-1765), who in 1764 inscribed the painting with a poem that describes the scene and suggests that, while orange trees lack deep roots and a firm foundation, weiqi or go itself was eternal.
“Pleasure within an Orange” makes a strong appeal to our imaginations and emotions, conjuring thoughts and feelings that go beyond the objective matter of the painting, and in that sense the work is a perfect manifestation of the literati ideal, brought to us by one of the greatest of their number, Ike Taiga.