A GUIDE TO JAPANESE PRINTS - BASIL STEWART
FAMOUS SERIES OF PRINTS BY HOKUSAI
The Imagery of the Poets - Waterfalls Series - Bridges Series - Eight Views of the Loo-choo Islands - Snow, Moon, and Flowers Series.
Before dealing with the remaining series of landscape views by Hiroshige, we will now pass in review other great sets of prints by Hokusai, including certain landscape views by his pupils.
For the sake of uniformity and convenience of reference we include here his two series of "Poets" which, while they are mainly illustrations of (or allusions to) the poems, are chiefly landscape views, and fit this description, perhaps, better than any other.
Shika Sha-Shin-kyo, "The Imagery of the Poets" (literally "Poems of China and Japan mirrored to life"). A series of ten large, upright prints, measuring 20¼ in. by 9 in.; each signed Zen Hokusai I-itsu; publisher Moriji; attributed to the year 1830.
Though this series is extremely rare, some prints in it even more so than others, so that it is unlikely the average collector will ever have an opportunity of acquiring original copies, to say nothing of the high price they command, yet their importance warrants a fairly detailed description of them. Modern reproductions of this series have been very skilfully made. Seven of the set are in the B.M. collection; all are illustrated in the Happer catalogue.
No.1. The poet HARUMICHI NO TSURAKI (d. A.D. 864). (No. 32 of the "Hundred Poets" Anthology.) The poet is shown crossing a small bridge over a rushing stream, gazing at the water and followed by two retainers; on his right, close against the bridge rises a steep cliff, with bushes growing from it. On the further bank stands a cluster of houses and in the background a great mountain rears its summit into the sky in the glow of sunset.
This illustrates the poet's verse which tells how the mountain stream became choked with the maple leaves brought down by the gale of yesterday.
No.2. ABE NO NAKAMARO (d. A.D. 780). (No. 7 of the Anthology). The poet is seated on a high balcony under the shelter of a tall pine, over-looking the sea, gazing out upon the moonlit waters, upon which float fishing boats in the distance; round him stand four Chinese servants respectfully offering him food. (See Plate 17.)
Nakamaro, while but a youth of sixteen summers, was sent in company with two others to China to discover the secrets of the Chinese calendar, and on the night before returning to Japan he was given a farewell banquet. Another version is that, suspecting his motives, the Chinese Emperor banqueted him on the palace roof, and while he slept, overcome with wine, had the stairs removed, in order that he might be left to die of hunger. Awaking suddenly in the moonlight, Nakamaro bit his thumb, and wrote the following poem in blood upon his sleeve :-
While gazing up into the sky, My thoughts have wandered far;
Methinks I see the rising moon
Above Mount Mikasa,
At far-off Kasuga. (Porter's translation.)
Kasuga being the name of a famous temple at the foot of Mount Mikasa near the poet's home.
Nakamaro afterwards effected his escape and fled to Annam.
No. 3. ARIWARA NO NARIHIRA (A.D. 825-880). (No. 17 of the Anthology.) This scene, which carries the name of the poet Ariwara on its title, is more appropriate to one of the "Six Tama Rivers," as it does not apparently illustrate Ariwara's verse, which compares the music of running water to some sweet song.
Beside the water's edge, under the light of a full moon, across the face of which fly a flock of wild geese, a woman and a boy kneel facing one another, pounding cloth; behind them a man is engaged in carrying baskets into a thatched hut partly seen in right foreground. In the back-ground rises the tower and roofs of a pavilion above mist; a tall pine tree grows on the bank above the water, and a flock of geese wade out into the stream.
No. 4. TORU DAIJIN, the Minister Toru. A Court Poet, holding a closed fan over his shoulder, stands with two retainers, one his sword-bearer, by the edge of a narrow strait, contemplating the crescent moon on the third day, a lucky observance. On the further shore of the strait are a few huts under the shelter of two great pine trees; three boats moored in mid-channel.
No. 5. TOKUSA KARI, "Gathering Rushes." An old peasant, carrying a pole across his shoulder on which two bundles of rushes are slung, crosses a small bridge over a foaming torrent, towards a calm lake whereon two ducks are asleep. In the background rises a full moon behind a clump of trees and rushes which grow down to the water's edge, and mist lying on them.
No. 6. SHONENKO. The Japanese title of a Chinese Poem upon the pleasures of travelling.
Along a winding road by the shores of a lake a rider urges his steed; beyond a bend in the road is his servant riding ahead; by the shore of the lake sits a fisherman dozing.
No. 7. HAKURAKUTEN (the title of a No drama). Hakuraku is the Japanese name for the Chinese poet Po Chu-I. He is here shown standing on a ledge of rock above the sea, with three retainers, listening to the counsel of the Chinese sage, Kiang Tsze-Ya, who sits on a rock in the foreground fishing. Behind the poet appears the mast and prow of a ship, and in the background, wreathed about with cloud, rise three needle-like pinnacles of rock.
This is presumably the same Hakuraku who was sent by the Emperor of China all over the world in quest of the perfect horse, and he is here shown seeking the sage's advice before setting out on his quest.
No. 8. RIHAKU (Chinese Li Peh), the most famous of the Chinese poets (A.D. 699-762). He is depicted gazing in lost admiration at the cascade of Luh, while two youthful attendants clasp hands round him to prevent him, in a sudden emotion of ecstasy, from losing his balance and falling headlong over the edge of the precipice.
No. 9. SEI-SHO-NAGON. (The Poetess Lady Sei, Sho-nagon being a title only, a famous Japanese writer, lived early in the eleventh century; No. 62 of the "Hundred Poets" Anthology.) (see Plate 17.)
This scene illustrates her poem which is based on the Chinese story of Prince Tan Chu who, fleeing from his enemies, was shut up with his retainers in the town of Kankokkan, the gates of which were closed from sun-set to cock-crow. A quick-witted retainer, however, climbed a tree and so successfully imitated the crowing of a cock that he started all the cocks in the neighbourhood, whereat the guards, thinking daybreak had come, opened the gates and the Prince and his followers escaped under cover of darkness.
The guards are shown opening the gates, while above is the man in the tree, whose crowing is answered by a cock perched on the roof of the prince's travelling palanquin.
Lady Sei's poem is as follows :-
Too long to-night you've lingered here, And, though you imitate
The crowing of a cock, 'twill not
Unlock the tollbar gate;
Till daylight must you wait. (Porter.)
No.10. TOBA (Chinese SU-SHE, 1036-1101), a celebrated Chinese official and caligraphist who, after rising to high rank was, owing to intrigues against him, deposed and banished to the island of Hainan.
He is here shown on horseback on a rocky crag overhanging the sea, contemplating a pine tree laden with snow, and seagulls floating on the water, while the snow falls silently down. Behind his horse stands an attendant.
SHOKOKU TAKIMEGURI, "The Waterfalls of Various Provinces" (literally "Going the Round of the Waterfalls of the Country"), a series of eight, full-size, upright views, published about 1827 by YEIJUDO ; rare.
No.1. The Kiri-guri ("falling mist") Fall, Province of Shimotsuke. Three men look up at the torrent as it pours in several streams down the rocks; two others high up on the slope on the right.
No.2. The Ono Fall on the Kisokaido. Five coolies on a small wooden bridge stand admiring the fall as it plunges sheer down into a stream which foams away beneath them; beyond the bridge is a small shrine on an overhanging rock and, above, a crag towers up through the mist.
No.3. The Kiyo ("pure water") Fall at the Kwannon Shrine at Sakanoshita, Tokaido; a narrow stream down a hill-side. In front, partly screening the fall, rises a cliff; tea-houses below and steep steps leading to the shrine above towards which two men are mounting, while a third is already praying before it.
No.4. The Yoshitsune Horse-washing Fall, Yoshino, Province of Izumi, so called in allusion to the warrior Yoshitsune having washed his horse in it. A great torrent plunges in curves past overhanging rocks at the foot of which are two coolies grooming a horse in mid-stream. (See Plate 18.)
No.5. The Amida (Buddha) Fall, Kiso Province. From a round hollow in the top of the cliff, supposed to resemble the head of Buddha, a torrent falls sheer down into a deep gulf. On each side are overhanging crags, and up on a ledge on the left are three men preparing to picnic.
No.6. The Aoiga Fall, Province of Yedo. A wide fall pours over a stone wall from a calm lake with lotus leaves on it, into a broad stream below. In foreground a coolie, with buckets of shellfish suspended from a yoke, is resting, wiping the perspiration from his head, while others are ascending a hill to a house above on the left.
No.7. The Roben Fall, Province of Soshu. From a wooded height the fall pours into a pool below where several men are bathing; on each side are guest houses for the convenience of bathers.
No.8. The Yoro Fall, Province of Mino. A wide torrent of water plunges sheer down over a ridge of rocks into a stream in the centre of which rises a jagged rock at the foot of the fall; in the foreground a rudely-thatched hut in which people are resting, and two others outside gazing up at the fall.
Each print in the above series carries the red seal of the publisher and a red kiwame seal, when first edition copies, and the outline is printed in blue.
KEISAI YEISEN designed a series of Waterfalls (publisher Yamamoto; censor's seal of Wataru), full size, upright, in close imitation of Hokusai's "Waterfalls," entitled "Famous Views in the Nikko Mountains." This series is very rare, and is presumed to consist of eight views, as in Hokusai's set, the only reference to it the writer has found being in the Miller sale (May, 1911), at which five views appeared, two of them being illustrated.
SHO-KOKU MEIKIO KIRAN : "Views of Bridges in Various Provinces"; a series of eleven, full-size, oblong prints; publisher Yeijudo, c.1827-30. Rare.
Signature on each plate Zen Hokusai I-itsu. The order is that given by De Goncourt.
No.1. Yamashiro, Arashiyama, Togetsu Kyo; "The Reflected-Moon Bridge at Arashiyama, Province of Yamashiro." A wooden bridge on trestles crossing a wide blue river, on which floats a raft; on the further shore, on the banks of which grow cherry and pine trees, rises Arashiyama, with red mists across it.
No.2. Kozuke, Sano, Funa Bashi Fuyu; "The Bridge of Boats at Sano, Province of Kozuke." Snow scene. A pontoon bridge, held by cables on either bank, is bent in a sharp curve by the swift current of the Tone River. On either bank at each end of the bridge is a small hut; near the one in the right foreground grows a slender pine tree. Three travellers on the bridge, one on horseback led by a coolie. Behind a screen of trees on the further bank rises a hill above low-lying mist. River deep blue in foreground, graded lighter towards the centre. Perhaps the master-piece of the set.
No.3. Gyodosan, Kume-no-kake bashi; "The Hanging-Cloud Bridge at Gyodosan," Province of Shimotsuke. A light bridge, like a spider's-web, joining an isolated crag and a rocky cliff. White mist floating about, a coil of which trails up into the blue sky above.
No.4. Hida, Etchu, Tsuru Bashi; " The Suspension Bridge between (the Provinces of) Hida and Etchu." A swinging suspension bridge made of cordage and bamboo, and a man and a woman, both laden, in the centre of it. Below it the tops of pine trees emerge above the mist ; in back-ground rises up a deep blue pinnacle of rock.
No.5. Suwo, Kintai Bashi; "Kintai Bridge, Province of Suwo." Rain scene. A wooden bridge of five arched spans supported on four stone piers; through the rain appears a high mountain peak in the background.
No.6. Tokaido, Okazaki, Yahagi no bashi; "The Yahagi (Archers) Bridge at Okazaki, on the Tokaido." A high-arched bridge on wooden piers stretches in one fine sweep from bank to bank, across an almost dried-up river bed. Through the centre piers of the bridge is seen an awning in front of which is a party of archers practising at a target; crowds watching them from the bridge. In the foreground are strips of cloth hung up on a staging in the sand of the river-bed to dry; and great hats stuck up on sticks. On one of them appears the publisher's mark, repeated round the awning behind the archers. In the background the peak of a hill rises through the clouds. (See Plate 18.)
No.7. Kameido, Tenjin Taiko Bashi; "The Drum Bridge at the Tenjin Temple, Kameido." A semi-circular wooden arch, supported by two wooden piers, leading to a smaller bridge beyond, in the temple grounds. (See Plate 18.)
No.8. Ajikawa Guchi, Tempozan; "Mouth of the Aji River, Tempozan." On the right rises a promontory connected by bridges with a small island, and bright with cherry blossom. Alongside the signature is added, Oju Naniwa (i.e. Osaka) nozu 0-nisu, "copied by request from an Osaka picture."
No.9. Settsu, Temma Bashi; "Temma Bridge (Osaka), Province of Settsu." Scene at night during the Festival of Lanterns, with a view of the great bridge over the river at Osaka, crowded with people; lanterns across the bridge, and on the boats below.
No.10. Echizen, Fukui Bashi; "Fukui Bridge, Province of Echizen." A bridge joining two different districts of the same province, half being of stone (built by a wealthy daimyo), and half of wood (built by a poor daimyo). Coolies passing over the bridge, one leading a packhorse; on the sandy shore beyond are strips of cloth drying in front of a cluster of huts. On the bundles carried by the coolies occurs the mark of the publisher, Yeijudo. Background of low wooded hills shrouded in mist.
No.11. Mikawa, Yatsu Hashi; "The Eight-parts Bridge, Province of Mikawa." A number of zigzag platforms on trestles across an iris swamp, the two middle ones raised higher like an arch; people crossing or stopping to admire the iris blossoms growing in the marsh around. In the back-ground rises a hill-top above the mist. (See Plate 18; also Plate 5 illustrating the same bridge by Kunisada.)
RYUKYU HAK'KEI ; "Eight Views of the Loo-choo Islands"; a set of eight, full-size, oblong prints; each signed Zen Hokusai aratame I-itsu (formerly Hokusai, changing to "I-itsu"); publisher Moriji, c. 1820. Very rare.
1. Rinkai Kosei; "The Sound of the Lake at Rinkai " (a poetical allusion). Lake scene. From the right foreground a winding stone cause-way connects two small islands forming a peninsula jutting into the sea. Behind a walled enclosure on one island are blue-roofed houses.
2. Riuto Shoto; "Pines and Waves at Riuto." Snow scene. View of an indented sea coast, fringed with small islands, thinly covered with pines. In the middle distance tops of trees show through the mist like in-rolling waves, hence the allusion in the title.
3. Senki, Yagetsu; "Moonlight at Senki." In the foreground a stone bridge of three arches spans a river or inlet of the sea; on the right bank stands a cluster of houses. In the background a nearly full moon appears above the dark blue mass of a mountain rising out of mist.
4. Kigaku Unsen; "The Sacred Fountain at Kigaku." In the centre a waterfall pouring into a pool, and two men lying on the grass admiring it; mist floats about the hilly landscape and in the distance rises the red peak of the Loo-choo Fuji.
5. Jungai Sekisho; "Sunset at Jungai." A high wooded hill juts out into a lake, whereon are two sailing junks passing to the left. At the foot of the hill stands a torii marking a shrine.
6. Sanson Chikuri; "The Bamboo Grove of Sanson." In the fore-ground an embankment by the edge of calm water; and a row of houses along the front of which are clumps of bamboo; in the background a high hill.
7. Choko Shusei; "Autumn Light at Choko." A calm and misty sea and green hills showing through the haze; Chinese junk on left. From the right foreground runs a stone causeway, with small bridges at intervals, and two people crossing it.
8. Chuto Shoyen; Banana Groves at Chuto." Near view of the village of Naka-jima from the sea; above their blue roofs can be seen the leaves of the banana trees; round-topped hills rise above the mist which lies low over the house-tops.
The foregoing series of "Eight Views" does not follow the theme usually associated with this title, and so is here given separately.
SETTSU GEKKA, "Snow, Moon, and Flowers." A set of three full-size, oblong prints; signed Zen Hokusai I-itsu; publisher Yeijudo; c. 1830. Very rare.
1. Snow on the Sumida River. View across the water to a cluster of buildings and trees on the opposite shore; on the right are two men walking across the snowy fields; fishing boat on the river.
2. Moon on the Yodo River. View looking down upon the river, with the ramparts and towers of Osaka Castle on the right; on the further bank men are towing laden boats up-stream.
3. Flowers at Yoshino. Travellers and coolies, one leading a horse, traversing a hill road above a valley filled with a mass of cherry blossom; top of a torii and roofs of houses beyond.