Shōka following the warrior Kanshin by moonlight

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  • Catalogue text

    Yushō is much less well known than his teacher Nakajima Raishō as an artist of the Maruyama school of painting in Kyoto at the end of the nineteenth century. Like Raishō, he excelled in painting horses.

    The story seen here is one of two Chinese heroes of the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Of his own accord, the local official Shōka has set out to bring back the warrior Kanshin. After not eating for three days during his pursuit, we see the moment when Shōka first catches sight of Kanshin. Upon their return, Shōka is scolded by Duke Liu Bang (J: Ryūhō) for leaving without permission, especially to go after such a useless man when Shōka himself is so vital. Shōka explains that Kanshin is an excellent warrior, and while others may run away and return, once Kanshin leaves he would be gone forever. Liu is then persuaded to make Kanshin a general of the highest level. With the help of Kanshin’s ability in the battlefield, Liu becomes the emperor and founder of the Han dynasty.

    The legend of Shōka and Kanshin can also be seen on Chinese porcelain [see Toyamasu Yasumasa, ‘Chūgoku tōji ni miru moyō (12)- Jinbutso (6)- Shōka to Kanshin’, in Tōsetsu 560, 54-6], and probably made its way to Japan on such objects or as the subject of woodblock printed illustrations. In the Edo period, the story was taken up by Japanese artists such as Yosa Buson in one side of a pair of six-fold screens [published in Toda Teisuke et al., Kangakei jinbutsu, Nihon byōbu-e shūsei, vol. 3 plates 62, 63, pages 68, 139-40].

    In: Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003)

Further reading

Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003), no. 42 on p. 148, p. 85, illus. p. 149

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