Art Meets Taboo in the Tradition of Japanese Tattoos
signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi ga, the descriptive text attributed to the writer Bokuto Ryoko on the rolled end of the emakimono-shaped cartouche, with publisher's seal Fukuta shi, Akasaka (Fukushimaya Tashichi of Senkindo), and combined censor and date seal Ne-juni, aratame (year of the rat , 12th lunar month, examined)
oban tate-e 17 3/4 by 9 1/8 in., 45.1 by 23.3 cm
The series A Modern Journey to the West depicts the tales of Sun Wukong (Jp: Songoku), the legendary monkey king of the 16th-century novel Journey to the West (Xiyouji), believed to be written by Wu Cheng'en (1500-1582). The epic tale is based on the life of the monk Xuanzang (602-664; Jp: Genjo), who traveled from China to India (known as the Western Kingdoms in Tang Dynasty China) to retrieve sacred Buddhist scriptures, but is best remembered as the tales of Sun Wukong, Xuanzang's mischievous companion. The texts in the cartouches are attributed to the author Sumida Ryoko (also known as Hosojima Seizo).
In this scene from chapter 21 of Xiyouji, Sun Wukong is confronted by the Demon of the Yellow Wind (Jp. Ofuo), on a rocky outcropping at the mouth of the Yellow Wind Cave to rescue his captured friend. Using his powers of transfiguration, Sun Wukong chewed on a few strands of his hair, recited an incantation, and created over a hundred monkeys to help him fight the demon. It was in vain, however, as Ofuo opened his mouth three times and blew a terrible hurricane as described in Jenner's translation:
As it howled and moaned all was changed;
Without sign or shadow the yellow dust whirled,
Whistling through forests, toppling mountains, and uprooting
trees, picking up dust to blot out the tumbling ridge.
The Yellow River's waters were all in turmoil
Though Sun Wukong was forced back, he was not defeated, and would soon return to face the demon again. With the help of the friendly Bodhisattva Lingji, he defeated the evil spirit and left the cave victorious.
Series: A Modern Journey to the West
Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art
Publisher: Fukushimaya Tashichi of Senkindo
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 7
Collinson Fair, ed., WJF Jenner, trans., Journey to the West, 2005, pp. 300-306, 314-315
Yuriko Iwakiri, Yoshitoshi, 2014, p. 20, no. 21
MFA, Boston, accession no. 11.39776
Japanese, 1839-1892, Edo, Japan, based in Japan