The Twenty-four Chinese Paragons of Filial Piety

(Morokoshi nijshi-k, 唐土廾四孝)

Publisher: Daikwand (Fushimi-ya Zenroku)

1848

The book entitled The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety was written by the Chinese scholar Guo Jujing during the Yuan Dynasty. His pen name was Yizi, and he is known in Japan as Kaku Kyokei. The book recounts the self-sacrificing behavior of twenty-four sons and daughters who go to extreme lengths to honor their parents, stepparents, grandparents, and in-laws. Many of the images in this series appear Western in style, rather than Japanese, and were probably copied from Italian prints. The prints in this series are each about 10 by 7 inches (25 by 18 centimeters), a size known as chban.

 

Japanese name: Taishun

Chinese name: Ta Shun

Legend: Despite a neglectful father who favored his cruel stepmother and her son, Taishun cultivated land for his parents on Mount Li, where an elephant and a bird helped him with the difficult task. According to legend, Taishun eventually became emperor of China.

Robinson: S60.1

Japanese name: Ms

Chinese name: Mng Tsung

Legend: Ms fulfilled his sick mothers wish to eat bamboo shoots in mid-winter by journeying to a snow covered bamboo grove, where after praying, he miraculously found a huge cache of delicious bamboo shoots beneath the snow. Here he is carrying a hoe and bamboo shoots through the snow.

Robinson: S60.2

 

Japanese name: Kan no Buntei

Chinese name: Han Wn-ti

Legend: Kan no Buntei was the second emperor of the Han dynasty. He tasted his mothers food to protect the queen dowager from poisoning. Here the emperor is kneeling before his mother.

Robinson: S60.3

 

Another state of the above print

Japanese name: Teiran

Chinese name: Ting Lan

Legend: Teiran carved wooden images of his parents to which he regularly paid his respects. Returning home one day he found a frown on the face of the statue of his mother and learned that his wife had insulted his mothers memory. He apologized to the wooden image and severely scolded his wife. Here he is being derided by his wife for prostrating himself before his parents statues.

Robinson: S60.4

Another version of the above print. It is a less labor intensive printing than the above, which almost invariably means a later edition. In this print, the delicate shading (bokashi) in the smoke, sky and title cartouche was omitted. Bokashi was achieved by hand-applying a gradation of ink to the wooden printing block rather than inking the block uniformly. This hand-application had to be repeated for each sheet of paper that was printed.

 

Japanese name: Binshiken

Chinese name: Min-tzu-chien

Legend: Binshiken entreated his father to have mercy on his new stepmother after his father found out that Binshiken was being mistreated. Here Binshiken is sweeping the floor for his reclining stepmother.

Robinson: S60.5

 

NOTE: This is a copy of a European print of Juno and the Peacock

 

Japanese name: Sshin

Chinese name: Tsng Tsan

Legend: Sshin was gathering wood in the forest one day when his mother back at home bit her own finger in anger at her sons absence. Feeling his mothers pain, he immediately returned home. Here he is suddenly sensing his mothers distress.

Robinson: S60.6

 

Japanese name: sh

Chinese name: Wang Hsiang

Legend: When his stepmother wanted to eat fresh fish in mid-winter, sh went to a frozen pond and lay naked on the ice until it melted in order to catch fish for her.

Robinson: S60.7

 

Japanese name: Rraishi

Chinese name: Lao Lai Tzu

Legend: At age 70, Rraishi still dressed and behaved like an infant to amuse his senile parents.

Robinson: S60.8

 

A later edition of the above print

 

Japanese name: Kyshi

Chinese name: Chiang Shih

Legend: Kyshi, along with his wife, traveled great distances to get good water and fresh carp desired by his aged mother. However, one day a fresh spring suddenly bubbled up in their own garden and provided excellent water as well as fish.

Robinson: S60.9

 

Japanese name: T-fujin

Chinese name: Tang Fu-jn

Legend: T-fujin (also known as wife Tang) suckled her toothless grandmother at her breasts.

Robinson: S60.10

 

Japanese name: Yky

Chinese name: Yang Hsiang

Legend: Yky at 14 years of age was accompanying his father into the mountains when a hungry tiger leapt out at them. Without thinking of his own life, Yky protectively jumped in front of his father and thus scared off the tiger with his show of determined will.

Robinson: S60.11

 

 

Japanese name: Tyei

Chinese name: Tung Yung

Legend: Tyei indentured himself to a weaver in order to raise money for his fathers burial. One day he met a woman who, in the first hour after their marriage, wove enough silk to fulfill the terms of his contract and then revealed herself to be the Heavenly Weaver (Shokujo) before ascending to heaven.

Robinson: S60.12

 

Japanese name: Kky

Chinese name: Huang Hsiang

Legend: Kky fanned his widowed father to cool him in the summer and warmed his fathers bed with his own body in the winter. Here Kky is preparing his fathers bed.

Robinson: S60.13

 

This is another version of the above print. It is a less labor intensive printing than the above, which almost invariably means a later edition. In this print, the shading (bokashi) in the upper sky was omitted. There are fewer colors in the sky, in the foreground and in the fathers robe, indicating that the number of woodblocks was reduced.

 

Japanese name: Kwakkyo

Chinese name: Kuo Ch

Legend: Kwakkyo, lamenting the fact that his aged mother was going hungry because food was being eaten by his infant son, prepared to kill the baby. While digging the grave he discovered a pot of gold with an attached note (or inscription) that the treasure was meant for him.

Robinson: S60.14

 

Japanese name: Shujush

Chinese name: Chu Shou-chang

Legend: Shujush was separated from his mother at age seven and later became a high government official. At age 55 he retired from office and began to search for his mother. After much prayer and writing a sutra with his own blood he found his mother. Here Shujush is resting under a tree.

Robinson: S60.15

 

Japanese name: Yenshi

Chinese name: Yen Tzu

Legend: Yenshi disguised himself in a deer skin in order to capture a doe, which he could milk in order to cure his parents eye disease. Hidden in the deer herd he was mistaken for a deer by hunters who roundly scolded him. However, when they heard his explanation the hunters had only praise. Here Yenshi and a hunter are conversing.

Robinson: S60.16

Japanese name: Saijun

Chinese name: Tsai Shun

Legend: During a famine, Saijun went into the forest to pick berries for his mother and divided his take into ripe and unripe berries. Later, when accosted by brigands and asked about the berries, he explained that he intended to eat the unripe berries and give the ripe ones to his mother. The rebels were so impressed that they gave Saijun some meat to take home. Here Saijun encounters the brigands.

Robinson: S60.17

 

Another state of the above print

Japanese name: Yukinr

Chinese name: Y Chien-lou

Legend: Yukinr was a provincial governor who one day felt a pain in his chest and had a premonition that his aged father was ill. Upon making the long journey home, Yukinr found his father on his death bed and was told by a doctor that someone must taste the excrement of the sick man to determine if he would live or die. Yukinr performed the unpleasant task, and when he learned of his fathers impending demise, prayed all night that he might die in his fathers place. Here Yukinr is rushing home to be at his fathers bedside.

Robinson: S60.18

 

Another state of the above print

 

Japanese name: Rikuseki

Chinese name: Lu Chi

Legend: When Rikuseki was six years old he was invited to the home of a wealthy neighbor where he was given some persimmons, which he slipped into his robes. Upon leaving, the fruit fell out of his robes, and Rikuseki explained that he intended to take them home for his mother. Here Rikuseki is being commended by the wealthy neighbor.

Robinson: S60.19

 

Japanese name: Chy

Chinese name: Chung Yu

Legend: Chy carrying bags of ice on his back for his parents

Robinson: S60.20

Japanese name: Chk and Chrei

Chinese name: Chang Hsiao and Chang Li

Legend: Chk and Chrei were brothers who, to support their 80 year old mother, gathered berries in the forest. One day on his way home Chk was attacked by robbers. As he had no money, the robbers wanted to kill him, but Chk begged that he might first deliver the food. Just then Chrei appeared and offered his own life in place of his brothers. So impressed were the robbers that they set both brothers free and gave them salt and rice. Here Chrei is offering his own life in place of his brothers.

Robinson: S60.21

 

Japanese name: h

Chinese name: Wang Pou

Legend: h would rush to his mothers grave during thunder storms to comfort her spirit, because she had feared lightning while alive.

Robinson: S60.22

Japanese name: Gom

Chinese name: Wu Mng

Legend: Eight year old Gom would let himself be bitten by mosquitoes so as to spare his sleeping parents. Here he is fanning mosquitoes away from his sleeping father.

Robinson: S60.23

 

Japanese name: Kteiken

Chinese name: Huang Ting-chien

Legend: Kteiken was a famous Northern Song calligrapher and poet who was so devoted to his mother that he emptied her chamber pot himself.

Robinson: S60.24

 

In keeping with the theme of this series, the title page was designed as an imitation of a Chinese stone rubbing, although it is actually a woodblock print. Woodblock prints that mimic stone rubbings are called ishizuri-e. The text is in Chinese characters rendered in seal script. The frame is decorated with a bat and a stag antler. The bat is a symbol for good luck, and the stag is a symbol for long life.

 

The preface to this series is also an ishizuri-e with the text in Chinese. Musa Dojin from Kyto is identified as the author. This is probably the pen name of a well-known author, possibly Ryukatei Tanekazu, the author of the text on the individual prints in this series.

 

 

Robinson refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.

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