Chikanobu, 24 Paragons of Filial Piety 9 - Teiran

Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 - 1912)  24 Paragons of Filial Piety #9: Teiran, 1890. Oban.

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This print is in the current selection because it shows a fine example of an expensive andon… the portable lantern responsible for countless lives lost to fire in Edo Japan. Noted for their elegance and restrained design, they were developed in the early edo where interiors were sparsely furnished and the few objects that there were all conformed to a certain design aesthetic. The paper shades were very probably a development of the shoji: paper lined sliding doors that allowed diffused sunlight to enter rooms during the day. The type illustrated here is a kaku-andon, the commonest, portable version.  The figure in the print is using it to light her way to the statue on the back wall.

The book 24 Paragons of Filial Piety was written by Guo Jujing in the Yuan Dynasty. Guo was a renowned poet but also well known for being a pious son in his own right. His grief at the death of his own father prompted him to collect twenty-four examples of exemplary filial stories and compose verse for them. To our eyes, the examples he chooses are ridiculous and at times horrific, but the book remained popular and prompted many ukiyo-e artists to illustrate it, Chikanobu among them. Chikanobu’s prints are mitate-e, satirical and punning pictures. In the upper register is an illustration of the original story and in the main picture, a modern counterpart to the story which uses women to comment upon the original text.

This print illustrates the Chinese man Ding Lang, who after the death of his parents, commissioned at great expense  two large statues of them which he installed in the living room. His wife grew tired of the twice daily obeisance and offerings and whilst he was out pricked the statue of the mother with a pin whereupon it promptly bled. When he came home, he noticed the eyes of the statue full of tears and the blood on the finger. His wife confessed her joke and Ding Lang blew up in anger, throwing her out of the house never to return.

This is a lovely print from a fine series. The print quality is exceptional, especially so the rain storm outside, and there is an unusual lock of hair swept over the woman’s face. Beautifully rendered, fine colour and detail and very good condition.

The original poem reads:

Wooden statues of his parents,
Carved to look as if alive.
Pay heed, all good sons and daughters:
Serve your parents while you can!

24cm x 36cm.