Katsukawa Shunsho / The Chinese Immortal Seiobo (C: Xi Wang Mu) / c. 1770sKatsukawa Shunsho
The Chinese Immortal Seiobo (C: Xi Wang Mu)
c. 1770s

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Creator Name: Katsukawa, Shunsho
Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Role: Artist
Creator Dates/Places: Japanese; 1726-1792 Asia,East Asia,Japan
Creator Active Place: Asia,East Asia,Japan
Creator Name-CRT: Katsukawa Shunsho
Title: The Chinese Immortal Seiobo (C: Xi Wang Mu)
Title Type: preferred
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1770
Creation End Date: 1779
Creation Date: c. 1770s
Creation Place: Asia,East Asia,Japan
Object Type: Prints
Classification Term: Woodblock
Materials and Techniques: Woodblock print.
Dimensions: Chu?ban; 25.4 x 17.7 cm
Inscriptions: SIGNATURE: Shunsho ga
AMICA Contributor: The Art Institute of Chicago
Owner Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
ID Number: 1939.574
Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, Frederick W. Gookin Collection
Rights: http://www.artic.edu/aic/rights/main.rights.html
Context: Seiobo (C: Xi Wang Mu, Queen of the West) was a female Immortal (J: sennin) who, according to Daoist lore, lived in a palace by Jewel (or Turquoise) Pond in the Konron (C: Kunlun) Mountains, where she cultivated a peach tree which bore fruit every three thousand years. To eat of this fruit was to gain immortality, and there are many early accounts of her visiting or being visited by Chinese rulers - from legendary emperors such as Shun and Yu to eminently historical ones such as Han Wu Di (156-87 BC) - and presenting them with peaches from her tree.Shunsho has meticulously created an atmosphere of exotic chinoiserie: Seiobo is shown wearing a fanciful approximation of Tang dynasty (618-906) court costume, standing on a terrace surrounded with a Chinese style railing beside Jewel Pond. One young attendant carries the Peaches of Immortality in a bowl, another a Chinese style fan on a long pole. Even the rock and tree in the background are rendered in the highly inflected ink-painting style of the Kano school, a style based originally on Chinese prototypes.Shunsho designed a series of such prints illustrating legends of Chinese Immortals, all seen through a circular window set in a black ground, with a Chinese poem in white reserve above the window. This distances the scene appropriately in both space and time: it suggests a view into a Chinese garden through the round window of a typical Chinese pavilion, and at the same time a view into the immeasurably distant past through a kind of telescope. The meticulously rendered figure of Seiobo is perfectly framed by this circular surround, her sleeve raised to her chin in that appealingly feminine gesture so often seen in Shunsho's paintings of women.The four-character couplets written above are part of a poem said to have been composed by Seiobo when she visited Emperor Mu (ca. 1000 BC) of the Zhou dynasty:Hakuun ten ni ari (White clouds are in the heavens,)michinori haruka ni toku (The journey is long and far,)sansen kore o hedachi (Mountains and rivers come between.)masa ni mata shisuru koto nashi (Surely you will not die.)Shunsho and his contemporaries Kitao Shigemasa (1739-1820) and Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) each produced several series of chu?ban prints featuring round or fan-shaped landscapes set in black surrounds - often sets of 'Eight Views of Lake Biwa' (Omi Hakkei) or scenes of Edo. The two Kiyonaga series of this type have been dated to 1780 and 1781 (without supporting evidence), and the dating of the Shunsho series here to 'about the 1770s' is tentative.
AMICA ID: AIC_.1939.574
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Art Institute of Chicago, 1998

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