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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Kyūsenpō Sakuchō or Suo Chao, the Urgent Vanguard (急先鋒索超) from the series from
One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Popular Shuihuzhuan
(Tsūzoku Suikoden gōketsu hyakuhachinin no hitori - 通俗水滸伝豪傑百八人之一個)

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Dates: 1827 - 1830,created
Dimensions: 10.25 in,15.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
一勇斎国芳画
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiebei
(Marks 194)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: Tokyo National Museum; British Museum; Lyon Collection - another copy of this print;

Physical description:

We first encounter Suo Chao in Chapter 13 of Outlaws of the Marsh on page 199 of our three volume edition. At the very beginning of that chapter is heading which says: "Urgent Vanguard Vies for Honors on the Training Field".

After one man lost in a struggle with Yang Zhi another warrior strode brazenly up to the governor, greeted him respectfully and said: "Though I am not very talented I'd like to pit my skill against Yang's...."

Liang saw that it was none other than Suo Chao, a captain in the guards regiment of Daming Prefecture. Suo's temper was as explosive as a pinch of salt in the flames, and he was eager to win glory for his country, always plunging first into the fray. And so he was known as the Urgent Vanguard."
The governor then warned Yang Zhi that his combat with Suo Chao may not be as easy as his first fight. The governor gave Yang Zhi his own armor to wear and his own weapons. On the other side, Suo Chao was warned by General Li Cheng that he must not lose in his battle with Yang Zhi because that would reflect poorly on all of his men. Then the general, too, lent his own champion his own personal armor and his weapons for the showdown. The general gave this admonition:
Zhao Jin was your protege. He lost. If that should happen to you, it would be a reflection on the entire Daming officer corps. I'm lending you an experienced battle charger and a set of armor. Be careful. Let nothing tarnish your valor.
"Liang rose and walked out to the stairs. Attendants brought his silver filigreed armchair and placed it before the moon terrace railing. Liang sat down. Officers stood respectfully in lines to the left and right. They directed that the three-tiered parasol of tea-colored silk topped by a golden gourd be opened behind him.

At a signal from the general’s platform a red flag waved, golden drums on either side thundered, and cannon boomed from each of the two formations upon the field. Suo Chao galloped out and waited behind the pennant-bedecked gate. Yang Zhi also emerged from one of the formations and rode swiftly to the rear of the gate, where he reined in.

Now, a yellow flag fluttered over the generals’ stand, and the drums again thundered. Both formations raised a mighty shout. Then a hush fell on the field, as gongs sounded and a pure white flag was broken out. None of the watchers breathed a sound. They stood in absolute silence.

Above the generals’ stand a blue flag rose. For the third time the war drums sounded. The pennanted [sic] gate of the left formation swung open. Bells tinkled, and Captain Suo Chao entered the arena and checked his horse. Weapons in hand, he was a heroic figure! On his head was a lion helmet of pure steel, with a long red tassel dangling behind. He wore a coat of iron mail, bound at the waist by a gold-plaited girdle with an animal’s face. Plates of bronze protected his chest and back. Overall was a pink cape with circular designs, fastened at the neck by cords of green wool. His feet were shod in open lattice-strip leather boots. A bow hanging from his left shoulder, a quiver of arrows from his right, he held a golden ax at the level in his right hand as he sat astride General Li’s battle-tested pure white charger."

[More information will be added later.]

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There is another copy of this print at the Ishibi Prefectural Museum.