Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)
Chōryō rescuing a slipper from the Wei River for Kōsekikō, the 'Yellow Stone Elder' (漢黄石公), disguised as an insignificant old man, from the series Kan-So Gundan (漢楚軍談)
10.75 in x 15.375 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Signed: ōju Gototei Kunisada ga
(By special request... 應需五渡亭国貞画)
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi
(Marks 391 - seal 01-008)
Censor's seal: kiwame
Lyon Collection - Fan Kuai print from this series
Lyon Collection - Yu Ki print from this series
National Museum of Japanese History (via Ritsumeikan University) Osaka Prints referred to this print as "Kan Zhang Liang (韓張良 ) and Huang Shigong (黃石公)".
They continued: "The central figure in these tales is Liu Bang (劉邦 256–195 BCE), a peasant-born warrior who, during a period of prolonged civil war, rose to the rank of a commanding general and, by forcing the surrender of the last Qin ruler in 206 BCE, became the first Han emperor, known as Han Gaozu, "The High Ancestor of Han" (漢高祖 called Kôso in Japan), He reigned from 202-195 BCE."
Later they added: "Kunisada depicts Kan Zhang Liang (韓張良 251-186 BCE), a strategist and statesman known as one of the "Three Heroes of the early Han dynasty" (漢初三傑).... After a failed attempt to assassinate the emperor Qin Shi Huang, Zhang Liang evaded capture using false identities. One day, he walked near Yishui Bridge, where he encountered an old man who threw his shoe below the bridge and yelled at Zhang, "Hey boy, go down and fetch me my shoe!" Astonished, Zhang Liang complied. The old man then lifted his foot and ordered Zhang Liang to put the shoe on his foot. Although angered, Zhang Liang obliged. The old man, showing no sign of gratitude, walked away laughing, but then returned and praised Zhang Liang, saying "This child can be taught!" and asked him to meet at the bridge again at dawn five days later. On the appointed day, Zhang Liang appeared at dawn and found that the old man was already there, insulting him by saying, "How can you be late for a meeting with an elderly man? Come back again in five days!" Zhang Liang tried his best to be punctual, but the old man was again waiting for him when he arrived and ordered Zhang Liang to return once more five days later. Finally, Zhang Liang went to the bridge at midnight and waited until the old man appeared. Zhang Liang's fortitude and humility impressed the old man, and so he presented him with a book, saying, "You can become the tutor of a ruler after reading this book. Within ten years, the world will become chaotic. You can then use your knowledge from this book to bring peace and prosperity to the empire. Meet me again in 13 years. I'm the yellow rock at the foot of Mount Gucheng." The old man was Huang Shigong (黃石公; lit. "Yellow Rock Old Man"). The book was titled The Art of War by Taigong (太公兵法), actually believed to be either the Six Secret Teachings (Liù Tāo: 六韜) from the 11th-centry BCE by Jiang Ziya (姜子牙), or possibly the Three Strategies of Huang Shigong (Huáng Shígōng Sān Lüè: 黃石公三略) from the late Han dynasty. In legend, Zhang Liang returned to the indicated site 13 years later and did see a yellow rock. He built a shrine to honor Huang Shigong, and the rock was buried with him after his death."
There is a Nō play composed by Nobumitsu (d. 1516) entitled Chōryō. The action takes place in China. It begins with:
"I am Chorio, a subject of Koso of Kan, though I am busy in service I had a strange dream that there was in Kahi an earthen bridge, and that as I leaned on the bridge-rail there came an old man on horseback. And he dropped one of his shoes and bade me pick up the shoe. I thought this uncivil, yet he seemed so uncommon a figure and so gone on in old age that I went and picked up the shoe. 'You've a true heart' he said, 'come back here in five days' time, and I will teach you all there is to know about fighting.' He said that, and then I woke up, and now it's five days since the dream, and I am on my way to Kahi. Dawn begins to show in the sky. I am afraid I may be too late. The mountain is already lit, and I am just reaching the bridge."
Chōryō failed to get there in time and is told to come back again in five days... "if you carry a true heart within you. And I shall be here, and will teach you the true craft of fighting. Keep the hour, and keep true to your promise. How angry the old man seemed. How suddenly he is gone. Chorio, see that you come here in time."
The next time Chōryō gets to Kahi bridge before Kōsekikō. The Chorus begins: "Kosekko kicked off his shoe so it fell in the river. Then Chorio leapt in for the shoe, but the river flowed between rocks ; it was full of currents and arrow-like rapids. He went diving and floating and still not reaching the shoe. See how the waves draw back. A thick mist covers the place, a dragon moves in darkness, ramping among the waves, lolling its fiery tongue. It is fighting with Chorio; see, it has seized on the shoe.
Chorio drew his sword calmly.
He struck a great blow at the dragon; there was terrible light on his sword. See, the dragon draws back and leaves Chorio with the shoe. Then Chorio sheathed his sword and brought up the shoe to Kosekko, and buckled it fast to his foot.
And Kosekko got down from his horse.
He alighted, saying, 'Well done. Well done.' And he gave a scroll of writing to Chorio, containing all the secret traditions of warfare. And Kosekko said, 'That dragon was Kwannon. She came here to try your heart, and she must be your goddess hereafter.' Then the dragon went up to the clouds, and Kosekko drew back to the highest peak, and set his light in the sky; was changed to the yellow stone.
Quoted from: 'Noh': Or Accomplishment, a Study of the Classical Stage of Japan by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound.
Illustrated in Ukiyo-e dai musha-e ten - 浮世絵大武者絵展 - (The Samurai World in Ukiyo-e), edited by Yuriko Iwakiri, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2003, #121, p. 50.
There are two other prints from this series in the Lyon Collection. See the links above.
There is another copy of this print in the Hachinohe Clinic Machikado Museum.
Nishimuraya Yohachi (西村屋与八) (publisher)
warrior prints (musha-e - 武者絵) (genre)
Yūrei-zu (幽霊図 - ghosts demons monsters and spirits) (genre)
magicians (mahōtsukai - 魔法使い) (genre)