Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) (artist 01/01/1797 – 04/14/1861)

Ō Shō (王祥) and Mōsō (孟宗) from the series The Twenty-four Chinese Paragons of Filial Piety (Morokoshi nijūshi-kō - 唐土廾四孝)


13.5 in x 9.5 in (Overall dimensions)

Signed on left panel only: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Censor seals on left panel only: Mera and Murata
Kuniyoshi Project
Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna - right panel
Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna - left panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - left panel
Tokyo Metropolitan Library - right panel
Tokyo Metropolitan Library - left panel
Hagi Uragami Museum of Art - right panel
Indianapolis Museum of Art - left panel
Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (via Ritsumeikan University) - left panel only - trimmed
Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (via Ritsumeikan University) - right panel only - trimmed
Art Institute of Chicago - left panel only
Art Institute of Chicago - right panel only

Laura Allen wrote on page 153 in The Printer's Eye: Ukiyo-e from the Grabhorn Collection in reference to an Okamura Masanobu of the theme of Mōsō: "...this print comes from the series Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety. These Chinese tales had a long history in Japan, and more than one eighteenth-century artist took up the popular story of Meng Zong, called Mōsō in Japanese... Mōsō's poignant story describes his unswerving devotion to his widowed mother. One winter, his mother fell seriously ill and began to crave a broth of bamboo shoots, which normally sprout only in spring. Mōsō braved heavy snows and cold in search of the shoots without success. Finally, in tears, his prayers were answered as he stumbled upon a few miraculous plants. The broth made from the shoots cured his mother's illness and Mōsō's story was lauded far and wide as an example of courage and filial regard."


The text below was composed by Ryūkatei Tanekazu (柳下亭種員: 1807-58).

The text on the right panel reads: 孟宗(もうそう) 幼稚(ようち)にして父におくれ母(はゝ)を敬(うやま)ふことたとふるにものなし母(はゝ)老(おい)て病(やまひ)篤(あつ)し冬月雪中(とうげつせつちう)に笋(たかんな)の羔(あつもの)を食(しょく)せんことをのぞむ其(その)季候(きこう)にあらねば人力(じんりき)のおよぶ所にあらざれども竹林(ちくりん)にいたり竹(たけ)をうごかし哀泣(あいきう)して求(もと[ママ])んことをこひしに神明仏陀(しんめいぶつだ)孝(かう)を感(かん)ずるの余(あま)りにや須叟(たちまち)に地(ち)裂(さけ)て笋(たかんな)數(あまた)莖を生(しやう)ず喜(よろこ)びて家(いへ)に持(もち)かへり母(はゝ)に薦(すゝ)むれば日あらずして病(やま)ひ愈(いえ)じとなん 種員謹記

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 edition appear to have been printed two per ōban sheet (about 9.5 x 13.5 inches) and folded to chuban pages (about 9.5 x 6.75 inches). The were once bound together in an album.

Japanese name: Ōshō (Chinese name: Wang Hsiang)

When his stepmother wanted to eat fresh fish in mid-winter, Ōshō 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: Mōsō (Chinese name: Mēng Tsung)

Mōsō fulfilled his sick mother’s 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

[The above English-language information is all taken directly from the Kuniyoshi Project.]

The text on the left panel reads: 王祥(わうしやう) 母はやく世(よ)を去(さり)継母(まゝはゝ)朱子(しゆし)さらに慈心(じしん)なし父に讒(ざん)すること数度(すど)なれば是(これ)を信(しん)じて愛をうしなふされ共いさゝか恨色(うらむいろ)なく己(おのれ)を責(せめ)て孝心(かうしん)をはげむかくて極寒(ごくかん)の頃(ころ)母鮮魚(なまうを)を好(この)む氷(こほり)厚(あつ)くして捕(とら)えるに手段(しゆだん)なし祥(しやう)衣(ころも)を脱捨(ぬぎすて)氷の上に臥(ふし)魚(うを)を得ざることを歎(たん)するに忽(たちまち)


Illustrated in black and white in Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Springfield Museum of Art, 1980, #169 (Mōsō).
Historical - Social - Ephemera (genre)
Fushimiya Zenroku (伏見屋善六) (publisher)