Yan Qing the Graceful (Rōshi Ensei - 浪子燕青) from the series <br /><i>Mirror of Heroes of the Shuihuzhuan</i> (<i>Suikoden gōketsu kagami</i> - 水滸傳豪傑鏡)

Utagawa Yoshiharu (歌川芳春) (artist 1828 – 1888)

Yan Qing the Graceful (Rōshi Ensei - 浪子燕青) from the series
Mirror of Heroes of the Shuihuzhuan (Suikoden gōketsu kagami - 水滸傳豪傑鏡)


10 in x 14.5 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichibaisai Yoshiharu ga
Publisher: Yamaguchiya Tōbei
(Marks 591 - seal not listed)
Date seal: 11/1856
Censor's seal: aratame
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

One of the great Suikoden prints by Kuniyoshi is of this same character, Rōshi Ensei, involved in a wrestling match. As yet there is no copy of this print in the Lyon Collection. However, it serves as an interesting precedent for this print.

The similarities between the Suikoden works of Kuniyoshi and Yoshiharu are not surprising since Yoshiharu studied with Kuniyoshi. In both cases, the bodies are heavily tattooed. With the Kuniyoshi it is with lions and peonies. With Yoshiharu it is only with peonies.


Pearl Buck in her translation of 14th century epic about the heroes of the Water Margin described Yien Ch'ing (Rōshi Ensei) as incredibly good looking and equally accomplished in everything he did.

Now this man was a native of the northern capital, and from his childhood he had been an orphan and had been nurtured in the home of Lu Chűn I until manhood. Seeing that his flesh over his whole body was white as snow Lu Chűn I had called a very skilled tattooer and he had the youth's whole body tattooed with a pattern, so that he looked like a carven pillar of jade, and there was none to compare to him. Yet not only was his body so beautiful, but he could blow a flute and play a lute, and he could sing and could dance, he could guess riddles and he could embroider with a needle and twisted hempen cords and there was nothing he could not do and nothing he was not able to do. Moreover he would speak the language of every place, and he knew the language of every trade and business. Truly in every skill there was none to compare with him. He used a triple-arrowed cross bow. Whenever he went forth to hunt he never once returned empty, for every time his arrow flew forth the thing he hunted fell to the ground. If he went for a day's hunting when he returned at night it was with a hundred and more birds. If he went forth to a match where men compared their skill, every prize was his. Truly he was so wholly wise, so wholly clever, that if the head were spoken of in a matter, at once he knew the tail also.



1) in black and white in Chimi moryō no sekai : Ukiyoe : Edo no gekiga--reikai, makai no shujinkō-tachi (浮世絵魑魅魍魎の世界: 江戶の劇画 : 霊界魔界の主人公たち) by 中右瑛 (Nakau Ei), Ribun Shuppan, Tokyo, 1987, p. 119. [The text is entirely in Japanese.]

2) in a color reproduction in Ukiyo-e to Horimono: the history and art of Japanese Prints and Tattooing by Jan van Doesburg, 2013, cat. 052

warrior prints (musha-e - 武者絵) (genre)
Suikoden (水滸傳) (genre)
Yamaguchiya Tōbei (山口屋藤兵衛) (publisher)
Tattoo (genre)