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[Preface], from the series One hundred aspects of the moon



Tsukioka Yoshitoshi


1839 - 1892

Keika Keikaen


1830 - 1899


The preface is by the poet Keikaen Keika (1830-99):

'It is said that the Daoist technique for drawing the moon from one’s breast pocket requires several hundred strands of rope. Now Master Yoshitoshi of Asakusa, who resides at a distance from society [literally, ‘where the river meets the sea’], has brought forth the lights of the moon past and present from the tip of his brush, employing complete freedom. They are called One hundred aspects of the moon. The crescent light glinting from (the helmet of) of the stoic warrior is fearful; the soft glow surrounding the Lady of Wu spontaneously soothes the Heavenly Steed. The novelty and uniqueness of his detailed and sublime designs are impressive enough to cause the White Pheonix under the Cassia Tree to fold in its wings, and the Dark Hare grinding herbs with its pestle to kick away its mortar.
The owner of the blocks, the Master of the Hall of Humour (Kokkeidō), has asked me to brush a preface. Unable to refuse I hereby cover one page with an address the size of an inch-wide Moon, even though it is by no means on the order of that (produced from the Daoist wizard) Zhou Sheng’s breast pocket. On a night in Meiji 18 [1885] when the moon is dark, Nihonbashi, Person of Leisure at the Hall of the Purple Dawn (Shishodō Sanjin)
Sealed: ningen banji (‘in all human endeavours’)

(Translated by Lawrence Marceau, Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland, 'Yoshitoshi—Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection', Hotei Publishing, 2011, p.135)

Yoshitoshi’s career straddled two eras – the last years of the Edo period and the first few decades of modern Japan following the Meiji Restoration in 1867. Initially enthusiastic and opened to Western influxes, he became increasingly sceptical about the loss of numerous aspects of traditional Japanese art and culture due to rapid industrialisation and Westernisation. In a time when modern reproductive technologies such as photography and lithography were introduced to Japan and enjoyed high popularity, Yoshitoshi concentrated his efforts in introducing new themes and techniques to the stagnant art of ukiyo-e colour woodblock prints, taking it thus to a new height, before it definitely declined after his death. His highly imaginative, often flamboyant and even disturbing depictions of historical events, warriors, beautiful women and the supernatural has led him to be recognised as the last great master of traditional Japanese woodblock print.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2012.


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Materials used

colour woodblock; ôban


39.0 x 26.0 cm


Yasuko Myer Bequest Fund 2012


Not on display

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Artist information

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Works in the collection


Artist information

Keika Keikaen

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Referenced in 3 publications