The Twenty-four Chinese Paragons of Filial Piety, Part I

(Morokoshi nijshi-k, 唐土廾四孝)

Publisher: Daikwand (Fushimi-ya Zenroku)

1848

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 series are each about 10 by 7 inches (25 by 18 centimeters), a size known as chban.

 

Japanese name: Taishun (大舜)

Chinese name: Ta Shun

Legend: Despite a neglectful father who favored his cruel stepmother and her son, Taishun cultivated land for his parents on Mount Li, where an elephant and a bird helped him with the difficult task. According to legend, Taishun eventually became emperor of China.

Robinson: S60.1

 

Japanese name: Ms (孟宗)

Chinese name: Mng Tsung

Legend: Ms fulfilled his sick mothers 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

 

Japanese name: Kan no Buntei (漢文帝)

Chinese name: Han Wn-ti

Legend: Kan no Buntei was the second emperor of the Han dynasty. He tasted his mothers food to protect the queen dowager from poisoning. Here the emperor is kneeling before his mother.

Robinson: S60.3

 

Another state of the above print

Japanese name: Teiran (丁蘭)

Chinese name: Ting Lan

Legend: Teiran carved wooden images of his parents to which he regularly paid his respects. Returning home one day he found a frown on the face of the statue of his mother and learned that his wife had insulted his mothers memory. He apologized to the wooden image and severely scolded his wife. Here he is being derided by his wife for prostrating himself before his parents statues.

Robinson: S60.4

Another version of the above print. It is a less labor intensive printing than the above, which almost invariably means a later edition. In this print, the delicate shading (bokashi) in the smoke, sky and title cartouche was omitted. Bokashi was achieved by hand-applying a gradation of ink to the wooden printing block rather than inking the block uniformly. This hand-application had to be repeated for each sheet of paper that was printed.

 

Japanese name: Binshiken (閔子騫)

Chinese name: Min-tzu-chien

Legend: Binshiken entreated his father to have mercy on his new stepmother after his father found out that Binshiken was being mistreated. Here Binshiken is sweeping the floor for his reclining stepmother.

Robinson: S60.5

 

NOTE: This is a copy of a European print of Juno and the Peacock

 

Japanese name: Sshin (曽参)

Chinese name: Tsng Tsan

Legend: Sshin was gathering wood in the forest one day when his mother back at home bit her own finger in anger at her sons absence. Feeling his mothers pain, he immediately returned home. Here he is suddenly sensing his mothers distress.

Robinson: S60.6

 

Japanese name: sh (王祥)

Chinese name: Wang Hsiang

Legend: When his stepmother wanted to eat fresh fish in mid-winter, sh 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: Rraishi (老來子)

Chinese name: Lao Lai Tzu

Legend: At age 70, Rraishi still dressed and behaved like an infant to amuse his senile parents.

Robinson: S60.8

 

A later edition of the above print

 

Japanese name: Kyshi (姜詩)

Chinese name: Chiang Shih

Legend: Kyshi, along with his wife, traveled great distances to get good water and fresh carp desired by his aged mother. However, one day a fresh spring suddenly bubbled up in their own garden and provided excellent water as well as fish.

Robinson: S60.9

 

Japanese name: T-fujin (唐夫人)

Chinese name: Tang Fu-jn

Legend: T-fujin (also known as wife Tang) suckled her toothless grandmother at her breasts.

Robinson: S60.10

 

Japanese name: Yky (揚香)

Chinese name: Yang Hsiang

Legend: Yky at 14 years of age was accompanying his father into the mountains when a hungry tiger leapt out at them. Without thinking of his own life, Yky protectively jumped in front of his father and thus scared off the tiger with his show of determined will.

Robinson: S60.11

 

 

Japanese name: Tei (董永)

Chinese name: Tung Yung

Legend: Tyei indentured himself to a weaver in order to raise money for his fathers burial. One day he met a woman who, in the first hour after their marriage, wove enough silk to fulfill the terms of his contract and then revealed herself to be the Heavenly Weaver (Shokujo) before ascending to heaven.

Robinson: S60.12

 

Another state of the above design with a cloud in the sky, courtesy of Jean-Gabriel Luque

Robinson refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.

 

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