Untitled series of beauties compared to the Five Elements

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarō

c. 1840


The Five Elements (gogyō, 五行) are wood (ki), fire (hi), earth (tsuchi), metal (kane) and water (mizu).  They do not represent the modern scientific concept of elements as fundamental substances out of which all things are composed.  Rather, they represent categories and concepts to which all things can be likened and by which analysed in a spiritual or philosophical manner.  This series is not listed in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).  The prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ōban.


Element: Wood (Ki, )




Element: Fire (Hi, ) Description: Beauty with a paper lantern   



Element: Earth (Tsuchi, )

Description: Standing beauty looking downward at shoots with butterflies



Another state of the above print


Yet another state of the above design printed entirely in blue and red



Element: Metal (Kin, )

Description: Fulling silk



A simplified and less labor intensive state of the above design



Element: Water (Mizu, )

Description: Beauty washing a textile