Artwork Panel: 33.3cm x 65cm ≈ 13" x 25½"
Silk/Brocade: 42.8cm x 124cm ≈ 16¾" x 48¾"
Width at Wooden Knobs: 51.8cm ≈ 20¼"Information about caring for your wall scroll
Touhou no Bijin
Close up view of the artwork mounted to this silk brocade wall scroll
This is a mechanically-printed reproduction of a very old Japanese woodblock print. This was made months ago, rather than centuries ago.
Original artist: Kitao Shigemasa (1739-1820)
Original woodblock was created in Japan, Edo period, around 1775
The names of these two women are known to be Onaka and Oshima.
Excerpt from Honolulu Museum of Art:
The “east” of the title probably refers to Fukagawa, an area with many unlicensed brothels that over time offered significant competition to the Yoshiwara. Little is known of Onaka and Oshima, but from their connection to Fukagawa, they probably were geisha entertainers. Female geisha became popular in Fukagawa at least a decade before the Yoshiwara, and were a special attraction of the area.
Both women have the tōrōbin hairstyle that was at the height of its popularity at the time, in which whalebone was used on either side to extend the hair in a shape resembling a lantern (tōrō means “lantern”). The design on the left woman’s obi resembles that found on textiles from Gujarat in India, widely imported in Southeast Asia, where they were highly valued and copied, and it might have come from either of those regions (Indonesia was a Dutch colony at the time, and the Dutch East India Company sent regular trade missions to Japan). The courtesans and geisha of Fukagawa were known for their distinctive sense of fashion, and an exotic imported fabric certainly would have added stylistic flare.
Contrary to popular belief, woodblock printing (and in a way, the first printing press) was invented in China. Both artwork and whole books were produced in China using the woodblock print technique. Much of this artwork and printed books made their way to Japan. Emulating the methods and adding to the style, Japanese artists took woodblock printing to the next level.
In Japan, wood block prints are known as or "Moku Hanga". Most were produced during the Edo period (1603–1867). To put that in prospective, that's from before what is now the USA was even a British colony, to just after the Civil War. Some artists continued creating prints into the early 1900s.
At that time, Japanese artists would create "template paintings" with detailed images of "everyday life" scenes of Japan. Some of these "everyday life" or (Ukiyo-e), which translates as "Floating World" images, depict battling Samurai, beheadings, and even prostitution. This leads you to believe that "everyday life", was rather exciting in ancient Japan. However, most Ukiyo-e prints were more tame scenes of everything from women washing clothes, to men writing poetry.
After creating the template, the artist would then have another artisan carve large blanks of wood with those images. The carved wood blocks were then given to yet another artisan, known as an "inker". The inker would then carefully apply wet ink or colorful paint to the various carved surfaces. A sheet of handmade paper was then pressed over the inked woodblock to create the final print. The process was laborious, but not as tedious as hand-painting hundreds of copies from scratch.
If this was an "original" Japanese woodblock print, dating back to the Edo period, the price would be anywhere from $800 to $20,000.
Just to be clear again: This is a reproduction.
The quality of this reproduction is very good, but a true expert will spot this as a reproduction after examining it for a few moments.
I use handmade kozo (mulberry) paper - the same kind of paper that Japanese woodblock print makers used centuries ago.
The pigment-based ink is archival and UV-resistant. The ink manufacturer claims that the giclée prints created with this ink will last 200 years if not in direct sunlight. I figure you'll get a lifetime of enjoyment if you take good care of this wall scroll. I spend hours making sure the colors are vibrant, and touching up areas that might be damaged or missing from the old original print. The result is very close to what the woodblock print would look like if you could go back in time to the Edo period, and buy it from the artist's studio in old Japan.
For years I tried to find a printer that could handle handmade xuan paper without wrinkling, jamming, or clogging print heads. After trying and buying several giclée printers that gave mixed results, I finally found the quality I was looking for in a HP DesignJet z6100 printer with a price tag of around $15000! However, it is a finicky printer that takes about 5 tries to load a sheet of handmade paper (the printer's sensors seem to hate the deckled edge of handmade paper, and often refuse to accept that the paper is loaded with no skew).
I have to use this printer in the USA to create the print, as I can't get a license for such a machine at my other studio in Beijing (The Chinese government fears that I will make counterfeit Chinese currency, or Pro-Democracy propaganda posters with it).
After carefully printing and inspecting this artwork, I sent the raw print on kozo paper to my workshop in Beijing where it was built into a handmade wall scroll. This makes it ready-to-hang (no expensive framing needed), and gives the whole piece a very traditional Asian look.
Because the artist of this piece passed away long ago, and the original artwork is over 100 years old, there is no copyright. However, in some cases, I have paid a license fee to the owner of the original Japanese woodblock print for access to create the digitized image. In a few cases, I bought original 200-year-old woodblock prints and drum-scanned it at high-resolution.
All of this effort on my part means you get a really beautiful Japanese woodblock print reproduction, for a very affordable price. I am not sure I will ever make a profit on these (I would need to charge about double this price if that was the goal), but I really like to make unique Asian artwork affordable and accessible to everyone.
Want a customized wall scroll or custom sized print? Just contact me!
I can print this larger, on the paper texture of your choice, and give you whatever silk brocade colors you want. It does take several weeks, but worth the wait if you want something really custom and unique.
This item was listed or modified
Mar 19th, 2015
Gary's random little things about China:
When crossing a street, or merely making your way down the road, there is a certain law of physics that comes into play: When two forces meet, one must yield.
Here is the general yielding scheme in China:
Cars yield to big buses and trucks.
Bicycles and cars mingle and narrowly avoid each other. When push comes to shove, the bicyclist knows he will lose the fight. But the car driver knows that the bicycle will scratch his car when he runs it over, and will only yield on that premise.
Cars will not yield to, but are required to avoid pedestrians. When you hit a pedestrian at low speed, it does very little damage, and unlike a bicycle, will almost never scratch your car. Therefore pedestrians are given a smaller margin.
Note: Regardless of green or red stop lights, it is against the law to come to a complete stop when making a right hand turn in China (no matter how many pedestrians are in the way). The rule is "honk and avoid, then continue on your way".
Motor scooters yield to no one, not even when they are being driven on a pedestrian-filled sidewalk. Motor scooters zip around like they have nothing to lose - this may be true, as smaller motor scooters require no license of any kind and are very cheap.
If you are driving on the wrong side of the road, or going the wrong way on a one-way street, you do not have to yield to anyone, no matter what kind of vehicle you are operating.
Cars will yield (not by choice) to pedestrians crossing the street in numbers greater than 10 (it is best in China to invite 9 of your friends for an outing if you plan to cross a lot of streets).
In lieu of yielding, drivers are required to honk at pedestrians. I swear to God, this is the law! It's a safety issue: If you are passing a pedestrian that is walking on the side of the road, you are required by law to honk at them to let them know you are there.
Note: All streets in Chinese cities, sound like a New York traffic jam 24 hours per day with all this "safety honking".
I have not been able to find a traffic law that states you must yield to ambulances. And in practice, very few drivers do.
When two large vehicles come face to face on a narrow roadway, and neither can pass, neither will yield. They will sit there, honking at each other for a while. After several cars are lined up behind them, they will decide that they should have yielded earlier, and start to back up. This is to the great dismay of all the cars behind them who will honk in unison. This could go on for an hour or more. It ends when a police officer arrives, tells both drivers what idiots they are, issues tickets to both of them, and then systematically makes the situation worse by insisting that all the smaller cars turn around (rather than back up) by making 162-point turns in the small roadway. Eventually, two of the cars will hit each other, for which both drivers will be cited and fined on the spot.