______________________________________________ “Hu Sunnaing” | By: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Created ca. 1845-1850 for the series “108 Heroes of the Popular Water Margin”, this awesome print depicts Hu Sanniang, using her two swords to block a hail of arrows coming towards her.
Hu Sanniang (literally "Third Sister Hu"), nicknamed "Ten Feet of Blue". is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels in Chinese literature.
A highly skilled warrior, Hu Sanniang is capable of taking on several opponents at the same time. She dons a suit of armour over a red robe, a golden helmet, and a silk belt when she goes to battle. Her weapons of choice are a pair of sabres and a lasso, which she uses to catch and pull opponents off their horses.
Hu Sanniang becomes one of the leaders of the Liangshan cavalry after the 108 Stars of Destiny come together in what is called the Grand Assembly. She follows the Liangshan heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces on Song territory after they received amnesty from Emperor Huizong.
______________________________________________ “Ruan Xiaowu Fighting Underwater” | By: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Created in 1856, this epic warrior print depicts the tattooed bandit Tanmeijiro Genshogo grappling with an armoured opponent underwater. Two orange Koi fish are swimming by.
Tanmeijiro, also called Ruan Xiaowu, is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He was known for his impressive tattoos and ability to stay underwater for lengthy periods of time.
Ruan Xiaowu is the middle of the three Ruan brothers who live in Shijie Village (in present-day Liangshan County, Shandong), where they earn a living by fishing in the waters around the nearby Liangshan Marsh. All the three brothers are very skilful in swimming and underwater combat.
Kuniyoshi diplays his mastery with a fantastic and smart design.
The highly detailed figures, acting as the focal point of the print, have been juxtaposed to a background of blue emptiness, interrupted only by blue currents of bokashi gradations of colour, that lend a sense of movement to this action packed, underwater print.
The figures, with their intricate clothing were no doubt inspired by Kuniyoshi’s father's business as a pattern designer. This strongly influenced his rich use of color and textile patterns in prints.
This prints detail has been superbly executed with a high level of technical craftsmanship. Here credit must go to the often overlooked and unknown carvers. In this case the woodcutter was Tsuge Shôjirô (Hori Shôji), who deserves ample credit for his part of the printmaking process, for without his skill, the intricate detail in the design cannot be transferred effectively onto paper.