Artist: Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1798-1861)
Title: Byoutsuchi Souryu
Series: The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden
Publisher: Kogaya Kichiemon
Dimensions: 26.7 x 38 cm
Kuniyoshi’s commercial and artistic success came in 1827 with the series “The 108 Heroes of the Tale of Suikoden”. Suikoden (Water Margin) is a 14th century Chinese novel about 108 rebels and heroic bandits, very popular in Japan those days. The characters were also outlaws and brigands, seen as men of honour who would rebel against bureaucracy, a Robin-Hood-like band that made the story of a revolutionary novel with implications resenting the authority of the time.
Byoutsuchi Souryu instructed gang members in the use of swords. He is himself a skilled warrior and is described as ‘When men caught the very wind of his coming they were so frightened they fell flat to the ground’. The clash depicted here by Kuniyoshi is between Souryu and Motaiko. Motaiko had previously arrested some of Souryu’s friends, but is eventually killed by Souryu’s sword.