Artist: Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1798-1861)
Title: Ruan Xiao’er in a boat, attacked by grappling-hooks
Series: The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden
Publisher: Yamazaki Kimbei
Dimensions: 25.6 x 37 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.
Ruan Xiao (Ritchitaisai Genshoji) was a salt smuggler before becoming a fisherman. In this print, he is attacked on his boat by sharp pointed hooks which are attached to ropes. One of the hooks is lodged in his hair and the hero is trying to remove it with his left hand. Another one is wrapped around his right leg, pulling him down.