Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: Zhang Fei at Changban Bridge
Series: Essays by Yoshitoshi
Publisher: Dobashi Masadaya
Dimensions: 24.8 x 36.8 cm
Condition: Some pinholes and stains. Some purple pigment smudges.
The battle is that of Changban. Fought in China 208 AD, the conflict was part of the wars that marked the Three Kingdoms Period (220–280 AD) that were later immortalised by the great Chinese epic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Zhang Fei stands guarding the Changban Bridge alone. After granting his comrade Zhao Yun and young A’dou passage, he intimidatingly awaits the large enemy force in their pursuit. Face to face with the opposing generals, Zhang Fei releases a roaring battle cry challenging the men to try and cross the bridge unharmed. A military officer collapses and dies. Not through a physical battle wound, but from the overwhelming aura and power emanating from Zhang Fei who surely seemed closer to a demon than a man. Yoshitoshi shows the seasoned warrior at the moment of letting out his awful yell: his jaws are open wide with the flesh of his mouth highlighted in a deep blood red. The lighter highlights of the horse he rides reveals its strikingly muscular frame. Yoshitoshi masterfully employs the compositional kiri [lit. cut] here, with Zhang Fei’s spear slicing across the design and the enemies he shocks to death entirely out of sight, subjecting the viewer to the warrior and his steed’s immense presence.