Scholten Japanese Art
Suzuki Harunobu (ca. 1724-70)
Parodies of Hichobo and Rogo
each panel signed Harunobu ga, the right panel with publisher's tomoe mark and seal Nishimura (Nishimuraya Yohachi) of Eijudo, ca. 1770
uncut hashira-e diptych 12 5/8 by 5 1/2 in., 32.2 by 14.1 cm
Harunobu presents two bijin (beautiful people), one a male, one female, likened to legends associated with longevity. The beauty on the right seated on a flying crane is most likely a reference to the Chinese Immortal Fei Changfang (Hichobo in Japanese). According to the legend, Fei Chanfang was an official who learned the secret of immortality. The story makes no reference to flying on a crane, however, cranes are associated with longevity and the first two syllables of his name in Japanese can mean 'flying bird' if written with different characters. Thus, in a typical Japanese fashion the Chinese legend is appropriated and with a play on words given a new meaning.
The left panel depicting a handsome wakashu (young man) holding a fishing pole and net while riding on a large tortoise through the surf is a mitate of the Chinese Immortal Lu Ao (Rogo in Japanese), whose vehicle is the minogame, a mythical tortoise associated with longevity.
Edwin Grabhorn, San Francisco (1889-1968)
Ukiyo-e Shuka, vol. 10, 1980, p. 199, no. 47 (Grabhorn)