One Hundred Eight Heroes of a Popular Water Margin, All Told: Ruan Xiaowu

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1797-1861)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, ca. 1827-30
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 37.7 x 24.8 cm (14 13/16 x 9 3/4 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Anne van Biema collection, battle, carp, Edo period (1615 - 1868), hero, Japan, tattoo, ukiyo-e, warrior, water, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

The appearance of Kuniyoshi's series based on the Chinese adventure novel The Water Margin marked a turning point in the artist's career. The first prints published in this series were so popular that he continued to design additional prints for a total of seventy designs. He became one of the most imaginative and innovative of all the print artists of his era. Here he portrays the Chinese hero Ruan Xiaowu (Japanese, Gen Shogo) grappling underwater with the commander of enemy forces. The text reads, "He was a native of Shijie village in Weizhou. He had a leopard tattoo on his breast. . . . He had the ability to conceal his body underwater for long periods. At the encampment of forces at Liangshan anchorage on Jinsha lake, he captured the commander from off the deck of one of the enemy vessels." In this struggle, with its underwater setting indicated by sweeps of translucent blue and fleeing fish, the hero presses his enemy downward.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, with contributions by et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 71, pp. 194-195.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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