Bravery Matched with the Twelve (Zodiac) Signs: Rat and Raigo

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1797-1861)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, ca. 1840
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 36.6 x 12.5 cm (14 7/16 x 4 15/16 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, Buddhism, Eastern zodiac, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, priest, rat, sutra, ukiyo-e, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

Raigo (1002-1086) a Buddhist priest of the Miidera temple, vents his fury at the emperor's refusal to build an ordination platform for his temple in recognition of Raigo's successful prayers for the birth of the emperor's son. Bitterly disappointed, Raigo vowed to starve himself to death, and to end the young prince's life as well. The story of Raigo became popular during the Edo period, when its theme of opposition to injustice was recounted in popular literature, kabuki, and prints. Raigo-;here associated with the rat, the first animal in the zodiac cycle-holds an unrolled Buddhist sutra that he transforms into rats through his magical powers. In other versions of the story, Raigo transforms himself into a rat or a colony of rats and continuously devours the temple's precious sutras destroying the very scriptures that once inspired him.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, with contributions by et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 80, p.2 14-5, 216-17.
  • Robert T. Singer. The Life of Animals in Japanese Art. Exh. cat. Princeton, New Jersey. p 48, fig 10A.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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