[modernly supplied title]


oushokki ni yamagara

Sunset Muskmallow and Varied Tit


Assigned Number / 規定番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

134 Sichuan Mallow Theme
134 蜀葵(ショッキ)画題

Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I (only edition): 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal C

[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.]

Series History and Definitions:
During the two years between mid 1933 and mid 1935 Rakusan produced a series of one hundred eighty individual woodblock-printed fan designs. These fan designs are printed as negative images with a single impression of black ink. Although all are actually woodblock prints, this traditional negative-image printing style is called 石摺(り), ishi-zuri, lit. 'stone rubbing', from its superficial resemblance to that technique. Rakusan called this series 篁子生石摺画選, Koushisei Ishizuri Gasen, lit. 'Koushisei's Stone-rubbing Print Selection', but it is usually called here the Fan Series.

Rakusan arranged the Fan Series prints into shared-subject groups typically consisting of one design in each of five different fan silhouette shapes. Each of these groups of Fan Series designs are united by a corresponding polychrome 36 Series design which defines the subject. Each shared-subject Fan Series group and its 36 Series design together comprise a theme (画題, gadai).

Rakusan did not include the Fan Series in his main sequence numbering. Therefore, the original number used for each of the 36 Series prints has been modified to identify the Fan Series members of its theme. The five different fan silhouette shapes have been here assigned arbitrary numbers 1 through 5. To indicate a fan design these shape designations are added to the 36 Series number separated by a hyphen. 134-3 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 3 in the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme. Like all other designs in this series, 134-3 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.

Theme History:
The 134 Sichuan Mallow theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The Fan Series prints of the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme were distributed in early 1935 in installment twelve (of twelve), but the delivery documents for installment twelve remain to be discovered. The series as originally announced would have seen this last installment published in December 1934. However, with previously documented delays the earliest month it could actually have been delivered is March 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed.

All five Fan Series designs in this theme (including 134-3) have seal C which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934. Despite the early completion of its wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme until the following year. It was eventually grouped with other summer season themes at the end of the series. Use of seal B on the 36 Series design 134 suggests it was carved somewhat later than the fan prints.

The 134 Sichuan Mallow theme actually incorporates images of two different species of plants (see below), but it is not a compound theme. Unfortunately, both English and modern Japanese lack a general name unique to this pairing. Rakusan's contemporary name for this theme is unknown, but one set of names formerly used for the two species share the same Japanese root, 蜀葵, lit. 'Sichuan (Szechuan) mallow', which can be read either しょっき, ショッキ, shok-ki; or しょくき, ショクキ, shoku-ki. The English name used here for this theme is simply a literal translation of this Japanese root. Note that although 'Sichuan Mallow' serves as a convenient label for this pairing and for theme 134, it is not current usage as a name for a kind of plant either in Japanese or English.

At least some of the cut-leaf mallow designs in this theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 57 in the earlier 100 Series. Several fan designs are especially close to 57. Both 134-3 and 134-5 combine the cut-leaf mallow with a varied tit just as 57 does, and 134-1 instead shares the mantis.

The composition of 134-3 includes two stalks of sunset muskmallow including leaves, a bud, and a distinctive open flower. Sitting on the lower stalk is a varied tit preening itself. The plant is rendered as detailed line drawings, both of which look equally well as ishizuri or reversed. However, the tit is drawn to look natural in the reversed image.

The woodblock print of 134-3 was modeled closely on an actual-size original sumi sketch which although lost can be reconstructed by digitally reversing the image of the woodblock print:

134-3 as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
Sunset Muskmallow (Aibika), Abelmoschus manihot, is originally a Southeast Asian exotic now widely grown in gardens. (It was formerly classified as Hibiscus manihot and called Sunset Hibiscus.) The plant is native to parts of Sichuan - hence the Chinese name taken over into Japanese, 黄蜀葵, おうしょっき, オウショッキ, ou-shok-ki, lit. 'yellow Sichuan mallow'. Today Sunset Hibiscus is usually called とろろあおい, トロロアオイ, tororo-aoi, but is spelled with the same kanji, 黄蜀葵, or abbreviated to 黄葵. 黄蜀葵 can today also be read tororo.

The other species of mallow in theme 134 is Red Swamp Mallow (Scarlet Rosemallow, Texas Star), Hibiscus coccineus, which is native to the southeastern United States and has many English common names. It has become a favorite garden plant in Asia because of its brilliant scarlet-red flowers and its interesting, highly-dissected leaves. Despite its American origins, the resemblance to Sunset Muskmallow, Abelmoschus manihot, led to an older Japanese name for Red Swamp Mallow of 紅蜀葵, こうしょっき, コウショッキ, kou-shok-ki, lit. 'red Sichuan mallow'. Rakusan used this name 紅葉葵 in his title-caption for 57. However, today the most common Japanese name is based on the supposed similarity to the Japanese maple in red autumn colors, 紅葉葵, もみじあおい, モミジアオイ, momiji-aoi, lit. 'red-leaf (i.e. maple) mallow'.

These two plants resemble one another and are both in the Malvaceae (Mallow) family, but they are in different genera and are not actually very closely related. Although the stems and dissected, palmate, leaves of the two plants look almost exactly the same, the shapes and colors of the five-petaled flowers are different. Notably the pistils are of different lengths, and where the pistil is shown, the species identification is clear in all flower forms.

Designs 134-2, 134-3, and 134-4 are Abelmoschus manihot whose flowers have rounded, overlapping, pale-colored petals with dark centers, and short pistils. (In color the flowers are a creamy yellow with a maroon center.)

Designs 134-1, 134-5, and 134 (as well as 57) are Hibiscus coccineus whose flowers have pointed, well-separated, dark petals with very long pistils. (In color the flowers are scarlet or crimson red and star-shaped.)

Varied Tit, Parus varius, 山雀, やまがら, ヤマガラ, yama-gara, lit. 'mountain tit', is a familiar native species. Rakusan was fond of portraying these active little birds, and they occur in several different designs.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme:
134-1 134-2 134-4 134-5 134

Other designs with sunset muskmallow:
134-2 134-4

Other designs with varied tit:
57 112-3 114-4 134-5 123