[modernly supplied title]


koushokki ni yamagara

Red Swamp Mallow 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. 134-5 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 5 in the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme. Like all other designs in this series, 134-5 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 134-5) 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 Sichuan 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 Sichuan mallow with a varied tit just as 57 does, and 134-1 instead shares the mantis.

The composition of 134-5 includes two or three branches of red swamp mallow including leaves and a distinctive spent flower. Sitting on one of the branches at upper left is a varied tit. The plant is rendered as a detailed line drawing which looks equally well as ishizuri or reversed. However, the tit is drawn to look natural in the reversed image.

The woodblock print of 134-5 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:

134-5 as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
Red Swamp Mallow (Scarlet Rosemallow, Texas Star), Hibiscus coccineus, is native to the southeastern United States and has many English common names. It has become a favorite exotic garden plant in Asia because of its brilliant scarlet red flowers and its interesting, highly-dissected leaves.

When Rakusan wrote the title-caption for 57, he used an older name for Red Swamp Mallow, 紅蜀葵, こうしょっき, コウショッキ, kou-shok-ki, lit. 'red Sichuan mallow'. This name plays on the resemblance of that species to Sunset Muskmallow, Ablemoschus manihot, which also appears in this theme. Sunset Muskmallow is native to parts of Sichuan - hence its 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'. However, today the most common Japanese name for Red Swamp Mallow 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 in the same Malvaceae (Mallow) family, although 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, 134-1, and 134-5 (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.)

Designs 134-2, 134-3, and 134-4 are Ablemoschus 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.)

The flowers of Red Swamp Mallow are short-lived. When the bloom is finished, the petals recurl around the base, leaving the long pistil protruding. It is this final stage which is shown in 134-5, as well as in 134-1 and one of the blossoms in 134.

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:
134-1 134-2 134-3 134-5 134

Other designs with red swamp mallow:
57 134-1 134

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