[modernly adapted title]



Kumazasa Bamboo-grass


Assigned Number / 規定番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

121 Kumazasa Bamboo-grass and Pine Theme
121 隈笹に松(クマザサにマツ)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 at least 180 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. In themes which contain duplicated fan shapes, one has been arbitrarily designated A and the other B. 121-4B indicates that this is one of two Fan Series designs with fan shape 4 in the 121 Kumazasa Bamboo-grass and Pine theme. Like all other designs in this series, 121-4B was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.

Theme History:
The 121 Kumazasa Bamboo-grass and Pine theme has a complex history, and it has more individual prints than any other theme. Rakusan had originally planned to have two separate themes, one for kumazasa bamboo-grass and one for pine. From the signature and seal markings, it appears that two of the pine fan designs were created at the end of 1933, and the other two pine designs and all four kumazasa bamboo-grass designs (including 121-4B) by early 1934. Then Rakusan set both incomplete groups aside for several months. Around the middle of 1934 Rakusan changed his original plan and combined the two as a single compound theme. He then painted 121-0 as the model for the 36 Series design 121 which included both original components.

The Fan Series delivery documents for installment six in September 1934 announced that kumazasa bamboo-grass and pinecone designs would be published the following month. Those for installment seven confirm that the Fan Series of the121 Kumazasa Bamboo-grass and Pine theme were printed during October 1934 and distributed October 15, 1934 as part of installment seven (of twelve). On both sets of delivery documents Rakusan used the theme subject title 熊笹に松笠, kumazasa ni matsukasa, 'kumazasa bamboo-grass and pinecones' which is only an appropriate title for 36 Series design 121 published at the same time. Because Fan Series design 121-5A contains only pine seedlings and pine needles without pinecones, here a more general theme title 隈笹に松, kumazasa ni matsu, 'kumazasa bamboo-grass and pine', has been adapted. The original spelling of Rakusan's title is used here only for the 36 Series design 121 for which it was devised.

This compound theme incorporates eight designs, three more than the normal quintet. There are two designs each for fan shapes 1, 2, 4, and 5, but none for fan shape 3. Using all eight designs from this theme meant that for installment seven to have exactly fifteen designs, the other themes in this installment would have to have fewer designs than normal. Accordingly, none of those three themes,119, 120, and 121, ended up with a regular fan quintet.

The bamboo-grass Fan Series designs are unusual in that they are not negatively reversed compositions. In all four of these fan prints (including 121-4B) the areas of dark and light are as they are in nature, dark leaves with light margins and mostly light stems, just as on the 36 Series design 121. At least some of the bamboo-grass designs may have been adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 93 (and possibly also of designs 6 and 87) in the earlier 100 Series. (See links below.)

The woodblock print of 121-4B 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:

121-4B as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
All species of bamboo-grass (also called dwarf bamboo) are called 笹, ささ, ササ, sasa. This Japanese name has been borrowed into scientific Latin as the genus name Sasa which has a much more restricted meaning. Kumazasa Bamboo-grass, Sasa veitchii , くまざさ, クマザサ, kumazasa, is a common species of dwarf bamboo which is cultivated both as an ornamental and as an ingredient in Asian herbal medicine. The Japanese name for this species has been borrowed into English as Kumazasa, Kuma Zasa, Kuma Bamboo-grass, etc. Today in Japanese the name is almost always written in kana, and there is dispute about the proper kanji etymology of kuma-zasa. Rakusan always used 熊笹, lit. 'bear-bamboograss', which is now considered to be a folk etymology. The modern interpretation is 隈笹, lit. 'shade-bamboograss'.

A former name for this same species, Sasa albomarginata, White-margin Bamboo-grass, refers to the tips and edges of the dark green leaves which turn creamy white with the onset of cold weather.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 121 Kumazasa Bamboo-grass and Pine theme:
121 121-1B 121-2B 121-5B
121-1A 121-2A 121-4A 121-5A

Other designs with various kinds of bamboo-grass:
6 (aozasa) 87 (nezasa) 93 (kumazasa)