Edition I

蜀葵 [title from folio]


Sichuan Mallow

紅蜀葵に飛蝗 [title as emended]

koushokki ni batta

Red Swamp Mallow and Grasshopper


Original Number / 原番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

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

Identification Notes:
This design is the thirty-fourth of thirty-six woodblock prints in Rakusan's second main sequence series, 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen, lit. 'Koushisei's Print Selection' (usually called here the 36 Series). Rakusan originally labeled this design number 34. However, after 1936 reprinting two series with duplicated numbering caused some confusion. To avoid further problems Rakusan decided to extend the numbering system from the preceding 100 Series into the 36 Series, and this design was relabeled as number 134, the 134th design published in his main sequence. Rakusan occasionally wrote his identification number in pencil on the reverse of the print.

Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal B

[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article. For edition and dating characteristics applicable to the entire series, see the Editions article.]

Print History:
The woodblock print of 134 was adapted from 134-0, an actual-size original painting on silk which was carved for woodblock printing in late 1934 or early 1935. Because Rakusan intended to retain all of the 36 Series prototypes in his personal collection, he did not affix a signature or seal, and the silk remained loose and unmounted. The silk was originally a pale cream color, but over time it has significantly yellowed:
134-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)

Edition I (1935-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 134 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Because all documented copies of 134 look very much alike, and are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), they are all referred to edition I printings. The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I, and there is currently no evidence for any other versions of 134.

The earliest 36 Series prints were delivered tipped into recessed wells of presentation sheets embossed in their lower margins with the series title. Because all early edition I prints once had these presentation sheets, a copy which retains its presentation sheet must have been printed during the 1930s. After his supply of presentation sheets was exhausted, Rakusan distributed subsequently-reprinted copies loose. A limited number of leftover earlier-printed copies of some designs on presentation sheets were still being distributed shortly after WWII, but by then most designs were only available as loose sheets. However, absence of presentation sheets is not diagnostic of later printings because many early prints have subsequently been detached from theirs.

Theme History:
The Rakusan project which produced 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen, resulted in two related series of woodblock prints. Each print of the 36 Series is intimately connected to a group of prints with the same subjects in the Fan Series. Together these subject-related prints in the two series constitute a theme. Each theme typically consists of a quintet of monochrome Fan Series designs (one design in each of the five fan shapes), plus one polychrome, 36 Series design which illustrates the theme subject. The theme is labeled here by the original Rakusan number of its 36 Series design followed by the subject. 134 is the 36 Series design of the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme.

Although the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme actually incorporates images of two different species of plants (see below), it is not a compound theme. In the delivery documents for installment ten, Rakusan called this theme 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 construction. Note that although 'Sichuan Mallow' serves as a convenient label for this pairing and for theme 134, it is not currently in common usage as a name for a kind of plant in either Japanese or in English.

The 134 Sichuan Mallow theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. All five Fan Series designs in this theme have seal C which indicates carving dates between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934. Despite the early completion of its Fan Series wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme until the following year. The 36 Series design 134 has seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.

The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme were distributed in mid 1935 in the final installment twelve (of twelve). 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 May 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed. Each of the woodblock prints in this theme would have been printed in the same month as their distribution.

Although the delivery documents for installment twelve remain to be discovered, the delivery documents for installment ten from March 25, 1935 announced the Sichuan Mallow theme as what would be expected to be theme 133 to appear the following month, April 1935, in installment eleven. However, all three of the announced themes for installment eleven were actually delayed and not published until installment twelve. After this rearrangement the Sichuan Mallow theme ended up being published as theme 134 grouped with other summer season themes at the end of the series.

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.

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.)

In 134 Rakusan shows the short-lived flowers of Red Swamp Mallow in all three typical stages: unopened bud at left, fully open at center, and spent flower at right. When the bloom is finished, the petals recurl around the base, leaving the long pistil protruding. (It is this final stage which is also shown in 134-1 and 134-5.)

Rakusan typically rendered his colored insects so carefully that they are often identifiable as particular species or genera. The grasshopper or locust (both superfamily Acridoidea), 飛蝗, 蝗虫, 蝗, ばった, バッタ, batta, shown in 134 has not yet been fully researched.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme:
134-1 134-2 134-3 134-4 134-5

Other designs with red swamp mallow:
57 134-1 134-5

Other designs with grasshoppers:
38alt 113-1