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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Zhang Fei

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Essays by Yoshitoshi: Zhang Fei
(Ikkai zuihitsu: Zhang Fei)

signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu, with artist's seal Go Kaisai, carved by Katada Hori Cho, publisher's seal Dobashi, Masadaya han (Masadaya Heikichi of Seiedo), and cyclical date seal Mizunoe, saru-juni (year of the monkey [1872], 12th lunar month)

oban tate-e 13 7/8 by 9 3/4 in., 35.4 by 24.8 cm

The warrior Zhang Fei (Jp. Yokutoku; d. 221) was a general of the Shu-Han state during China's wars of the Three Kingdoms (169-280 AD). He was a vassal of Liu Bei (Jp. Gentoku; 161-223), and is often depicted alongside him and their blood oath brother Guan Yu (Jp. Kan'u; d. 220). The three are remembered as paragons of martial ability, though Fei is unique amongst the trio for being a heavy drinker. They won many battles together, however, their power fell apart in 220. A rival warlord, Sun Quan (182-252), broke his alliance with Bei and killed Yu in battle. As he was mobilizing a force to respond, Fei was himself assassinated by subordinates, who defected to Quan's camp.

In this print, taken from an episode in the 14th-century historical Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Ch. Sanguo yanyi), Fei is awaiting the arrival of his rival, Cao Cao, on the Changban bridge. Though Cao Cao comes with a vast army, Fei avoids defeat by instructing his forces to drag logs through the forest which flanks the bridge, conjuring a great storm of dust. The deception is successful as Cao Cao, seeing the dust, misguidedly thinks that a massive host waits for him and retreats. The novel is attributed to the author Luo Guanzhong (either 1280-1360 or 1330-1400) and is considered to be one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature.

Keyes 1983, p. 395, no. 280.1
Segi 1985, p. 43, no. 49
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 111, no. 23.1
Akita Museum of Modern Art 1999, p. 26, no. 75
Newland & Uhlenbeck 2011, p. 98, no. 63
Iwakiri 2014, p. 63, no. 90