unsigned ivory netsuke

18th century

tall Kanyu

height 5 1/8 in., 12.9 cm

holding his halberd in his right hand, the Chinese general smiles as he strokes his long beard, he wears a soft cloth cap and long belted robe, the hem and sleeves decorated with scrolling designs, details highlighted with stain, the inner sleeve buttons inlaid in black horn, 18th century

Kanyu (Kwanyu or Kan'u) is one of the Three Heroes of the (Chinese) Han Dynasty (sanketsu), made popular in the 14th century epic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. His companions are the Chohi and the Emperor Gentoku. The three are often grouped together, but can be difficult to identify when portrayed individually. Kanyu is usually depicted holding a halberd and fingering his long beard. Gentoku's most famous escapade is a daring horseback escape (usually portrayed through frothing waves), and Chohi also has a long beard but carries a sword.

Kanyu started life as a humble bean seller, devoting his spare time to military studies. His meeting with Gentoku gave him an opportunity to prove his skill and he became a famous general. He was deified in 1591 as god of war by the emperor, becoming a popular Chinese hero.

For a similar example see The Baur Collection, Netsuke, p. 137, no. 298.

Expressions of Style: Netsuke as Art, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, August 2001, no. 8


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site last updated
October 28, 2021

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475