Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


This is adapted from the Wikipedia article on Hokusai. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

The picture is entitled The Great Wave off Kanagawa, and it is one of the most famous Japanese Woodblock Prints. It was created around 1823 - 1829 by Katsuhika Hokusai (1760-1849), as part of his collection, "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji."

Together with Ando Hiroshige (see September 2005 archive), Hokusai is considered one of the outstanding masters of Japanese ukiyo-e, or "pictures of the floating world" school of printing making. Hokusai is also renowned for his erotic prints in the shunga style. His "Fujujuso" a series of twleve prints celebrating the glory of flesh and passion, is considered one of the greatest shunga works.

His work, which reportedly numbers as many as 30,000 pieces, was an important inspiration for many European Impressionists, such as Claude Monet.

Woodcut, a type of relief print, is thought to be the earliest printmaking technique, dating back to 9th century China. The artist draws a sketch on a plank of wood and then uses sharp tools to carve away the parts of the block that he/she does not want to receive the ink. The raised parts of the block are inked with a brayer, then a sheet of paper, perhaps slightly damp, is placed over the block. The block is then rubbed with a baren or spoon, or is run through the press. Separate blocks are used for each color. Sometimes a given block may be applied multiple times to attain certain effects.

Take another look at The Great Wave. You can't help but appreciate the work and the precision that goes into each an every woodblock print.

A bio and gallery of his work can be found at:

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