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Japanese Forces Overpower Taiwanese Bandits Near Xinzhu

 

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Japanese Forces Overpower Taiwanese Bandits near Xinzhu

by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895


IHL Cat. #97

About This Print

Source: Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 92
Pacifying the Taiwanese (Mopping Up Native Rebels near Hsinchu in Taiwan; August 1895)
The island of Taiwan (Formosa) was ceded to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki, but the Japanese met with strong resistance when they attempted to occupy their new colony.  The Imperial Guard was sent in late May of 1895 to put down the resistance, and became involved in a protracted war of pacification that would take almost five months and cost many lives on both sides. 

Kiyochika designed three prints illustrating the pacification of Taiwan, all of them marked by a distinct sense of tropical fantasy.  Japanese soldiers dressed in white uniforms with the distinctive kepi of the French Foreign Legion are led by officers wearing pith helmets.  The lush landscape is accented with palm trees and the sky is painted in tropical tones of orange and purple.  They are the most romantic and exotic of all Kiyochika’s landscapes.  They also reveal considerable wishful thinking on the part of the artist.

The reality of the subjugation of Taiwan was otherwise.  According to James Davidson, an American who accompanied the Japanese troops during parts of the campaign and later became American consul to Taiwan, the Japanese troops were totally unprepared for the tropical climate, “unaccustomed to the heat of the Formosan sun, and dressed as they were in the winter uniform, with headgear affording absolutely no protection against the sun.”  As the summer passed, the most formidable foe was not the Taiwanese resistance, but tropical disease.  By the time the last rebel stronghold at Tainan fell on October 21, the Japanese had lost 164 men in combat and 4,642 to disease; these statistics only heighten the irony of Kiyochika’s idyllic landscapes.  (One of the Japanese casualties was the leader of the Imperial Guard, Prince Yoshihisa, who died of Malaria.)

Source: In Battle's Light: Woodblock Prints of Japan's Early Modern Wars, Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, Worcester Art Museum, 1991, p. 51
Kiyochika designed three prints illustrating the pacification of Taiwan, which was ceded to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki.  His conception was inspired more by British illustrations of their war in Egypt and the Sudan (1882-1898) than by history.  Unlike the real Japanese soldiers, who were dressed in winter uniform, Kiyochika's soldiers wear pith helmets and summer whites.  The exotic tropical landscape and the very compositional scheme are also inspired by British illustration.  In Kiyochika's print the army is looking at the burning city of Xinzhu, which, according to contemporary accounts, surrendered on June 23 with little resistance and no mention of fire.  To suggest the intense light of the tropical setting he used muted pastel colors and substituted true-red and blue-red for the oranges and yellow-red of his usual representations of fire.

The Battle for Taiwan

Source: Japan at the Dawn of the Modern Age – Woodblock Prints from the Meiji Era, Louise E. Virgin, Donald Keene, et. al., MFA Publications, 2001, p. 106.
The Japanese navy was particularly pleased by the annexation of Taiwan, but the Taiwanese fiercely fought the occupation.  In May 1895, Japan had to send in 60,000 men of the Imperial Guard.  Japanese troops quelled the resistance in smaller cities like Xinzhu before occupying the largest city, Tainan (now Taipei), on October 21.  The battle at Xinzhu took place in what a reporter described as a beautiful valley with green rice paddies surrounded by bamboo- and willow-covered mountains.  Looking at Kiyochika’s triptych, Illustration of (Japanese Forces) Driving Away Taiwanese Bandits near Xinzhu, one imagines that it was inspired by such descriptions of lush, mountainous scenery.  Clear pastel colors, palm trees, soldiers wearing kepis in the style of the French Foreign Legion, and officers wearing pith helmets indicate that Kiyochika was influenced by European magazine illustrations of North African battle sites when describing the tropical atmosphere of Taiwan.  Nearly five thousand Japanese died in Taiwan in combat and because of tropical diseases, but the Japanese won a major market as well as a source of rice and raw materials.

Source: Impressions of the Front: Woodcuts of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-85, Philadelphia Museum of Art, April 23 to June 26, 1983, p. 47
Takuhsuan was attacked on June 16, 1895.  A few enemy soldiers were found in this city of six hundred houses on the Takuhsuan River.  After some fighting, the Taiwanese militia force fled downstream.  The Japanese opened fire, killing or wounding countless resisters.  The assault platoon then burned the area.

On June 18, the Imperial Guard headquarters ordered the Second Regiment to march to Hsinchu the following day.  A war correspondent reported: 
This area was a vast rice paddy.  The plants were already ripe and bowing.  The natives were cultivating the young sprouts for the second planting in this extremely fertile area, much like the vast plains outside Tokyo.  The mountain range ran to the west coast.  Bamboo covered entire mountains.  There were some willow trees.  The enemy took a position ahead and attacked our scouts.  Our support company immediately spread out.  Two platoons went to the main road and one platoon took the southern and another the western heights.  The enemy held the high ground, sounding drums, flutes, and horns.  They resisted stubbornly, but the elite Imperial Guard overpowered them.  At 6:30AM they retreated.

From here we could see the great ocean.  The view was magnificent.  We also watched our troop movements below as the rapid-firing guns echoed through the valley.  It was thrilling and intoxicating.

Print Details
 IHL Catalog
 #97
 Title or Description  Illustration of (Japanese Forces) Driving Away Taiwanese Bandits near Xinzhu (Hsinchu) (台湾新竹附近土賊掃攘之図 Taiwan Shinchiku fukin dozoku sôjô no zu)
 Series  
 Artist  Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915)
 Signature  Kiyochika
 Seal  kiyo and chika
 Publication Date  August 1895 (Meiji 28)
 Publisher  Inoue Kichijiro
 Edition  likely first edition
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition good - overall light toning; thinning at corners; small tape stains center of margins on each panel
 Genre  ukiyo-e - senso-e (Sino-Japanese War)
 Miscellaneous
 Format  vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 14 1/2 x 10 in. (36.8 x 25.4 cm) each sheet
 H x W Image
 
 Literature
Japan at the Dawn of the Modern Age – Woodblock Prints from the Meiji Era, Louise E. Virgin, Donald Keene, et. al., MFA Publications, 2001, p. 110, plate 60; Impressions of the Front: Woodcuts of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-85, Philadelphia Museum of Art, April 23 to June 26, 1983, p. 47, pl 84; Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 92, pl. 101; In Battle's Light: Woodblock Prints of Japan's Early Modern Wars, Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, Worcester Art Museum, 1991, p. 51, pl. 24.
 Collections This Print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 2000.421; Philadelphia Museum of Art 1976-75-116; Santa Barbara Museum of Art Ex88.11abc; Japanese History Museum H-22-1-21-33; Östasiatiska musee OM-1994-0021


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