A Great Victory for Our Fleet: An Enemy Ship was Attacked and Sunk on the Open Sea off of Haiyang Island

Tsuneshige (active 1894-1904?)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

A Great Victory of Our Fleet: An Enemy Ship was Attacked and Sunk on the Open Sea off of

Haiyang Island

by Shunsai Toshimasa, 1894


IHL Cat. #1357

About This Print

This print depicts the first great naval battle of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) on September 17, 1894 near the islands of Haiyang and Zhangzi, off the coast of the Liaodong Peninsula, midway between Port Arthur and the mouth of the Yalu River.1 It pitted the Chinese fleet of larger but older ships against newly built and more maneuverable Japanese ships.  The Chinese fleet was led by Admiral Ding Ruchang who was injured by his own ship's gunfire early in the battle and the Japanese fleet was led by Admiral Itō Yūkō.  Two Chinese ships were sunk in the engagement and the remainder of Chinese ships fled.  There was also extensive fire damage to Chinese and some Japanese ships.

The New York Times headlines of this battle ran "China's Waterloo in Corea" and "Japan's Great Naval Victory."

The artist, who did not witness the battle, must have reconstructed it from newspaper accounts.  One error of fact appears on the print.  The Chinese ship the Lai-yuen [Laiyuan], shown sinking at the bottom of the center panel, did not, in fact, sink at the battle.  It was its sister-ship, the King-yuen, that was sunk.

A detailed account of the battle, with the names of the ships pictured in the print in bold type, follows.
Alternate names for the ships that are used in the below graphic, which overlays the woodblock triptych with actual photos of the ships named on the print, are shown in brackets [].

Detailed Account of the Battle of the Haiyang Island

Source: A Concise History of the War Between Japan and China, Jikichi Inouye, Osaka: Z. Mayekawa, Tokyo: Y. Okura, 1895, p. 39-41.
On the morning of the 17th, the two [Japanese] squadrons arrived at Haiyang; and as no Chinese warship was to be seen about the island, the squadrons made for Talu Island, off of Takushan. At 1 1:40 a.m., the Chinese fleet came into sight and was advancing towards them. The Akagi and the Saikyo, not being fighting ships, were ordered to get under cover of the squadrons. At noon, just before the battle was  commenced, the Japanese fleet was 12 miles to the N.E. by N. of Talu Island. The Flying Squadron, consisting of the Yoshino, Takachiho, Naniwa, and Akitsushima, first advanced to attack the Chinese right, followed by the Main Squadron, which comprised the Matsushima, Itsukushima, Hashidate, Chiyoda, Fuso, and Hiyei. The Chinese fleet consisted of the Ting-yuen [Dingyuan] and Chen-yuen in the centre, followed on either side and a little to the rear by the King-yuen and Chih-yuen, outside them the Lai-yuen [Laiyuan] and Ching-yuen, then the Yang-wei and Tsi-yuen flanking them, and outermost of all the Chao-yung and Kwang-chia. The Kwang-ping and Ping-yuen [Pingyuan] remained outside the line. At 12:45, the Chinese opened fire at 6,000 metres, but the Flying Squadron did not reply until it was within 3,000 metres. The two vessels on the extreme right of the Chinese Squadron, which were the Chao-yung [Chaoyong] and Yang-wei were attacked by the squadron, being the nearest to it, and they were separated from the fleet. The Flying Squadron continued to attack them until it was 1,600 metres from them. The Chao-yung [Chaoyong] caught fire and sank.

As the Main Squadron advanced at the rate of ten knots an hour, the Hiyei, which could not keep up that speed, was soon left behind, followed closely by the Fuso; and when the Chinese saw the Hiyei lagging behind, the Ting-yuen [Dingyuan]  and Ping-yuen [Pingyuan] poured broadsides into her; but these two assailants were too close together and had to desist from firing for fear of hitting each other. The Hiyei, finding herself at such close quarters, boldly advanced between the Ting-yuen [Dingyuan] and King-yuen and passing through the Chinese line, rejoined the Main Squadron. Two torpedoes were discharged at her, but missed their mark; a shell, however, from the Ting-yuen's [Dingyuan] great gun struck her ward-room and worked a great havoc. At 1:55 she caught fire and was hors de combat, though the fire was subsequently extinguished.

The gun-boat Akagi had also been left behind. The vessels of the Chinese left wing pressed upon her and though her starboard guns cleared the Lai-yuen's [Laiyuan] bridge of men, her own bridge suffered no less. Her captain, Commander Sakamoto, was killed as well as several of her gunners. Her mainmast was also struck down, and she was hotly pursued by the Lai-yuen [Laiyuan] and others, and she only escaped by causing a fire on the Lai-yuen's [Laiyuan] quarter-deck, whereupon the Lai-yuen [Laiyuan] and the rest slowed down to extinguish it. The Akagi's steam-pipe was damaged, but was afterwards repaired.

The Saikyo, on seeing the Chih-yuen and Kwang-ping approach her, had got under cover of the Flying Squadron; but when the latter went to the rescue of the Hiyei and Akagi, she was once more exposed; and four shells from the Ting-yuen's [Dingyuan] great gun struck the upper deck saloon, shattered the woodwork, and damaged the steering-gear. The Matsushima and the Ping-yuen [Pingyuan] next exchanged shots. The former's wardroom was damaged and four men were killed, while the latter's 26 cm. gun was disabled. The Ping-yuen  [Pingyuan], Kwang-ping, and a torpedo boat next assailed the Saikyo; two torpedoes were discharged at her, but she managed to steer clear of them. She was after this out of action, as she had suffered severe though not vital injuries. A duel between the two hostile flagships resulted in the Chinese catching fire and the Japanese losing the use of three 12 cm. guns, and the death or disablement of over 60 men, on the latter through a heap of ammunition catching fire. The latter's 32 cm. gun was temporarily damaged. Her hull also listed slightly. The Chinese flagship was ably covered during the fire by her sistership Chen-yuen. By this time the Yang-wei and the Chih-yuen had been sunk. The Tsi-yuen had fled, followed by the Kwang-chia, which struck the Tsi-yuen and was stranded near Talienwan. The flying Squadron pursued the remaining ships. The Lai-yuen [Laiyuan] again caught fire but managed to return to Port Arthur, almost a wreck, while her sister-ship King-yuen was sunk by the Yoshino.

Thus the Chinese lost five men-of-war, namely, the Chaoyang, Yang-wei, Chih-yuen, King-yuen, and Kwang-chia, while the Japanese lost none at all, the greatest damages having been suffered by the Matsushima, Akagi, Hiyei, and Saikyo, all of which were soon refitted for service.

photographs and names of ships involved with the battle
click on image to enlarge

1 The battle is known by various names including, Battle of the Yellow Sea, Battle of Haiyang Island, Battle of  Dadonggou, Battle of Taigozaoki and Battle of Yalu all landmarks near the engagement.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description  A Great Victory of Our Fleet: An Enemy Ship was Attacked and Sunk on the Open Sea off of Haiyang Island
 我艦隊大勝利 海洋嶋沖ニ敵艦ヲ撃沈ム
 Waga kantai daishori: Kaiyoto oki ni tekikan o uchishizumu
 Artist  Utagawa (Shunsai) Toshimasa (1866-1913)
年昌 Toshimasa
 Seal  年昌 Toshimasa (see above)
 Publication Date  October 1894 (Meiji 27) (see publisher's seal below)
小森宗次郎 Komori Sōjirō  (also Kiya Sōjirō 木屋宗次郎) [Marks: similar to seal ref. 26-146; pub. ref. 252]

ホリ徳 Horitoku
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent
 Genre  ukiyo-esenso-e (Sino-Japanese War)
 Format  vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 14 11/16 x 9 15/16 in. (37.3 x 25.2 cm) approx. each sheet
 H x W Image  14 3/16 x 9 3/8 in. (36 x 23.8 cm) approx. for each sheet
 Collections This Print
 The Walters Art Museum 95.688
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