Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)‎ > ‎

Butsu Sorai from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Butsu Sorai

from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1886

Koshikibu no Naishi from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

IHL Cat. #880

IHL Cat. #1397

About This Print

Two different treatments using the same set of blocks of print number 三十九 (39)1 in the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition.  The prints picture the young Ogyū (Butsu)2 Sorai (1666–1728), who was to go on to become a great Confucian scholar and philosopher during his father's exile in a small village sixty miles from Edo.  The exile forced Sorai to study on his own and here he is seen embracing the rural life while studying and teaching a young peasant.

Sorai may be best known for his Essay on the Forty-Seven Samurai in which he both lambasted the avenging 47 samurai of Chushingura fame, calling their actions "senseless" and offered the bakufu a way out of their dilemma on how to punish the samurai - by sentencing them to the honorable punishment of seppuku.

Kiyochika contributed 20 prints to this series.  As Smith states: "Thestyle of Kiyochika’s offerings to Instructive Models of LoftyAmbition was decorous and even stiff, as befitted the didacticemphasis of the whole [series.]"3

1 Numbering of the prints was haphazard during the production of the series. Print numbers were sometimes inadvertently omitted; some prints in the series were never assigned numbers and a few of the same numbers appear on different prints. 
Butsu is a pen name.
Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 74.

Transcription of Scroll

click on scroll to enlarge

Source: with thanks to Yajifun http://yajifun.tumblr.com/
39 Butsu Sorai (Ogyū Sorai) 物徂徠(荻生徂徠)

教導立志基 三十九 物徂徠 小林清親 1886年
Transcription: [scroll text by 九々舎逸静]
“徂徠は江戸の人なり 通稱荻生惣右衛門 幼にして遠思あり 延寶中父方庵罪ありて上總に流さる 徂徠共に従ひ往き留ること十三年 更に師友なく僅に大學諺解一冊をもつて研究す 江戸に還るにおよび業殆ど大成す 後柳澤侯に仕へ禄五百石を賜る 其博識洽聞なる海内仰て鴻儒とす 九々舎逸静 識”

About The Series "Kyōdō risshi no motoi"

1. This series is variously translated as "Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition," "Foundations of Learning and Achievement," "Foundation of Instruction and Perseverance," "Self-Made Men Worthy of Emulation," "Paragons of Instruction and Success," "Moral of Success," "Examples of Self-Made Leaders," and "Instruction in the Fundamentals of Success."  The title in Japanese is sometimes seen as "Kyōdō risshiki or "Kyōdō risshi no moto," in addition to the most commonly seen transliteration of "Kyōdō risshi no motoi".
2. For a complete listing of all the prints in the series and additional information please see the article on this site titled Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition.

This series ran between October 1885 and November 1890 and featured a long list of heroes and heroines, from antiquity to contemporary times, who were regarded as standards of moral leadership and self-realization.

Source: Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 74-75; original research and as footnoted.
This series of 58 prints,1 plus a table of contents sheet (目録), were originally published between October 1885 and November 1890 by the Tokyo publisher Matsuki Heikichi 松木平吉.2  The table of contents sheet issued by the publisher states that "fifty prints make up the complete set (五十番揃)".  Three prints not in the initial release were added over the five year publication period, as were five redesigns of original prints, eventually increasing the total print count to 58.  The seven artists contributing prints were Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) [20 prints], Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) [16 prints], Inoue Tankei (Yasuji) (1864-1889) [13 prints], Taiso (Tsukioka) Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) [5 prints],  Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) [2 prints], Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900) [1 print], and Hachisuka (Utagawa) Kuniaki II (1835-1888) [1 print].  All the artists, with the exception of Yōshū Chikanobu, are listed in the top scroll of the table of contents sheet.  Various colors (including blue, blue/green, and tan/brown) were used for the decorative border, and in 1902 the series was re-issued by Matsuki without borders.  

Brief texts contained within a scroll-like cartouche appearing on each print provide historical details.  The scroll composer's name is given at the end of the scroll text.  The “lofty ambition” of the title is a Confucian concept, originally from Mencius, meaning “righteous determination that would inspire others.”  The market for the series probably included former samurai, ambitious youth, and conservative intellectuals.

"[W]hen it was completed in 1890 the publisher was singled out for special recognition by the government for having sponsored such noble subject matter."3

1 The Tokyo Metropolitan Library online collection shows 50 prints and a Table of Contents sheet.  The Table of Contents lists the titles of 50 prints.  Smith in Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan identified 52 prints.  I have identified 58 prints from this series including five prints (Ikina, Michizane SugiwaraKesa GozenSoga Brothers and Hokiichi Hanawa) that were re-designed and re-printed, likely due to damaged or lost blocks.
2 Robert Schaap notes in Appendix II, p. 166 of Yoshitoshi, Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection, Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 2011 that the series originally appeared as newspaper supplements.
3 The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, Julia Meech-Pekarik, Weatherhill, 1986, p. 122.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 #880, #1397
 Title or Description Butsu Sorai 物徂徠
 Series“Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition” (Kyodo risshiki 教導立志基) [note: seriestitle also listed as  'Kyodo Risshi no Moto', ‘Kyodo risshi no motoi’,‘Kyōdō risshi ki’ and variously translated as “Moral of success” or“Foundations of learning and achievement” or “Self-made Men Worthy ofEmulation”' or “Examples of Self-made Leaders” or "Paragons of instruction and success"] 
 Artist  Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915)

IHL Cat. #880

IHL Cat. #1397
Kiyochika 清親 with Kiyochika 清親 seal
 Seal  Kiyochika 清親 (see above)
 Publication Date 1886 明治十九年
 Publisher Matsuki Heikichi (松木平吉) proprietor of Daikokuya

IHL Cat. #880

click to enlarge

IHL Cat. #1397

(from right to left)
publishing and printing date: 御届 明治十九年 
[notification delivered, Meiji 19]
assigned number within series: 三十九 [39]
publisher information:     両国吉川町二番地 松木平吉 
[artist and publisher Ryōgoku Yoshikawachō 2-banchi Matsuki Heikichi han]

 Impression IHL Cat. #880: excellent; IHL Cat. #1397: excellent
 Colors IHL Cat. #880: excellent; IHL Cat. #1397: excellent
 Condition IHL Cat. #880: good - not backed; margins trimmed to brocade border; horizontal center fold; repair of binding holes verso
 IHL Cat. #1397: good - not backed; almost full-size sheet; soiling, primarily in brocade border; glue discoloration verso right margin
 Genre ukiyo-e; rishki-e; kyōiku nishiki-e
 Miscellaneous print number 39 (三十九); position 39 in the Table of Contents for the series
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper
 IHL Cat. #880: 13 3/4 x 9 1/4 in. (34.9 x 23.2 cm)
 IHL Cat. #1397: 14 9/16 x 9 5/16 in. (37 x 23.7 cm)
 H x W Image
 IHL Cat. #880: 13 3/4 x 9 1/4 in. (34.9 x 23.2 cm)
                      12 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. (32.1 x 21 cm) [area within brocade border]
 IHL Cat. #1397: 14 3/16 x 9 3/4 in. (36 x 24.8 cm)
                        12 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. (32.1 x 21 cm) [area within brocade border]

 Collections This Print
Tokyo Metropolitan Library 280-K003; The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 401-0558 and 201-3020