Hokusai and His Circle: The Literary Network
Chinese Boys Watching Tigers Cross a River
Color woodcut, surimono
18.5 x 14 cm
This design of boys watching tigers on a spring day is one of just over a hundred surimono signed, “Hokusai, the man mad about drawing”; the artist created more than a thousand surimono in the course of his long life. The poem, a New Year’s greeting for the year of the tiger, compresses allusions to the Japanese sayings, “the same winds blow across a thousand miles” (senri dōfū) and “the same wind brings blessings to all” (dōfū onkoto), both auspicious references. The phrase “a thousand miles” (senri) also calls to mind the expression, “a tiger journeys a thousand leagues, and returns a thousand leagues,” used to describe a strong-willed person who finishes what he or she starts—just like Hokusai’s efficient mother tiger ferrying her cubs across the river.
Photo: Courtesy of lender