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Maker(s):Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III); Ebiya Rinnosuke, publisher
Culture:Japanese (1786–1864); Japanese (ca. 1832–1895)
Title:Catching a Catfish with a Gourd ('Hyotan namazu'), from the series "Dances Based on Famous Paintings" ('Meiga no uchi shosagoto')
Date Made:1857
Materials:polychrome woodblock print
Place Made:Edo
Measurements:Sheet: 14 3/8 in x 10 in; 36.5 cm x 25.4 cm
Accession Number:  AC 1996.133
Credit Line:Gift of William Green
Museum Collection:  Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

ōban tate-e; namazu-e; nishiki-e

Label Text:
The monkey, catfish, and gourd combination is based on a famous Zen kōan, a kind of rhetorical question or parable that students of Zen Buddhism contemplate, under the guidance of a master, in order to reach intuitive insights: “How can one catch a catfish with a gourd?” To a Zen follower, the gourd represents the state of enlightenment, which is empty of all worldly concern. Thus, trapping a catfish, a metaphor for gaining any material benefit from the attainment of wisdom, is self-contradictory. Notice the dramatic and humorous elements that Kunisada employs, such as the playful, almost-human face of the monkey, and the catfish, who seems to smile, as if aware he will never fit inside the small gourd.
- BB, ed., 2015

fish; monkeys; animals; movement

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