Choshu Tousen Tsuba

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Iron mokko shape tsuba. The subject is a pair of "Tousen" or Chinese ships (see below for further description) very finely carved. This work is exceptionally well done when compared to other compositions, all of which are good and have a good atmosphere. The sittori and the polished ground iron make this carving better and the entire design has a resemblance to a picture.

Though not signed, appears to be the work of Yaji Tomoyuki (H 10229.0) (see examples below).

7.70cm x 8.20cm x 0.32cm

The subject is a pair of "Morukoshi-fune", or "Tousen", or Chinese ships. The character "tou" or "kara" is an archaism for China, so "Tousen" is Chinese ship. The term was liberally applied to all foreign ships. Under Sakoku edicts most of Japan was cut off of foreign trade. Some Nagasaki carvers, like Onitake Toshiyoshi, were also known to have worked in Hagi, Choshu. They would have seen Chinese ships tied up at the docks, and Dutch vessels riding at anchor in the harbor. One curious detail is the construction of the sails, which on Junks and Shuinsen (Red Seal ships) typically had horizontal battens, where these sails have vertical seams, like European sails. Seems likely the image was copied from a print that integrated one kind of vessel with another kind of sail.
It may not be "Nanban", but given that sword guards played a role as gifts in foreign trade, a piece such as this speaks to that narrative." (J. McElhinney)

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A Collaboration of Robert E. Haynes and Elliott D. Long

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