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Yodogawa no zu


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Dear all


I have recently recived this tsuba and interest in your opinion on it, and I would like to have your opinion about it.


It was sold as Heianjo Zogan with a Yodo river (Yodogawa no zu - 淀川之図) motif.

It has brass suemon zogan for sure but I am a little dubious about this attribution since I have never seen such design attributed to Heianjo Zogan. 

It is a big tsuba dimensions: 102.3 mm x 102.5 mm, thickness 4 mm.




While the Yodo river motif is clear but I am in the dark about the meaning of the sukashi.


It comes with an hako gaki and in the auction was mentioned Kanzan (寒山) so I thought about Kanzan Sato. From a quick search on google for sure it look like a Kanzan hako gaki.

The hako gaki is too difficult to read for me. I could decipher simple Japanese scripts, as long as I can count the strokes but this is way too difficult for me.




Any help or comment from you is welcome.


I have created a post for help on the hako gaki in the translations section:




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Hey Brian at al,


As someone that occasionally looks for those all inspiring insects,aka the preying mantis, I usually will take a look at a piece if i see a wagon wheel (perhaps one of the biggest understatements I have ever typed) . However, the wagon wheel plays in other non mantis themes. Carriages are part of other lores. In this particular case, I don't see anything resembling a mantis. If those were mantis arms, claws would be at the ends. The head shape is wrong. Just about always there is a form of a triangle or something that comes close to that base shape. Wider at the top- coming to a smaller width if not a point at least a less wide flatter section. if the top of the head didn't exist, maybe but then there are no antenna. There is no neck which would be an important physical component before the body. If the body, there would be more legs. Now the famous legend of the mantis and the chariot has the chariot/cart carrying a king who decried if he had an army of these fearless creatures he would rule the world. I could get behind the king being depicted, although I don't see enough going on to describe this fable in the rest of the piece.

There is the Buddhist dharma wheel which would make sense but I'm not sure this wheel looks like them.

In conclusion, even for a guy that no matter what he sees becomes a mantid to me (play on tootsie roll). I just don't see it here.

All the best,

Ken aka "the mantis dude"

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I actually don't get the reference to Yodogawa, so if anybody can close that loop it would be appreciated. I looked around for "Yodogawa" references in other tsuba, but couldn't find them. I did find out where the "wagon wheels in water" theme comes from. Its apparently an auspicious reference to long life or rebirth, as wagon wheels were immersed in water to keep them from drying out, warping, and to prolong their life. Its found on other items too, lacquer-ware, ceramics, etc. But none of those references mention "Yodogawa" (Yodo river), which is a river in Osaka. The one site that mentions a river, says that wagon wheels were put in the Kamo river in Kyoto. I half-wonder if there is a regional bias here, with Kyoto-based people identifying this with Kamo river in Kyoto, and Osaka people identifying it with Yodo river. 








(hako-gaki translation on the other thread)

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By an odd coincidence I was admiring a similar tsuba in a sale catalogue this morning (Carlo Monzino Collection, Sotherby’s 18 June 1966, lot 34).  It was described as Ko-Shoami, Momoyama Period, in Heianjo style.  8.2 cm.  Ex WW Winkworth collection.

It did not have the ‘guy swimming’, which I wonder if it is a stylised dragonfly (normally two pairs of wings), but at least it is associated with water.

Best regards, John



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This National Treasure tebako is documented as having been once numbered among the treasures of the Horyuji temple, and has an early dedication to the temple inscribed on its base.


As detailed by Komatsu Taishu in National Treasures of Japan (Tokyo National Museum, 1990, no. 190)  the design reflects the Heian period custom of periodically immersing wooden ox-drawn cartwheels in a stream to prevent them from drying out and cracking.


The same theme is found in the Heian period Sanjurokunin Kashu [Collection of the Thirty-Six Poets], the Ogimen Hoke-Kyo Sasshi [Fan Papers of the Lotus Sutra] in the Shitenno-ji collection, and other illustrated material of the Heian period.

The Lotus Sutra had many devotees among the Heian nobility who would have used oxcarts as a means of personal transport, and that the wheels were seen as allusive of the floating lotus blossoms which give the sutra its name. This suggestion is given further weight by a phrase in the Butsu Amida Kyo sutra that ‘There are large lotuses like cartwheels in the Pure Land’.


Edit to add: It's perhaps telling that the example John posted features Amida yasuri-me, radiating file marks representing the halo of the Buddha.

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