An image of Jade Rabbit - Sun Wukong


(Japan 1839 – 1892)

Jade Rabbit - Sun Wukong, from the series One hundred aspects of the moon

Not on display
Further information

The immortal monkey Sun Wukong, known as Songokū in Japanese, means ‘enlightened emptiness’. Songokū accompanied the priest Tripitaka on a journey from China to India in the seventh century to collect scriptures, and became popular through the Chinese novel "Journey to the West". He gained immortality by breaking into the heavenly garden and consuming the peaches of longevity. Here his companion is the Rabbit in the Moon, also known as the Jade Rabbit, often associated with mixing the drugs for the elixir of life. Songokū fearlessly holds a magic staff, his favourite weapon used to strike demons.

Yoshitoshi’s career straddled two eras – the last years of the Edo period and the first few decades of modern Japan following the Meiji Restoration in 1867. Initially enthusiastic and opened to Western influxes, he became increasingly sceptical about the loss of numerous aspects of traditional Japanese art and culture due to rapid industrialisation and Westernisation. In a time when modern reproductive technologies such as photography and lithography were introduced to Japan and enjoyed high popularity, Yoshitoshi concentrated his efforts in introducing new themes and techniques to the stagnant art of ukiyo-e colour woodblock prints, taking it thus to a new height, before it definitely declined after his death. His highly imaginative, often flamboyant and even disturbing depictions of historical events, warriors, beautiful women and the supernatural has led him to be recognised as the last great master of traditional Japanese woodblock print.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2012.

Place of origin
Japan: Meiji period 1868–1912
Nov 1889
colour woodblock; ôban
39.0 x 26.0 cm
Signature & date

Signed and dated.

Yasuko Myer Bequest Fund 2012
Accession number