Okada Gyokuzan, Morokoshi meishō zue, 1806

Okada Gyokuzan, Morokoshi meishō zue (唐土 名勝 圖會) (Illustrated Famous Places of China), 1806

Cover of volume I, bounded inside of modern binding along with the other volumes

Five of six volumes bound into a single book

Sample entry and illustration

Depiction of Chinese court life

Detailed map of the inner walled city in Beijing

Detailed map of Chinese palace complex

Author: Okada Gyokuzan (岡田 玉山, Japanese 1737-1812)
Title: Morokoshi meishō zue (Illustrated Famous Places of China)
Date: 1806

Medium: Woodblock printed book, ink on paper

Publisher: Kyōto: Hayashi Ihē … [and 11 others]; Ōsaka: Kawachiya Kichibē

Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts – Rare Book Collection (University of Pennsylvania)

Call Number: DS708.O433 

Six volumes (out of a planned 36) depict Qing Dynasty-era China and selected places of interest. These volumes are part of a genre of books called meishō zue, which were popular multi-volume geographic encyclopedias published in eighteenth and nineteenth century Tokugawa and Edo Japan. This particular edition of Morokoshi meishō zue has five of six volumes bounded together in modern library binding and is missing the second volume. The volumes feature areas around the Qing capital of Beijing, including both depictions of court life as well as natural scenery such as famous lakes, mountains, and landmarks such as the Great Wall. The volumes have many double-page woodcut illustrations. There are also bona fide ground-view maps in these volumes, which are rare in the meishō zue category. The maps were likely made to appeal to a readership that was mostly unfamiliar with Chinese geography.  Okada Gyokuzan intended to create a long series of books covering China, but was unable to complete further volumes prior to his death.

Okada Gyokuzan, the pupil of Tsukioka Settei, was a painter and draughtsman from Osaka who was a popular illustrator of picture books. He was versed in genre painting, landscapes, and birds and flora. A prolific illustrator, he created illustrations for popular works such as the revised Ehon Taikōki, a popular book on Toyotomi Hideyoshi that came out in Osaka in 1797. In addition to picture books, he also illustrated maps, one-off prints, and other media. He mainly worked around Osaka and Kyoto.

Available at: Library of Congress, British Library, Smithsonian Collection,  University of British Columbia Library, National Diet Library (Japan), Waseda University Library (Japan), etc.

Selected readings:
Goree, Robert, Jr. “Fantasies of the Real: Meisho zue in early modern Japan.” Yale University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2010.

Goree, Robert, Jr. “Meisho zue and the Mapping of Prosperity in Late Tokugawa Japan.” Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture, no. 23 (2017).

Posted by Kevin Vichyastit
April 10, 2018