Hokusai Manga 北斎漫画, Volume 5, 1875
Transmitting the Spirit, Revealing the Form of Things
Hokusai Sketchbooks, Volume 5
Denshin Kaishu 伝神開手: Hokusai Manga
Hokusai Manga (Manga means “random drawings”), Volume 5, Denshin Kaishu features 56 pages of encyclopedic sketches by Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎 (1760-1849), the master of masters in ukiyo-e 浮世絵. The sketches include samurai warriors, gods and demons, the Fujiyama, sea surf, palaces and temples and pavilions, as well as Buddhist architectural details (roof constructions, archways, tiled roofs, and Buddhist bells or Bonshōs 梵鐘). The first edition was published in 1816, and this impression was published in 1875 (Meiji 8).
Hokusai was a member of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism 日蓮仏教, and for Nichiren followers, the North Star is associated with the deity Myōken 妙見菩薩; Hokusai means “North Studio” 北斎, which is an abbreviation of Hokushinsai 北辰際. The North Star became the unmoving spiritual center for Hokusai, and Mount Fuji, his muse.
Hokusai truly internalized Buddhism, not as a set of beliefs, but as a realization of his life and his art. He saw the animals and plants he painted not as external objects, but as embodiments of spirits: he animated them by “becoming” them through his brush strokes. Note that these sketches are not plain transcriptions nor imitations of external objects, but are inner manifestations of the spirits of things, be they tiles, plants, or men. Hokusai imbued into his drawings a vital consciousness, searching to engage with the viewers, like the meetings of souls.
Once Hokusai reached the age of 60, completing his first zodiac cycle, he called himself “The Old Man Mad about Art” (or Gakyo rojin manji). After spending a life “mad about drawing”, he explained further, with a high expectation of an artist always seeking to perfect his art, not just technically, but also spiritually, “When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At one hundred, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create — a dot, a line — will jump to life as never before.”
Hokusai, who was born in the Year of the Dragon, lived to 90, and in one of his last paintings he transformed himself into a dragon flying out of Mount Fuji—enigmatically white as an unpainted sheet, an enigmatic legacy left for others to interpret—and disappearing into the sky.
This manga contains 56 pages of original woodblock print illustrations; 60 pages in total. There are a few wormholes, light stains on some pages, and minor wear of the exterior due to the fragility of the thin rice paper and age; otherwise, the condition is good, no loose pages, and Hokusai’s drawings are without blemish.
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