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Artist: Ippitsusai Bunchō 一筆斎文調

Print: Segawa Kikunojo II in the Stone Wall (Shakkyō 石橋) lion dance.

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Dates: circa 1770,created
Dimensions: 5.8 in,12.2 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription: Signature: Ippitsusai Bunchō ga 一筆斎文調画

Related links: Ritsumeikan; Harvard Art Museum;

Physical description:

The actor performs a lion dance with bells jingling on lion hand puppets, the lions in a bed of peonies chase butterflies (which wiggle on (invisible) wires attached to the dancer's robes).

Shakkyô 石橋 (lit. "stone bridge") is a fifth-category (kiri-nô) Noh play featuring a lion dance (shishimai). Numerous other plays, in kabuki and other forms, take after this play, and are known as belonging to the sub-genre, or category, of Shakkyō-mono ("Shakkyô pieces"). Most often, today, only the second half of the play, that is, the lion dance itself, is performed.

Plot Synopsis

A monk by the name of Jakushô (also known as Ôe no Sadamoto) comes upon a stone bridge at Mt. Shôryôzen (in modern-day Shanxi province) during his travels in China. He meets a small boy, who says that the land on the other side is the Buddhist Pure Land belonging to the bodhisattva Monju (Skt: Manjusri), but that only those who have spent many years in ascetic training in preparation for crossing the bridge have been able to do so safely.

One or two lions (depending on the performance)[1] appear and come across the bridge to where Jakushô is, dancing and playing among peony flowers. When their dance is finished, they cross the bridge again, and return to the Pure Land.

Performance

Shakkyô is a fifth-category play, meaning it is best performed as the closing act of a longer performance. Short, energetic, and auspicious, it corresponds to the kyû of the jo-ha-kyû pacing of a Noh program, when preceded by other plays.

Because of the special skills associated with performing the lion dance, Shakkyô is considered a hiraki-mono, the first piece performed by an actor after achieving a particular rank or level of experience, and emblematic of his talent and skill.

While in most schools, the young boy and the lion are both played by a shite actor, in the Hôshô school, the boy is played by a tsure actor, and the shite only appears in the second half. The Hôshô school also omits the kyôgen interlude.

- from The Samurai Archives