Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Chūjō-hime (中将姫) from the series Mirror of Women of Wisdom and Courage
(Kenyū fujo kagami - 賢勇婦女鏡)

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Dates: 1843 - 1844,created
Dimensions: 10.0 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Chōōrō Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri in red
Publisher: Takahashiya Takakichi
(Marks 512 - seal 01-127)
Censor: Tanaka
Text by: Ryūkatei Tanekazu (柳下亭種員)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; British Museum - Chūjō-hime in a mitate of the 24 Paragons of Filial Piety by Kuniyoshi;

Physical description:

Chūjō-hime was said to have woven the Taima Mandala (当麻曼荼羅) from lotus threads in one night. It is one of the greatest treasures of the the Tokuyuji.


Chūjō-hime (Princess Chūjō: 753?–781?) was by most accounts a daughter of the court noble Fujiwara no Toyonari who escaped persecution at the hands of her stepmother by becoming a nun at the Taima-dera in Nara. There she took on the name Zenshin-ni or the Dharma name Honyo (法如). She has become a folk heroine, the subject of numerous Japanese folktales which celebrate her filial piety. She is sometimes called the Japanese Cinderella. [Most of this information is taken directly from Wikipedia.]

In this print, according to Robinson (The Warrior Prints S29.2 page 119), Chūjō-hime is shown holding a string game or puzzle which, to me, looks awfully like a lotus root with lotus threads connecting them -- she is said to have dyed and woven the lotus thread into the Taima Mandala, a mandala depicting the cosmography of the Pure Land. It is said that she managed this miracle in a single night. Some versions of the story say that she was aided in the task by an apparition of Amida Butsu in response to her prayers.


Illustrated in color in Samurai Stars of the Stage and Beautiful Women: Kunisada and Kuniyoshi, Masters of the Color Woodblock Print by Hatje Cantz, Museum Kunstpalast, p. 214, #199.

The puzzle may be solved. Cantz says:

"Chūjō-hime, the daughter of the courtier Fujiwara Toyonari (704-765), produces threads from lotus roots so as to weave a Buddhist mandala wall hanging. She plans to escape her malicious stepmother, which is why she sought refuge in Taimadera Temple as a nun by the name of Zen-shin. Chūjō-hime's mandala has been preserved in numerous later replicas, and she is revered as the patroness of female weavers."