Hilarious taxonomy of Japanese facial expressions from the 19th century
09:50 am
Hilarious taxonomy of Japanese facial expressions from the 19th century

Telescope / Falling on one’s backside / Cleaning the ears / Burning moxa treatment
Kobayashi Kiyochika was an artistic master of the Meiji era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912. In his book The Floating World: The Japanese Print, legendary expert on Japanese art Richard Lane called Kiyochika “the last important ukiyo-e master and the first noteworthy print artist of modern Japan.”

Kiyochika‘s work ranged widely, but one of his best-known works was an 1882 book called Thirty Two Faces, which was so popular that he extended the exercise a year later with The Hundred Faces. Each plate had four faces on it, and all of the faces come with Japanese labels explaining what the face is supposed to represent.

Kobayashi Kiyochika
If you scour the Internet, there are plenty of Kiyochika’s faces around, but accurate English labeling is not always available. In the plate below, accurate captions are available: the faces represent, from top left, “Secret Jealousy of the Wife of a Nobleman,” “Piety of a Filial Daughter,” “A Mistress’s Apparent Jealousy,” and “A Geisha Behind the Scenes.”

In this regard, the British Museum is a godsend—they have several high-quality reproductions of Kiyochika’s faces and they always supply translated captions. I’ll supply labels where I have them—I think the most common pattern is to start on the upper left and move clockwise, but you can make your own judgments as to what belongs where.

Ballad singing / The furtive nibbler / Drinking sake / An unexpected encounter

Having a good time / Crocodile tears / Jealousy / The rich man

Eavesdropping / Heavy! / In the dark / Ooh, itchy!

His kite has blown away / The writer talks to himself / Fisherman / Eagle eyes

Toothache / Teeth-cleaning / Puffing onto a cloth / Choked in the chest

Bothersome widow / Angry / Ballad singer / Sputtering charcoal

Putting on airs / Moustache twirler / Spectator at wrestling / Pretending not to look

Mustache shaving / Opposite mirrors / Laughing child / Crying child




Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Hilariously crude Japanese ‘fart battle scrolls’ from the Edo period

Posted by Martin Schneider
09:50 am



comments powered by Disqus