The story of the forty-seven rōnin is one of the best known stories in Japanese literature. The rōnin were former samurai of the Lord Asano Naganori. In the year 1701, Asano had been charged with the reception ceremony for the Imperial envoy, an important event. He was a soldier, and the Shogun assigned Lord Kira Yoshihisa (who had better knowledge of the ceremonial requirements) to assist Asano. Kira was apparently corrupt, and expected a bribe for his services from Asano. When Asano did not produce the bribe, Kira abandoned him without assistance. Asano completed the ceremony for the Imperial envoy, although it was not entirely in order. He later confronted Kira and in anger drew his sword. He wounded but did not kill Kira. The offense of drawing the sword was punishable by death and Asano was forced to commit seppuku.
Forty-seven of Asano's samurai, led by Captain Oishi Kuranosuke, developed a plan to avenge their late master. They blended into society and domestic lives, giving no hint that they harboured a secret plan. Oishi played a convincing drunk, and was derided by many, including former colleagues. Several other co-conspirators were able to infiltrate Kira's household. On December 14, 1702, the faithful samurai attacked Kira's compound in Edo. They were able to defeat the defenders, and found Kira cowering in a woodshed. Kira refused seppaku, and was killed. Thereafter, the samurai Terasaka Kichiemon was dispatched to carry news of the successful attack. The remaining 46 rōnin presented themselves to the Shogun. The rōnin had defied a shogunate order prohibiting revenge, but had also exemplified the precepts of bushido. The Shogun allowed the rōnin to commit seppaku, rather than having them executed. The 46 rōnin committed suicide on February 4, 1703. Terasaka Kichiemon, the 47th rōnin, returned the following day but was pardoned. He was the only member to survive and died at the age of 78.
You may be interested to read the account in " Tales of Old Japan ".
This story has spawed many accounts, or Chushingura, and many kabuki plays, the most popular being 'Kanadehon Chushingura.' Many ukiyo-e artists, including Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi, have created many works that deal with this popular subject.
Roger. S. Keyes, "Courage and Silence: A Study of the Life and Color Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1839-1892", Cinncinnati, 1982
where it appears as series #21.
This page (and list) is not necessarily complete; the series is not well documented, and there may be yet other prints which have not yet come to our attention. If you know of any prints from this series which aren't listed here, or have either i) information about any errors on the page, ii) better images than the ones below, or iii) missing information about individual prints (e.g. publisher, exact date) please let us know.
If we have a higher-quality image, that image can be viewed by clicking on the "Large Image" link, which gives the size of the image (for the benefit of those on slow links). Sometimes there is more than one, if our best-quality image has issues (e.g. trimmed margins).
|Large image||Number||Date||Title (Kanji)||Title (Rōmaji)||Title (English)||Description|
|#1, #2||1860||Kanadehon chūshingura|
|#3, #4||1860||Kanadehon chūshingura|
|#5, #6||1860||Kanadehon chūshingura|
|#7, #8||1860||Kanadehon chūshingura|
|#9, #10||1860||Kanadehon chūshingura|
|#11, #12||1860||Kanadehon chūshingura|
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Last updated: 20/July/2009