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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Floats for the Sanno Festival
Date: commissioned for New Year 1824, Year of the Monkey
Medium: Color woodblock print
Dimensions: 7 15/16 x 7 5/16 inches (20.1 x 18.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Joanna Haab Schoff, Class of 1955
Object Number: 2011.017.020
Label Text: Sarutori no With the monkey and the rooster
Anai ni haru wa Guiding, spring arrives
Tajikarao Tajikarao
Ama no iwado wo Auspiciously opening
Akete medetaki Heaven’s boulder door
—Shinyo ̄tei Zenko ̄

Yo mo sude ni The night has already broken
Ake nanatsume no In the seventh
Tora no tsuki Tiger moon
Senri Do ̄fu ̄ For a thousand miles unbroken
Odayakana haru The calm breezes of spring
—Hyakujusai Hiromaru

This series of small festival floats, with its procession of zodiac animals, suggests movement through time, while the inscription on the far left confirms that the year is the “Spring of the Monkey” (1824), the seventh of the Bunsei Era, which opened with a Year of the Tiger in 1818. This succession of floats is typical of the Sanno ̄and Kanda festivals, which took place in alternating years in the middle of the sixth month. The tiger has here taken the place of the usual pair of karashishi (Chinese lion dogs) that led the parade, followed by the standard cock and monkey (referred to together as sarutori). As the Kanda festival used a pure white rooster, the Sanno ̄ a speckled bird, the festival depicted here must be the latter. The appearance of a rooster on a signal drum in this manner was a symbol of extended peace, as emphasized in the second poem. The signal drum in traditional China was used only to summon troops in times of calamity, so if birds roosted in them, they were clearly not in use, meaning all was well in the realm.

The first poem suggests that the monkey and rooster assisted in the mythical scene of Amaterasu’s emergence from her cave of seclusion, making a pivot with haru wa tachi (“spring stands”) and Tajikarao, the physically powerful god who opened the boulder door and pulled her out. The float of the monkey, which takes the position of honor here, depicts this animal in human dress, wearing a courtier’s hat and robes and holding votive papers on a stick (gohei) as he stands among a bed of bamboo. The second poem continues the daybreak metaphor, describing the moon of the tiger hour (4 to 6 a.m.), the last before the dawn.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.