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

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Title: General Zhang Fei Guarding the Changbanqiao Bridge
Date: commissioned for New Year 1822, Year of the Horse
Medium: Color woodblock print
Dimensions: 8 3/16 x 7 1/16 inches (20.8 x 18 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Joanna Haab Schoff, Class of 1955
Object Number: 2011.017.028
Label Text: Commissioned by the Flowery Hat Circle (Hanagasa-ren) of the Drum Group (Taiko-gawa) for New Year 1822, Year of the Horse

Fuji haruru
Nihonbashi kara
Hyakuman no
Reisha hitome ni
Miyo no hatsuharu

With Mt. Fuji seen clear
From Nihonbashi Bridge
The myriad celebrants crossing
Look with a single glance
At the beginning of spring in
the realm
—Kaisensha Hayaki

Haru to iu
Mikata no kureba
Hyakuman no
Hito mo hisomaru
Uguisu no koe

Now that the ally
Called spring has come
A million people
Are silenced
By the voice of the warbler
—Yamato no Watamori

Uguisu no
Uta no tenami mo
Mizu no omo ni
Amata no kawazu
Niguru akebono
The warbler’s skill
At singing is such
That at the dawn
A multitude of frogs
Flee from the face of the water
—Kasentei Momohito

With a fierce scowl, General Zhang Fei (Cho-hi), mounted on a black charger, single-handedly defends the Changban Bridge with his enormous spear. In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sangokushi), Cho-hi was one of the three legendary heroes (along with Kan’u, see no. ) that took an oath of fraternity in a Peach Garden in the opening chapter of the narrative, devoting themselves to the restoration of order in the land. The most unruly of these sworn brothers, Cho-hi proved himself by driving off a million troops of their mortal enemy Caocao, with his stand at the Changban Bridge.

The “million” (hyakuman) described in Sangokushi figures in each of the first two poems, while the third mentions only a general “multitude” of similarly fleeing frogs. Other hints at the identity of Cho-hi include the reference to a bridge in the first poem, and the line haru to iu mikata, “an ally called spring,” but through the alternate Japanese reading of the character Zhang (haru), “an ally by the name of Zhang.” The first poem also puns, somewhat irreverently, with the phrase miyo, meaning the imperial reign, but homophonous with “look,” while also fitting in another reference to haru/Zhang. Since Fuji is here written with characters meaning “not two,” an embedded “the incomparable Zhang” (and also “incomparable spring”) could also be read into this first line. The third poem, perhaps punning on the literal reading of Zhang Fei’s name, “extended jump,” mentions frogs, who traditionally compete with the warbler in singing ability.


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.