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Pines and Waves at the Dragon Cavern (1832)

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About the Art

We look out over a panoramic, bird's eye view of part of the Okinawan island peninsula, with pines and small houses covered in snow. Two small fishing boats sit in the open water.

Hokusai produced this unusual print as part of a lesser-known series, which dealt with the rarely depicted Ryukyuan islands (now known as Okinawa prefecture). Around this time (1832), a delegation from Ryukyu was visiting the Shogun in Edo, and the exotic, foreign procession sparked public interest in the distant island people, living out on far frontier of the Japanese peninsula. Hokusai capitalized with a series of 8 prints, of which this is a part.

The Ryukyuans were considered semi-foreign, distant and exotic, yet still vaguely Japanese. Hokusai made the sketches second-hand, from a Chinese source, and the scene captures the (mis)conceptions of the distant islands amongst people of Edo at the time. Hokusai depicts a distant, mysterious, snow-covered landscape, which given the year-round tropical weather, is likely to have never occurred.

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