The 47 Ronin for 47 Years

Ronin Gallery is excited to celebrate our 47th anniversary with the story of the 47 Ronin. This exhibition brings this classic tale of loyalty and revenge to life through the woodblock prints of ukiyo-e masters such as Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, and Utamaro, as well as the contemporary paintings of OZ Keisuke Yamaguchi. In addition, The 47 Ronin for 47 Years features two complete albums by Kuniyoshi–Biographies of the Loyal Retainers (c.1847) and Mirror of the True Loyalty of Each of the Faithful Retainers (c.1857).

 

The tale of the 47 Ronin stems from the historical event known as the Ako Incident (1701-1703). The play Kanadehon Chushingura (1748) propelled this historical tale and its 47 heroes to popularity, inspiring audiences of the time, ukiyo-e artists of the 19th century, as well as contemporary artists today.Versions of the story vary, but the historical tale goes as follows:

 

While in the service of the shogun, Kira Yoshinaka, a powerful government official, offends the young provincial lord Asano Naganori. Asano draws his sword, striking Kira. Though Kira’s injury is minor, Asano’s acts–both drawing a sword in the shogun’s palace and striking a member of the government–are fatal crimes. Asano is sentenced to seppuku (self-disembowelment). His principal retainer and 46 of his other now masterless retainers, or ronin, vow to avenge this injustice. After more than a year of careful planning, these ronin stage a night attack on Kira’s mansion. Victorious, they march through Edo and present Kira’s head to their avenged master’s grave. With their loyal quest at an end, they turn themselves in. They are sentenced to seppuku, yet their act of revenge so embodies the samurai code of bushido–loyalty and honor–that the ronin are enshrined at Sengaku-ji Temple beside their beloved master. Their grave continues to be visited and revered to this day.