Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Xuan Zan, the Ugly Son-in-Law (Shūgunba Sensan - 醜郡馬宣贊) from the series One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Popular Shuihuzhuan (Tsūzoku Suikoden gōketsu hyakuhachinin no hitori - 通俗水滸傳濠傑百八人一個)

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Dates: 1827 - 1830,created
Dimensions: 9.75 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiemon
(Marks 195 - seal 22-025)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: British Museum; Tokyo National Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - print of Guan Sheng mentioned in the text below;

Physical description:

The Ugly Son-in-Law is first mentioned on pages 1029-30 in Chapter 63 of the story of the marsh bandits.

"We need a plan, and a first-rate general, to drive off the marauding bandits and preserve the city,"...

The assembled officers looked at one another with frightened expressions. From behind the infantry marshal a man stepped forward. A commander of the palace guards, his name was Xuan Zan. His face was as black as the bottom of [a] pot, his nostrils were aimed at he sky, he had curly hair and a reddish beard. A massive fellow, he wielded a steel blade. His skill with weapons was out of the ordinary. Formerly married to the daughter of a prince, he had been known as the Ugly Son-in-Law. The prince, impressed by his winning several archery matches in a row, had given him his daughter in marriage. But Xuan Zan's ugliness had so revolted the girl that she died.

As a result he was held in low esteem and never rose above his rank of guards' commander. Tong Guan, a wily sycophant and courier, considered himself infinitely superior, and treated him with contempt.

But at this moment Xuan Zan felt he had to speak, and he addressed the premier.

"I became friends with a man when I was in the rural areas. His is a direct descendant of Guan Yu, famed general at the end of the Han Dynasty, when the country split into three. His name is Guan Sheng, and he bears a striking resemblance to his noble ancestor. His weapon is a crescent-shaped halberd, and so people call him Guan Sheng the Big Halberd. He is now a lowly patrol officer in Pudong, but he's studied books of military lore since childhood, is thoroughly versed in weaponry, and is a man of matchless valor. If he is presented with money and raised to senior officer rank, he can expunge the water-girt fortress and destroy the wild rebels. This man is essential to the preservation of our country and peace in our land. He awaits only your command."


Shūgunba Sensan, #44 in Klompmakers' book, is armored, but bare-headed in the snow, carrying a pole with a large, barbed ring at the end of it.

Sensan, like many of the figures in the Suikoden, starts out as an imperial commander sent against the gang of bandits. However, he is defeated by a female warrior and he then changes sides.

In a plot to rescue two captured members of the gang Sensan takes part in an attack on Beijing during the Festival of the Lanterns. In this print Sensan is shown standing in wait in the snow outside the city waiting to capture or destroy fleeing enemies.

If you look closely you will see three propitious symbols in the panel decorating the bottom of Sensan's protective armor: a blue bat, a kylin (麒麟) and a ju-i (如意) fungus which appears to be walking.