Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Gongsun Sheng, Single Purity (Nyūunryū Kōsonshō -入雲龍公孫勝) from the series One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Popular Shuihuzhuan All Told (Tsūzoku Suikoden gōketsu hyakuhachinin no hitori - 通俗水滸伝豪傑百八人之一個) 

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

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiebei - the top of this seal is barely visible at the bottom of the print right below the figure's left foot -(Marks 194)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: British Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Agency for Cultural Affairs; Ishibi Prefectural Museum; Tokyo National Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Yoshitoshi example from 1865;

Physical description:

Nyūunryū Kōsonshō is a Daoist priest who is extremely skilled in the magic of calling winds and rains and mists and riding in clouds (hence his name: Dragon in the clouds). Here, Kōsonshō invokes a stormy wind (and a dragon) with his short sword.

This image is number 10 in Klompmakers' book on this series.


We first encounter this character in Chapter 15 of Outlaws of the Marsh, p. 231. Gongsun appears as a Taoist priest who wants to see the ward chief. He is offered rice and/or money to go away, but doesn't want either. He just wants to speak with the ward chief, Chao Gai. A struggle ensues and Gongsun gets the better of his opponents. Finally he is taken before Chao Gai who finds him most civil and asks him to join him in having some tea. The ward chief asks him his name and where he comes from.

"My family name is Gongsun, my given name Sheng. In the Taoist order I am called Single Purity. I was born in Jizhou Prefecture. Since childhood I have loved playing with weapons, and have become quite skilled in many of them, so people call me Gentleman Gongsun Sheng. I have also studied Taoist lore. Because I can summon the wind and bring the rain, ride the mists and drive the clouds, in the fraternity of gallant men I'm nicknamed Dragon in the Clouds. I have long known of the eminent Ward Chief Chao of East Bank, Yuncheng County, but I have never had the good fortune of meeting you. In honor of making your acquaintance, and by way of introducing myself, I would like to present you with a hundred thousand strings of cash worth of gold and jewels. I wonder whether the Ward Chief would accept?"
[More of this quote is to follow from page 233.]


The Sword, the Dragon and Water

Willem van Gulik in his book Irezumi wrote extensively about this subject.

"This phenomenon of protection afforded by (seemingly) opposing elements, has meanwhile become a recurrent and familiar theme. The relation of the elements water and metal, both opposed to fire, as expressed in the trinity dragon tattoo... [This] contrast-harmony of metal and water as symbolized by sword and dragon is perhaps most distinctively expressed by the so-called kurikara-ryō symbol, represented by a dragon coiled around a swordblade. The combination is said to be connected with the legend of the stormgod Susa-no-o killing the dragon in whose tail he finds the heavenly sword which he presents to his sister, the Sun-goddess Amaterasu. An allusion to this legendary episode may well may well be represented in fig. 106, depicting the hero Ju-unryū Kōsonshō, from the famous Suikoden print series by Kuniyoshi. The kurikara-ryō is also said to be generally accepted as the symbolization of the union of the yin and yang principles. As such, it may serve as a protective and auspicious emblem, often met with as an ornamental design... The water (dragon) and metal (sword) are attracted to each other, may easily be explained in terms of their relation in the cycle of the five elements. In this cycle... metal and water stand in a position diametrically opposed to fire. Furthermore, they are closely related in that metal generates water in the mutual production order of the five elements. It is therefore quite natural that the metal-water combination may be so distinctly encountered in the kurikara-ryō representation."

The choice of bold type is our own. (JSV)