Confucian ethical codes, humanistic in nature, may be practiced by all the members of society. These ethics are characterized by the promotion of virtues, represented by the Five Constants (Ch., Wǔcháng 五常). The Five Confucian Constants or Virtues (Jingireichishin: 仁義礼智信) are:
- Humanity or benevolence (jin: 仁)
- Righteousness or justice (gi: 義 also found as 儀 on a few ukiyo-e prints)
- Decorum, etiquette, or propriety (rei: 礼)
- Wisdom or knowledge (chi: 知 or 智)
- Faithfulness, fidelity, or loyalty (shin: 信)
The plot of the play Keisei kuruwa no kadomatsu is unfamiliar to us. Other actors and roles from the same staging in 1/1859 included: Act II, Arashi Rikan III (嵐璃寛) as Kunitsura (国つら) and and Arashi Rikaku II (嵐璃珏) as Tamon no Kami (多門の頭); Act III, Nakamura Jakuemon I (中村雀右衛門) as Dokurô (洞九郎), Arashi Rikan III (嵐璃寛) as Nozarashi Gosuke (野さらし悟助), and Ichikawa Fudenosuke I (市川筆之助) as Katsuragi (かつらき); Act V, Nakamura Tamashichi I (中村玉七) as Yashima Taitô (矢島帯刀) and Ichikawa Sarunosuke (市川猿之助), a child actor and son (segare 倅) of Ichikawa Ebijûrô (市川鰕十郎) as Hanagatamaru (華形丸).
Print titles such as those used for the set of five Confucian virtues became popular after the Tenpô Reforms (Tenpô kaikaku: 天保改革). These edicts banned actor prints in Osaka, virtually halting print production in Kamigata for four and a half years (7/1842 - 1/1847). The use of rather transparent didactic or moralizing titles was intended to endow a print with a loftier purpose than mere portrayals of "low-class" kabuki actors. Another bit of camouflage was the omission of actor names, although even after actor names reappeared on prints in the late 1850s, as with our Kunikazu print, titles with righteous connotations remained popular.
The entire set by Kunikazu is known, as follows:
- Jin (仁), Arashi Rikaku II (嵐璃珏) as the ascetic (Shugyôja) Kaishi (修行者快子)
- Gi (義), Arashi Rikan III (嵐璃寛) as Nozarashi Gosuke (野晒五助)
- Rei (礼), Nakamura Kanjaku II (中村翫雀) as Mishima Kurando (三嶋蔵人)
- Chi (知), Onoe Tamizô II (尾上多見蔵) as [Soma no 杣ノ] Yokizô (よき蔵)
- Shin (信), Nakamura Tamashichi I (中むら玉七) as Yashima Taitô (矢島帯刀)
Kunikazu's design features a deluxe application of gold-color brass and the finest pigments. As such, it is an excellent example of late Tokugawa-period chûban design. Note, for instance, how the bulky actor Onoe Tamizô II (he put on weight increasingly as his career progressed) fills the picture frame and the unusual cloud form along the right side and corners of the composition. In this scene, Tamizô II holds long bamboo cooking chopsticks (saibashi: 菜箸).
References: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Acc. No. 11.43794; IKBYS-IV, no. 586 (another in the set)