Sino-Japanese War 1894-95: Events leading to the outbreak of war
 
 
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Before the declaration of war the Chinese moved troops to Korea. On 25 July, 1895 the Gaosheng (a Chinese troopship), accompanied by two Chinese warships, was intercepted by Japanese ships. The Japanese commander sent a boat to the enemy ship to see its log and then ordered it to follow him to port. When the Chinese did not live up to the agreement, the Japanese captain opened fire, sinking the Gaosheng and inflicting severe damage on its escorts. The account in the inscription says only that they sank a ship the Chinese soldiers were on, captured a battleship, and let the two escort ships escape. It gives no hint of why this incident became a cause célébre. The Gaosheng was flying a white flag when it was fired upon.
Chikanobu puts the viewer right into the centre of the battle on a ship rising and falling on the waves. Gunsmoke fills the air as the Gaosheng sinks below the sea. From the 1991 Worcester Art Museum publication “In Battles Light”, Catalogue number 2. p.27.

Although the war between Japan and China was officially declared on 1 August, 1894, it started earlier with the seizing  of the Korean royal palace on 23 July and an attack on a Chinese troop ship on 25 July. This print depicts the naval attack. The inscription in the cartouche states: “On 25 July last, in a naval battle off the coast of Nanyō Bay of Korea, we sank one cargo vessel loaded with Chinese troops, captured one war ship, and let two escort ships escape.” From the 2001 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts publication “Japan at the Dawn of the Modern Age”, Catalogue number 25, p.70.

Dramatic scene of the Japanese Imperial Navy winning a naval battle against the Chinese during the Sino-Japanese war. At lower left, a red Chinese ship tilts as it begins to sink beneath the waves at a precarious angle, throwing sailors to the deck. Just beyond it, another Chinese vessel goes down as terrified sailors shout and wave their arms. Smoke billows from the stack of the sinking ship. At upper right, a Japanese warship continues to fire its guns, while at lower left, sailors row a smaller boat towards the enemy, an officer standing in the bow with his sword raised high. A dynamic composition with atmospheric clouds of smoke billowing across the night sky and white-capped waves splashing against the ships.

Collections: Philadelphia Museum of Art

References:  Illustrated in the 1991 Worcester Art Museum publication “In Battles Light”, Catalogue number 2. p.27.
Illustrated in the 2001 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts publication “Japan at the Dawn of the Modern Age”, Catalogue number 25, p.70.

 

 
     
 
 
 
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