Sino-Japanese War 1894-95: Capture of Wei hai wei, 18 January - 12 February 1895
 
 
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 Interesting depiction of the peace negotiations between the Chinese and the Japanese to end the Sino-Japanese War. Representatives from the Qing Empire meeting are shown at right, wearing colourful tunics over brocade pants, and hats trailing peacock feathers. A Japanese dignitary stands across from him, resplendent in his highly decorated military uniform. On either side of the cloth-covered table, scribes for each party record the proceedings. An interesting historic subject, with a handsome setting and vibrant colour.                

The war with China was not a protracted one, and formal peace negotiations began on March 20, 1895, less than eight months after the first hostilities. As military activity abroad slowed down, print artists turned their attention to the peacemaking process and to the victorious homecoming celebrations.     By 1895, the depiction of state ceremonies, particularly those involving the emperor, had become one of the staples of Meiji woodblock prints, but Kiyochika had remained almost entirely aloof to the genre. Presumably he was under great pressure from his publishers in the spring of 1895 to illustrate the ceremonies that brought the war to a close, but he did so with evident lack of enthusiasm: these are among the least inspired of all his prints, the figures stiff and wooden.

The peace negotiations held in Shimonoseki were illustrated in triptychs by virtually every artist who did war prints; Kiyochika himself did two versions of which Meeting for Peace Negotiations is the better. As in all such prints, the Chinese and Japanese are separated by the negotiating table in the Shunpanrō Restaurant where they met. Standing on the Chinese side to the right is Li-Hung-chang, Chief Plenipotentiary for the negotiations. On the Japanese side, Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi is seated between his assistants. Foreign Minister Mutsu Munemitsu to the right and Chief Cabinet Secretary Itō Miyoji behind him to the left.

Anti-Chinese sentiment is predictably less evident in negotiation prints than in battle scenes, but the sense of opposition remains strong in this highly formalised tableau. In addition to the reversal of seating and standing postures is the obvious distinction of costume, with the Japanese in Western military uniform and the Chinese in traditional court dress. The background paintings as well serve to demarcate the two spheres, with a gilt screen of Mt. Fuji behind the Japanese and a monochrome landscape scroll behind the Chinese. Both paintings are of course Japanese, but they reveal the way in which the Japanese had managed to define separate “Japanese” and “Chinese” spheres of culture.
The treaty was finally signed on April 17, following a delay when Li Hung-chang was attacked and wounded by a Japanese right-wing fanatic. It was not until six weeks later that the major victory celebration took place, with the emperor returning to Tokyo from Hiroshima, where he had stayed for the duration of the war. His arrival was announced for 2p.m. on Thursday May 30, and elaborate preparations were made for the event, including the building of three immense triumphal arches. Excerp from the 1988 Santa Barbara Museum of Art publication “KIYOCHIKA Artist of Meiji Japan” by Henry D. Smith II, Catalogue number 99. pp.90 and 91.

Collections: Donald Keene Collection, New York Public Library           
Leserman-Adler Collection

References:   Illustrated in the 1988 Santa Barbara Museum of Art publication “KIYOCHIKA Artist of Meiji Japan” by Henry D. Smith II, Catalogue number 99. pp.90and 91.
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