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From The Wall Street Journal

How Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ Went Viral

“The Great Wave,” Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print from the early 1830s, may be the most famous artwork in Japanese history, and its popularity isn’t cresting anytime soon.

The image of a wave towering over Mount Fuji is the subject of a new book and recent exhibits in Paris and Berlin. It is on view in a show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and another major display is expected at the British Museum in 2017. Starting April 5, the piece takes a starring role in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s largest ever exhibition of Japanese prints.

The artwork exists in that rare stratosphere of images that are both instantly recognizable and internationally famous. “The Great Wave” has gone viral over time, first circulating the old-fashioned way—via traders and tall ships in the 19th century. Since then, the woodcut has been called an inspiration for Claude Debussy’s orchestral work, “La Mer,” and appears in poetry and prose by Rainer Maria Rilke, Pearl S. Buck and Hari Kunzru. Levi’s and Patagonia used it in marketing campaigns. It has been preserved in cyberspace as a Google Doodle and an emoji.

“There is no work of nonwestern art that has a comparable level of recognition,” said Christine Guth, author of “Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon” released this year. Ms. Guth, who is acting head of the history of design program at London’s Royal College of Art, said the print has been used to symbolize everything from economic power to military threats to natural disaster: “An image that originated in Japan took on a life of its own.”

Sarah Thompson, the MFA show’s curator, said the museum was the first in the world to stage a Hokusai exhibit in the early 1890s.

The show in Boston, which runs until early August, features more than 230 works from Hokusai’s seven-decade career, including illustrated printed books, a long screen painting and paper dioramas. The exhibit, six years in the making, is built on works entirely from the MFA’s collection. It just finished a multicity tour in Japan.

“The Great Wave”— formally titled “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” from the Hokusai series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”—adorns marketing for the Boston show. Inside the exhibit, though, visitors will have to look for it. The work, about the size of a piece of legal paper, will be grouped with the series of Mount Fuji prints.

The image is a mix of east and west—a blending of techniques that Hokusai picked up from Japanese artists and his own knowledge of European prints. The woodblock depicts Mount Fuji, a hallowed place in Japan, but pushes the peak deep into the distance using western perspective. The wave was printed on Japanese mulberry paper but marked by a color new to Japan—a vibrant Prussian blue created from synthetic dye in Germany.

The work was fairly accessible to the Japanese—one scholar has said it went for the price of a large bowl of noodle soup—while the snobbish view of prints inside the country made it easier for the series to travel abroad.


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Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon
by Christine Guth

January 2015 | 272 pages | 70 color illustrations, 5 black & white
Paper ISBN 978-0-8248-3960-4 | $20.00 $15.00
Cloth ISBN 978-0-8248-3959-8 | $57.00 $42.75

Join us in Washington, D.C. | American Society for Environmental History 2015 Conferences

EVENTS


Join us in Washington, DC for the
American Society for Environmental History 2015 Conference
March  18-22, 2015 | Find Additional Info Here

Schedule a meeting with one of our acquisitions editors: nlittle@hawaii.edu


 

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Coping with Calamity: 
Environmental Change and Peasant Response in Central China, 1736-1949, Jiayan Zhang
Paper | 978-0-8248-4104-1 | 28 illustrations | $27.00

Sovereign Sugar: Industry and Environment in Hawai`i, Carol A. MacLennan
Cloth | 978-0-8248-3949-9 | 21 illustrations, 4 maps | $39.00

Coming April 2015
Hawaii’s Scenic RoadsPaving the Way for Tourism in the Islands, Dawn E. Duensing
Cloth | 978-0-8248-3928-4 | 30 illustrations, 7 maps | $42.00

 

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Coming June 2015
Changing Chinese CitiesThe Potentials of Field Urbanism, Renée Y. Chow
Cloth | 978-0-8248-5383-9 | 82 maps and architectural drawings, 33 photographs | $34.00

Coming April 2015
From King Cane to the Last Sugar MillAgricultural Technology and the Making of Hawaii’s Premier CropC. Allan Jones and Robert V. Osgood
Cloth | 978-0-8248-4000-6 | 29 illustrations, 27 tables | $45.00

Sea of OpportunityThe Japanese Pioneers of the Fishing Industry in Hawaii, Manako Ogawa
Cloth | 978-0-8248-3961-1 | 30 illustrations, 10 maps | $39.00

 

New UHP titles on Mongolia history launch at University of Cambridge


EVENT | Book Release


Join authors Chris Kaplonski and Franck Billé at the University of Cambridge Book Launch for the launch of their new titles from University of Hawaii Press, The Lama Question and Sinophobia. For more information, go to the University of Cambridge website.

Visit our website for more information on these titles.


Sinophobia: Anxiety, Violence, and the Making of Mongolian Identity

Franck Billé
272 pages
Cloth | ISBN 978-0-8248-3982-6 | $57.00

Sinophobia is a compelling, lucid, and enormously insightful account of recent anti-Chinese sentiment in Mongolia, and its findings should resonate broadly across both Asian and Eurasian studies. Throughout, Billé combines careful ethnography and instructive analyses of affect, language, desire, and anxiety. The result is a truly novel synthesis, an important contribution to social and cultural theories of violence.” —Douglas Rogers, Yale University


The Lama Question: Violence, Sovereignty, and Exception in Early Socialist Mongolia
Christopher Kaplonski

280 pages | 6 illustrations
Cloth | ISBN 978-0-8248-3856-0 | $54.00

“This innovative book is the first to investigate state violence in early socialist Mongolia. Through his penetrating study of archives and personal memories, Kaplonski provides an extraordinary account of the brutal repression of Buddhism, along with a new critical argument about how such state interventions can be interpreted. This book is a must for all those interested in the modern history of Inner Asia.” —Caroline Humphrey, King’s College, University of Cambridge

Debut Fiction: The Blind Writer by Sameer Pandya

NEW RELEASE


PandyaCOVER1.inddThe Blind Writer: Stories and a Novella
by Sameer Pandya
February 2015 | 216 pages
Cloth | ISBN 978-0-8284-3958-1 | $50.00
Paper | ISBN 978-0-8284-4798-2 | $25.00
Intersections: Asian and Pacific American Transcultural Studies

This collection gathers together the title novella along with five short pieces that follow the lives of first- and second-generation Indian Americans living in contemporary California. The characters share a similar sensibility: a sense that immigration is a distant memory, yet an experience that continues to shape the decisions they make in subtle and surprising ways as they go about the complicated business of everyday living.

“Sameer Pandya’s stories are fine-tuned and precise, and carry an emotional load that breaks open inside us in ways that are, by turns, delicate and explosive.” —Gretel Ehrlich, author of The Solace of Open Spaces and Facing the Wave

“Pandya writes with grace and authority about characters revealed to us through their fears and dreams, mistakes and successes, longing and regrets.” —Keith Scribner, Oregon State University

Caodaism’s “Outrageous Syncretism” Incorporates Chinese, Buddhist, and Western Religions

NEW RELEASE


Hoskins-DivineEyeThe Divine Eye and the Diaspora: Vietnamese Syncretism Becomes Transpacific Caodaism
by Janet Alison Hoskins
February 2015 | 308 pages | 8 color and 17 b&w illustrations
Cloth | ISBN 978-0-8248-4004-4 | $65.00
Paper | ISBN 978-0-8248-5140-8 | $32.00

Caodaism is a new religion born in Vietnam during the struggles of decolonization, shattered and spatially dispersed by cold war conflicts, and now reshaping the goals of its four million followers. Colorful and strikingly eclectic, Caodaism forces us to reconsider how anthropologists study religious mixtures in postcolonial settings. Its dynamics challenge the unconscious Eurocentrism of our notions of how religions are bounded and conceptualized.

“This examination of the Caodai religious movement is easily the most comprehensive and sympathetic study yet prepared on what is surely the most fascinating yet also the most misunderstood of Vietnam’s ‘new’ (colonial and postcolonial) religions. The work engages critically with existing interpretations of the Caodai faith and ventures a new interpretation of its emergence as a reflexive re-synthesis of Vietnamese religious traditions—a self-defensive re-articulation of identity—in the context of colonial cultural and political domination, frustrated nationalism, diasporic dispersal, and transnational globalism. . . . In the hands of the author, this engaging, complex, and big-hearted Vietnamese religion at last has gained the sensitive and capable treatment it deserves.” —Philip Taylor, The Australian National University