Ashinaga and Tenaga worshipping the rising sun

Artist: Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807-1891)
Historical period(s)
Meiji era, late 19th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 77.6 x 34.8 cm (30 9/16 x 13 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Japan, kakemono, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), sun, worship

To 1898
Edward S. Hull Jr., New York to 1898 [1]

From 1898 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Edward S. Hull Jr. in 1898 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Reserved Kakemono List, R. 172, pg. 5, as well as Voucher No. 27, June 1898, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Edward S. Hull Jr. was Ernest Francisco Fenollosa’s (1853-1908) lawyer. Hull often acted as an agent, facilitating purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa, as well as purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa's well-known associate, Bunshichi Kobayashi (see correspondence, Hull to Freer, 1898-1900, as well as invoices from E.S. Hull Jr., 1898-1900, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives). See also, Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), pgs. 15 and 34. See further, Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art, (Washington, DC and New York: Freer Gallery of Art and H. N. Abrams, 1993), pgs. 133-134.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Edward S. Hull Jr. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Ashinaga ("long legs") and Tenaga ("long arms") are mythical beings believed to live at the seashore of North China. They subsist by fishing, with the long-legged Ashinaga carrying Tenaga, who scoops fish from the water with his long arms. In Zeshin's rendering here, the creatures appear to be facing toward the sea and the rising sun. The sun in this case may symbolize Japan, where the sun had long been an emblem displayed by powerful warriors on banners; the circular red sun against a white ground was adopted as a national flag when the first diplomatic mission set sail from Japan to the United States in 1860. Ancient Japanese legends related that Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess, was the ancestor of the Japanese imperial family. Zeshin, who was trained in both painting and lacquer craft, was innovative and so highly regarded that he was appointed an Imperial Household Artist (Teishitsu gigeiin).

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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