Oceans of Wisdom

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Whaling Off Gotō from Oceans of Wisdom
Whaling off Goto.jpg
YearPublished c. 1832–1834
TypeWood block prints
Dimensions19 cm × 25.4 cm (7.5 in × 10.0 in)

Chie no umi[clarification needed] (千絵の海) is a chūban yoko-e (19 × 25.4 cm) sized woodblock print series by the Japanese artist Hokusai. The ten fishing-themed prints comprise one of Hokusai's rarest sets. Published by Moriya Jihei,[1] it seems to have been issued around 1832–1834[2][3] and publication of the prints ceased abruptly. Some preparatory drawings are extant for prints that were never made.

The prints, which feature scenes of fishing including shellfish-gathering, whaling and fly-fishing, allow Hokusai to explore one of his favourite themes, that of man expressing himself through labour and harmoniously working with the forces of nature.[citation needed] This is particularly evident in the print Chōshi in Shimōsa Province, which shows fishing boats struggling in a stormy sea, echoing his roughly contemporaneous The Great Wave off Kanagawa.[4]

The series' use of colour differs from other landscape prints of the time. It has richly overprinted shades and an unusual palette of yellow, green and varying red pigments.[citation needed] Hokusai also employs the rare technique of using black for colour and not just line, suggestive of the influence of Western oil painting.[5]


The title of the series can be read in two ways. The characters 千絵の海 read as "A Thousand Pictures of the Ocean", but when read aloud the title sounds like "Oceans of Wisdom".[citation needed]



  1. ^ Izzard, p. 8
  2. ^ Calza, p. 484
  3. ^ Met Museum
  4. ^ Calza, p. 484
  5. ^ Izzard, p. 12


  • Lane, Richard (1989). Hokusai: Life and Work. E. P. Dutton, New York. ISBN 0-525-24455-7.
  • Izzard, Sebastian (1984). "Hokusai's 'Chie no umi', 'The Oceans of Wisdom'". Impressions (9): 8–12. JSTOR 42598049.
  • Calza, Gian Carlo (2003). Hokusai. Phaidon. ISBN 0714844578.
  • "Noboto at Shimōsa, from the series One Thousand Pictures of the Sea" Metropolitan Museum of Art

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