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 (千絵の海, "The Oceans of Wisdom"[1]) 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,[2] it seems to have been issued around 1832–1834[3][4] 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.[3]

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 "One Thousand Pictures of the Ocean"[6] (or "One Thousand Pictures of the Sea"),[7] but when read aloud the title sounds like "Oceans of Wisdom".[1]



  1. ^ a b Izzard, Sebastian (1984). "Hokusai's 'Chie no umi', 'The Oceans of Wisdom'". Impressions (9): 8–12. JSTOR 42598049.
  2. ^ Izzard 1984, p. 8.
  3. ^ a b Calza 2003, p. 484.
  4. ^ "Noboto at Shimōsa, from the series One Thousand Pictures of the Sea"
  5. ^ Izzard 1984, p. 12.
  6. ^ "Fishing Boats at Choshi in Shimosa (Soshu Choshi) from the series "One Thousand Pictures of the Ocean (Chie no umi)"". artic.edu. Art Institute Chicago. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  7. ^ "Noboto at Shimōsa (Shimōsa Noboto), from the series One Thousand Pictures of the Sea (Chie no umi)". metmuseum.org. Met Museum. Retrieved 12 October 2021.


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