Fox Spirit in the Guise of a Traveling Monk (Hakuzosu)

Tomioka Tessai 富岡鉄斎 Japanese

Not on view

The vulpine figure dressed as a traveling monk, gazing intently at a nearby trap, is the protagonist of the popular kyōgen play Tsurigitsune (Fox Hunter). In this comic morality tale, an old fox disguises itself as the monk Hakuzōsu, whose fox-trapper nephew has succeeded in ensnaring most of the fox clan. Recounting a variety of lore about the wily vengeance of the fox, the fox-cum-monk persuades the trapper to give up his trade. This drawing shows the fox prior to heading home, unable to resist the temptation to take the bait from the discarded trap. The trickster ends up caught, to the delight of the chagrined trapper who realizes he has been fooled by a fox in disguise.

The poem on the upper left is by the artist's wife, Haruko:

Hito wo nomi
hakaru to omou
orokasa ni
onore kitsune no
wana ni kakareri.

You who seek to deceive
will find yourself
caught in the fox trap
and foolish.

Fox Spirit in the Guise of a Traveling Monk (Hakuzosu), Tomioka Tessai 富岡鉄斎 (Japanese, 1836–1924), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

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