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Gyotaku: A Unique Japanese Tradition in Which a Fish Becomes a Work of Art

August 6, 2019 - General
An example of Gyotaku art.

Gyotaku is a traditional Japanese art form that is highly unique, and some may even say bizarre. The word Gyotaku itself is a combination of two separate words – Gyo, which means ‘fish’, and Taku, which means rubbing. As its name indicates, Gyotaku is an art that produces imprints of fish through the method of rubbing.

The Origins of Rubbing as a Means to Keep Ancient Text

In neighboring China, the method of rubbing was discovered by the beginning of the 7th century AD or perhaps even earlier. With the use of paper and ink, the Chinese were able to make multiple copies of old inscribed records accurately and easily.

The first plant printing found on paper can be found on a Syrian manuscript dating back to the early 1100s AD. And as you’ll soon see, eventually the Japanese took the artform to include other natural objects, such as fish.

Compared to the two examples above, it may be said that Gyotaku was a newcomer to the practice of producing imprints with the use of the rubbing technique. Nevertheless, this traditional Japanese art is special in its own way.


Source: origins

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