Monday, October 05, 2015

Word of the Day -- Ukiyo-e

Ukiyo-e, or ukiyo-ye (浮世絵, Japanese: [u.ki.jo.e], "pictures of the floating world"), is a genre of woodblock prints and paintings that flourished in Japan from the 17th through 19th centuries. It was aimed at the prosperous merchant class in the urbanizing Edo period (1603–1867). Among the popular themes were depictions of beautiful women; kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; flora and fauna; and erotica.

Edo (modern Tokyo) became the seat of government for the military dictatorship in the early 17th century. The merchant class at the bottom of the social order found themselves the greatest beneficiaries of the city's rapid economic growth. Many indulged in the entertainments of kabuki theatre, courtesans, and geisha of the pleasure districts. The term ukiyo ("floating world") came to describe this hedonistic lifestyle. Printed or painted "ukiyo-e" images of this environment emerged in the late 17th century; they were popular with the merchant class, who had become wealthy enough to afford to decorate their homes with such works.

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