Matsuki Hokei - tsuishi netsuke of Kikjido
Tokyo, circa 1890
A tsuishu (carved red lacquer) netsuke of Kikujido, the Chrysanthemum boy, seated wearing robes intricately carved with a design of Chrysanthemum blooms. He looks down with his youthful face at a chrysanthemum leaf that he holds on one knee, while his other hand holds a writing brush.
Kikujido was a favourite of the Chinese Emperor Mu (circa 950 B.C.) but aroused jealousy among other retainers, who conspired to have him banished. The emperor gave him a gift of Buddhist texts, teaching him sacred words from the Buddha. In exile he spent his days writing these sacred words on to chrysanthemum leaves using the dew from the flowers for ink. Passing his time thus, he achieved immortality and did not age, always appearing as a young boy. The story is the subject of a Noh play.
Meinertzhagen records that Hokei was appointed as a professor at the Tokyo Academy of Fine Arts.