螳螂
Kamakiri
Praying Mantis

Also known as tōrō 螳螂 or ōkamakiri mushi 大螳螂虫.

 

Hasan Baglar

Netsuke 根付
18 c
Attributed to Ryūsa 柳左

 

 

Tsuba (sword handguard), early 19th c

 

Ohara Koson 小原古邨 (1877 - 1945)

The praying mantis is one of the favourite insects of the Japanese artists, who depict it attempting to maintain its balance on a leaf, its large eyes watching for the approach of its next meal. There are some areas of Japan where the praying mantis is thought to resemble a Shinto priest conducting a religious ceremony and is, accordingly, a harbinger of good luck. In other districts it is the symbol of courage. Just how integral this insect is to Japanese painting we can learn from the expression —“a praying mantis (brush) stroke”— the name of a specific stroke that is also used for painting blades of grass.

Insects hold a respected place in the classical poetry and literature of Japan, partly because they symbolize the seasons of the year. Insects were appropriate to the Japanese intention of glorifying the tiniest thing, transforming it into a work of art, an aesthetic entity. This is very apparent in the netsuke, originally a decorated or carved clothing accessory connected by a cord to a container; and on the sword accessories, decorated with insects that are amazingly realistic and lively.

Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art

 

Lo Kwang Yu
Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu
Qīxīng tángláng quán 七星螳螂拳