The first Sino-Japanese War, commonly now in China as the War of Jiawu 甲午戰爭, began in 1894 and ended in 1895 and was fought between the China's Qing Empire and the Empire of Japan, primarily over the influence of Korea.

Map of battles during the first Chinese-Japanese war (1894-95)
First Sino-Japanese War, major battles and troop movements. Map of battles during the first Chinese-Japanese war (1894-95)

After more than six months of battles on land and sea and the loss of the Chinese port of Weihaiwei, China sued for peace in February 1895. This war demonstrated that China failed to modernize its military and, for the first time, regional control shifted from China to Japan.

More than 240.000 Japanese fighting men were mobilized for the campaigns in Korea and China, with another 154.000 behind-the-lines workers. Japan with the victory over China, entered a new era, becoming a major power.

Although the Sino-Japanese War lasted less than a year, woodblock artists produced around 3,000 works of images depicting the battlefront, approximately 10 new images every day.

The woodblock printing had been used in China for centuries to print books but was widely adopted in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). It is best known for its use in the ukiyo-e artistic genre of single sheets and found its audience in the emerging class of city dwellers. The prints were neither costly nor meant to be preserved, but to amuse and entertain.

"Similarly, it is to the modern woodblock prints that we now turn to recapture a sense of the emotional popular support that accompanied Japan’s emergence as an aggressive, expansionist power at the end of the 19th century. Nationalism, militarism, imperialism, a new sense of cultural and even racial identity—all found their most flamboyant expression here. Indeed, the popular prints did not merely “capture” this sentiment; they played a role in pumping it up. They are the most dramatic and easily accessible source we have for getting a “feel” for the redefinition of national identity that went hand-in-hand with Japan’s debut as a major power.

Illustration of Photographing Our Troops Fighting in the Fortress Town Niuzhuang
“Illustration of Photographing Our Troops Fighting in the Fortress Town Niuzhuang” (detail) by Kobayashi Kiyochika, April 1895

In the West, the “journalistic” role that woodblock prints played in late-19th-century Japan was largely filled by publications that featured engravings and lithographs based on photographs. By the time of the Sino-Japanese War, popular periodicals such as the Illustrated London News also featured photographs themselves. The impression of the world these Western graphics conveyed was, as a rule, both more “realistic” and more detached. They were literally, and often figuratively as well, colorless—a sharp contrast to the vivacious and highly subjective woodblock prints.

Japanese photographers did cover the Sino-Japanese War; an evocative woodblock by Kobayashi Kiyochika even takes them as its subject, standing in the snow and photographing the troops with a large box camera on a tripod." John W. Dower, Throwing Off Asia II

Japanese War prints images

The following contains wartime propaganda images.

Hurrah, Hurrah for the Great Japanese Empire! Picture of the Assault on Songhwan, a Great Victory for Our Troops
“Hurrah, Hurrah for the Great Japanese Empire! Picture of the Assault on Songhwan, a Great Victory for Our Troops” by Mizuno Toshikata, July 1894 [2000.435] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Although a few artists accompanied Japanese journalists to the battlefront, as seen in this detail (right), the woodblock artists stayed in Japan. Their war prints were largely imaginative creations based on news reports.
Picture of the First Army Advancing on Fengtienfu
“Picture of the First Army Advancing on Fengtienfu” by Ogata Gekkō, 18...
[2000.409] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Our Army’s Great Victory at the Night Battle of Pyongyang
“Our Army’s Great Victory at the Night Battle of Pyongyang” by Kobayashi Toshimitsu,
September 1894 [2000.051] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Skillful Harada Jūkichi of the First Army in the Attack on Hyonmu Gate Leads the Fierce Fight
"The Skillful Harada Jūkichi of the First Army in the Attack on Hyonmu Gate Leads the Fierce Fight"
by Mizuno Toshikata, 18.... [2000.101] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Colonel Satō Attacking the Fortress at Niuzchuang
"Picture of Colonel Satō Attacking the Fortress at Niuzchuang" by Migita Toshihide, 18....
[2000.433] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
“Great Japanese Naval Victory off Haiyang Island”
by Nakamura Shūkō, October 1894 [2000.380.11]
Click the image to enlarge

“Sino-Japanese Naval Battles: Illustration of the Great Victory of the Imperial Navy at the Great
Pitched Battle off Takushan” by Utagawa Kokunimasa, October 1894 [2000.380.10]
Picture of the Naval Battle Capturing Haiyang Island
“Picture of the Naval Battle Capturing Haiyang Island”
by Ogata Gekkō, September 1894 [2000.107]
Sino-Japanese War: The Japanese Navy Victorious Off Takushan
“Sino-Japanese War: The Japanese Navy Victorious Off Takushan”
by Ogata Gekkō, October 1894 [2000.380.19]
The Imperial Navy Wins a Major Victory in a Great Naval Battle Off Takushan
“The Imperial Navy Wins a Major Victory in a Great Naval Battle Off Takushan”
by Kuniomi, September 1894 [2000.135]
Kabayama, the Head of the Naval Commanding Staff, onboard Seikyōmaru, attacks Enemy Ships
“Kabayama, the Head of the Naval Commanding Staff, onboard Seikyōmaru,
attacks Enemy Ships” by Adachi Ginkō, October 1894 [2000.376]
Lieutenant Commander Sakamoto of the Imperial Warship 'Akagi' Fights Bravely
“Lieutenant Commander Sakamoto of the Imperial Warship 'Akagi' Fights Bravely”
by Mizuno Toshikata, October 1894 [2000.380.20]
Japanese Warships Fire on the Enemy near Haiyang Island
“Japanese Warships Fire on the Enemy near Haiyang Island”
by Mizuno Toshikata, September 1894 [2000.380.13]
Admiral Kabayama Fights Furiously in the Great Sino-Japanese Naval Battle off Takushan in China
“Admiral Kabayama Fights Furiously in the Great Sino-Japanese Naval Battle
off Takushan in China” by Toyohara Chikanobu, October 1894 [2000.243]
The Great Victory of the Imperial Navy
“The Great Victory of the Imperial Navy”
by Toyohara Chikanobu, August 1894 [2000.403]
Picture of the Great Naval Victory During the Sino-Japanese War
“Picture of the Great Naval Victory During the Sino-Japanese War”
by Ogata Gekkō, August 1894 [2000.150]
The Second Army Bombarding and Occupying Port Arthur
“The Second Army Bombarding and Occupying Port Arthur”
by Watanabe Nobukazu, November 1894 [2000.366]
The Army Advancing on the Ice to Attack Weihaiwei
“The Army Advancing on the Ice to Attack Weihaiwei” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895
[2000.417] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Advance Disposition of Troops at Weihaiwei
“Picture of Advance Disposition of Troops at Weihaiwei” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895
[2000.420] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Our Scout Reconnoiters the Enemy Encampment near the Yalu River
“Our Scout Reconnoiters the Enemy Encampment near the Yalu River” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1894
[2000.380_28] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Illustration of the Attack and Occupation of Tianzhuangtai
"Illustration of the Attack and Occupation of Tianzhuangtai” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895
[2000.250] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Braving the Bitter Cold, Our Troops Set Up Camp at Yingkou
“Braving the Bitter Cold, Our Troops Set Up Camp at Yingkou” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895
[2000.419] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A Soldier's Dream at Camp during a Truce in the Sino-Japanese War
“A Soldier's Dream at Camp during a Truce in the Sino-Japanese War”
by Kobayashi Kiyochika, April 1895 [2000.279] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Illustration of the Landing and Advance to Weihaiwei
“Illustration of the Landing and Advance to Weihaiwei” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895
[2000.418] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Illustration of Lieutenant-General Yamaji Leading the Japanese Second Army during its Landing on the Jinzhou (Liaodong) Peninsula
“Illustration of Lieutenant-General Yamaji Leading the Japanese Second Army during its Landing on the Jinzhou (Liaodong) Peninsula” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, November 1894 [2000.013] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Illustration of General Nozu Moving Forward and Taking a Look at Liaoyang in Clearing Weather After Snow
“Illustration of General Nozu Moving Forward and Taking a Look at Liaoyang in Clearing Weather After Snow”
by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895 [2000.178] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of the Hard Fight of the Scout Cavalry-Captain Asakawa
“Picture of the Hard Fight of the Scout Cavalry-Captain Asakawa” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
January 1895 [2000.180] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Defying a Shower of Bullets, He, Alone, Opened Hyonmu Gate
“Defying a Shower of Bullets, He, Alone, Opened Hyonmu Gate” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
1894 [2000.412] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Our Armed Forces Occupying Ryuko Island
“Picture of Our Armed Forces Occupying Ryuko Island” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
March 1985 [2000.251] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
In the Battle of the Yellow Sea a Sailor Onboard Our Japanese Warship 'Matsushima', on the Verge of Dying, Asked Whether or Not the Enemy Ship had been Destroyed
“In the Battle of the Yellow Sea a Sailor Onboard Our Japanese Warship 'Matsushima', on the Verge of Dying, Asked Whether or Not the Enemy Ship had been Destroyed” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, October 1894 [2000.109a-c] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Our Forces’ Great Victory in the Battle of the Yellow Sea - First Illustration
“Our Forces’ Great Victory in the Battle of the Yellow Sea - First Illustration” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
October 1894 [2000.380_15] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Our Forces’ Great Victory in the Battle of the Yellow Sea - Second Illustration
“Our Forces’ Great Victory in the Battle of the Yellow Sea - Second Illustration” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
October 1894 [2000.380_16] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Our Naval Forces in the Yellow Sea Firing at and Sinking Chinese Warships
“Picture of Our Naval Forces in the Yellow Sea Firing at and Sinking Chinese Warships”
by Kobayashi Kiyochika, October 1894 [2000.380_22] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Japanese torpedo
“Our Torpedo Sinks the Enemy Warship 'Dingyuan' at the Battle of Weihaiwei” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
February 1895 [2000.104a-c] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Onoguchi Tokuji Destroying the Gate at Jinzhoucheng
“Onoguchi Tokuji Destroying the Gate at Jinzhoucheng” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1894
[2000.230] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Illustration of the Attack at the Site of the Hundred Foot Cliff
“Illustration of the Attack at the Site of the Hundred Foot Cliff” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895
[2000.011] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Scene of the Land-based Battery Attack on Weihaiwei
“Scene of the Land-based Battery Attack on Weihaiwei ” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, February 1895
[2000.254] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Our Second Army Landing at Jinzhoucheng and Bombarding the Enemy Camp
“Picture of Our Second Army Landing at Jinzhoucheng and Bombarding the Enemy Camp”
by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1894 [2000.380_33] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Our Elite Forces Capturing the Pescadores Islands, Taiwan
“Picture of Our Elite Forces Capturing the Pescadores Islands, Taiwan” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
December 1894 [2000.422] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Illustration of the Second Army's Assault on Port Arthur
“Illustration of the Second Army's Assault on Port Arthur” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1894
[2000.414] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Our Armed Forces Winning a Great Victory After a Fierce Battle at Pyongyang
“Picture of Our Armed Forces Winning a Great Victory After a Fierce Battle at Pyongyang”
by Kobayashi Kiyochika, October 1894 [2000.229] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Scouting Out the Enemy Situation near Tianzhuangtai
“Scouting Out the Enemy Situation near Tianzhuangtai” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, about 1894
[2000.021] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Picture of Captain Asakawa on Horseback at Battle
“Picture of Captain Asakawa on Horseback at Battle” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
January 1895 [2000.181] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Banzai for Japan!: The Victory Song of Pyongyang
“Banzai for Japan!: The Victory Song of Pyongyang” by Kobayashi Kiyochika,
October 1894 [2000.026] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Our Army’s Great Victory at the Night Battle of Pyongyang
“Our Army’s Great Victory at the Night Battle of Pyongyang” by Kobayashi Toshimitsu,
September 1894 [2000.051] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Second Army Attacking and Occupying Port Arthur
“The Second Army Attacking and
Occupying Port Arthur” Artist unknown, 1894–1895
The Second Army Attacking and Occupying Port Arthur
“The Second Army Attacking and
Occupying Port Arthur” Artist unknown, 1894–1895
The Second Army Attacking and Occupying Port Arthur
“The Second Army Attacking and
Occupying Port Arthur” Artist unknown, 1894–1895
The Second Army Attacking and Occupying Port Arthur
“The Second Army Attacking and
Occupying Port Arthur” Artist unknown, 1894–1895
“The Second Army Attacking and
Occupying Port Arthur” Artist unknown, 1894–1895
Japanese-soldiers-beheading-38-Chinese-POWs-as-a-warning-to-others-by-Utagawa-Kokunimasa
Japanese soldiers beheading 38 Chinese POWs as a warning to others by UtagawaKokunimasa
Chinese-Generals-from-Pyongyang-Captured-Alive-by-Migita-Toshihide
Chinese Generals from Pyongyang Captured Alive by Migita Toshihide

Source: Throwing Off Asia II , Wikipedia

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