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October 12, 2012


Tokuda concealed behind a painted screen with raised sword. Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1847 / ℗ Pictures From History

47 Ronin is an upcoming 2013 fantasy-adventure-action film depicting a fictional account of the Forty-Seven Ronin or masterless warriors, a real-life group of samurai in 18th-century Japan who avenge the murder of their master. The American studio Universal Pictures is producing the adaptation. The movie is directed by Carl Erik Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada and Kou Shibasaki. Filmed in Hungary, the UK and Japan, it is due for worldwide release late in 2013.

The night attack of the 47 Ronin on the residence of Kira Kozuke-no-Suke Yoshinaka. Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1862) / ℗ Pictures From History

The chances are it will be a blockbuster in the West, where few people are familiar with the true story of the 47 Ronin. Yet in Japan the heroic tragedy of the Forty-Seven Ronin has long been one of the most popular themes in Japanese art and culture, being represented on stage – both in the kabuki and bunraku genre of theatre, in the cinema and on TV, as well as in traditional woodblock prints and painting. The story has been made into a movie at least six times, but this will be the first Hollywood epic production.

Oboshi Yuranosuke, leader of the Forty-seven Ronin. Shin Hanga woodblock print by Ôta Masamitsu, 1955 / ℗ Pictures From History

Back in the 18th and 19th centuries when the events took place, long before the age of film and video, Japanese people celebrated the exploits and selfless heroism of the 47 Ronin both through theatrical productions and through ukiyo-e prints which could be taken home and hung on the walls or kept in books. Many series of such prints were produced by a range of famous Japanese artists, but the most celebrated remain those of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1862) and of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Now Pictures From Historyis pleased to present the full run of Utagawa’s 1847-48 edition, as well as the full run of Yoshitishi’s 1869 edition, together with various supplementary woodblock prints. We hope they will also provide historical background and a cultural foil for the forthcoming movie.

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Old Market Square (Sifang Jie), Lijiang Old Town, Yunnan Province / © David Henley / CPA Media

China is the third largest country in the world (after Russia and Canada) and is also home to the oldest continuous civilisation the world has ever seen, dating back between four and five thousand years. It’s hardly surprising, then, that at 43 (and counting) China has the third highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country, coming just behind Italy at 47 and Spain at 44 – a figure that will certainly continue to rise.

Even as things stand at present, there are an immense amount of UNESCO-recognised sites scattered across this vast land – and believe us, it takes a lot of time and a great deal of effort to document and photograph them. Once again, then, it’s hardly surprising that there are gaps in our coverage – but we’re working assiduously to correct this.

9th century mural painting of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang travelling with a tiger. Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, Gansu Province / ℗ Pictures From History

For the present, our coverage includes Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and – just outside the city – the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall (which stretches all the way to Jiayuguan in the far west). Then there’s the Terracotta Army at Xi’an, the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, the former Qing Summer Capital at Chengde, Mount Emei and Leishan, as well as the West Lake of Hangzhou, the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, the Ming Tombs at Nanjing, the Mount Emei Scenic Area and the Giant Buddha at Leishan.

To this we have added the Old Town of Lijiang, the Dazu Rock Carvings, the Upper Yangzi at Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Historic Centre of Macau, the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, the South China Karsts of Yunnan and Guizhou, the Tulou Round Houses of Fujian and the Kaiping Diaolou Watchtowers of Guangdong.

Zhenchang Lou Hakka Tower near Hukeng, Yongding County, Fujian Province / © David Henley / CPA Media

Not bad, we hope you will agree, and we are working to extend our coverage to all UNESCO sites in China. The only problem is that the list is certain to continue growing, so the task may take some considerable time to complete!

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Our most recent assignment for the Tourism Authority of Thailand was to the beautiful Andaman Sea coast of Krabi Province in the far south of the Kingdom.

Off the Beaten Track Along the Krabi Coast

 Written by Andrew Forbes

Fish farmer and blowfish, Ko Klang, near Krabi Town, Krabi Province / © David Henley / CPA Media

With majestic limestone cliffs and outcroppings, large stretches of well-preserved wilderness, and a laid-back vibe, Krabi province, on Thailand’s southwest Andaman Sea coast, is ideal for travellers looking for a relaxing vacation in a wonderfully natural setting.

Most visitors to Krabi head straight for the magnificent beaches at Railay, Ton Sai and Ao Nang. With a little extra effort, you can explore further afield to experience even more of the green goodness this scenic southern province has to offer. The Krabi coast features many less-visited national parks and nature reserves, along with quieter beaches, where you can discover your own true tropical paradise.

Khao Khanap Nam outcrop from the Krabi Town waterfront, Krabi Province / © David Henley / CPA Media

We start with Than Bok Khorani National Park, located 45km northwest of Krabi town. Distinguished by a series of towering limestone outcroppings, brilliant green rain forests, fascinating mangrove forests, pristine islands, intriguing sea caves and beautiful waterfalls, it’s a wonderful place to recharge your batteries and commune with nature.

You can easily reach the park by bus, motorbike or hired car from Krabi town or the Ao Nang area. Once there, the best way to get about is by foot – particularly exploring the rich mangrove forests by wandering along the specially-built ironwood boardwalks.

By contrast, the breathtaking sea-girt caves and delightful islands nearby are ideal for exploring by kayak. This has to be one of the most enjoyable kayaking experiences in Southeast Asia. If you’re archaeologically-minded, there are also prehistoric rock paintings of human and animal figures at Tham Phi Hua To Cave… Continued

Kayaking through the Tham Lot cave, Than Bokkharani National Park, Krabi Province / © David Henley / CPA Media

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