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Antique Japanese Wood Netsuke
Lucky Frog
Gama Sennin's Three Legged Frog

Signature: Kogyoku. Circa: early 20th century
H 1 in.(2.5cm), W 2 in.(5cm), D 1.4 in.(3.5cm)
Condition: very good!

A popular symbol of prosperity in China, said to bring good fortune and a symbol of longevity, this signed wooden netsuke realistically portrays a three legged frog made famous in the stories of Gama Sennin. The frog’s warty back, significantly textured, provides a wonderful contrast with the smoothed underbelly. Black stag horn in-lays give the mythical creature an intense and alert gaze, while its three legs provide an unusual symmetry. The mouth is slightly agape, made to hold a single gold coin which unfortunately is missing from this piece. Otherwise, this beautiful 19th century carving is in very good condition. Signed by Kogyoku, one of many who went by the same name.

Sold To Private Collection

There are two versions of the origins of this depiction of the three-legged frog, both originating in China and centering around the Chinese immmortal Liu Hai (on which the Japanese Gama Sennin is based), a minister of the state during the 10th century. In the first, Liu Hai was said to posses a three-legged frog that could transport him to anywhere he wished. On occasion this frog would slip out of his pocket and head for the cool confines of the nearest well. To get him out of the well, Liu Hai would fish out the frog using a line baited with a gold coin. The second story depicts the frog as an evil creature that lurked in a deep well, emitting poisonous vapors. Lui Hai fished the frog out with a gold coin, and destroyed it. Thus in this version, the three-legged frog stands as a reminder that money lures people to their ruin.


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