This is a superior Takeda ningyo (doll), an old Japanese theater doll which was most likely modeled after the character, Teiseiko from “Kokusenya-ya-Gassen.” It was a popular theater play in 18th to 19th century Japan.
The setting of the play is during mid 17th century China towards the end of the Ming Dynasty. Teiseiko (also known as Watonai) was fighting the battle for the old dynasty. The play is based on a true story of "Teiseiko" who was born from a Chinese sea merchant and a Japanese mother, and later went to China to fight for the failing Ming Dynasty.
This international drama had first opened at the Takemono Jyoruri Puppet Theater in Dootonbori, Osaka in 1717. Dootonbori has been the "Broadway of Japan" located in the distinctive trading city of Osaka where traders and merchants met. The story is exciting and filled with tears, passion, suicide (his Chinese half sister, Kinshojyo) and helpless isolation (the Japanese government ignored his plea for help). A half Japanese Teiseiko showed his loyalty to the old dynasty, even after his Chinese father switched sides.
It must have captured the hearts of the audience. There, this play had the longest run of 17 months in the Takemoto Ningyo Jyoruri Theater run by the Takeda family. It was performed 60 times in Ningyo Joruri (puppet & automata, Bunraku today) and 70 times in Kabuki during the Edo period (1600- 1868).
Years later, the Takeda dolls were made capturing the movements of the actors on stage. The puppet dolls or Kabuki actors must have paused a moment for applause in this much-exaggerated posture of this doll. His red silk jacket is definitely Chinese. Where else would you see a samurai in a red Chinese jacket? It is very true that Chinese culture is deeply integrated into Japanese daily life.
The head of this doll is hand carved wood, not wood composition. The core of the head is carved out as you can see in some photos. This type of work is not so unusual with Takeda dolls but imagining the skill required and time-consuming effort makes us speechless. We threw a bundle of old silk thread in this hole (no glue was used) to give it a finished look. It now has a look of a ronin samurai (samurai without a lord). A hat may be a better solution? The black stick in his hand is new (painted barbecue stick). Takeda dolls are now displayed in museums, festivals and shows.
Approx. 18" tall (total), stand is 8 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 2 3/4 (inches), circa 1800s.