Chinese legend provided endless material for Japanese artists and craftsmen. Kanyū was a Chinese general whose exploits are described in the classic 'Tale of Three Kingdoms'. He came to be regarded as the God of War. Even this small figure conveys the power of the god-general with his fierce expression, impressive beard and ornate Chinese-style robes. He carries a glaive with a long curved blade in his right hand.
Netsuke of this type appear in the Sōken Kishō, the only early guide to the subject (and also to inrō, purses and sword furniture), published in woodblock-printed book form in Osaka, 1781.