Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Japanese Ghosts and Some Nifty Nineteenth Century Ghost Scrolls They Inspired

I love me some Japanese ghosts... also known as yurei.

Asian ghost stories have always felt a bit creepier to me than their Western counterparts, probably because the approach is a bit more mysterious, ethereal and elegant than the often blunt haunting stories popular in the West.

Even though the J-horror wave and the rash of remakes and copycats have taken some of the sting out of the Japanese ghost story lately, I still dig the history and mythology of the original old tales and folklore of mysterious yurei terrorizing the countryside of rural Japan, seeking vengeance for wrongs or just downright making sport out of inflicting horror upon the poor traveler who happened to take a wrong turn, or to step foot in the wrong village...

Every August the Japanese celebrate the traditional "Feast of Lanterns" or "Bon Festival", where families reunite to clean ancestral graves while ghosts poor into Japan from the spirit world to visit their family altars. This tradition dates back over 500 years, and has inspired some truly chilling and wonderful art.

Pink Tentacle has a small gallery of some great 19th Century ghost scroll paintings which are currently on display at Zenshoan Temple. These images seem strikingly modern in terms of the depictions of scary spirits - much more so than the Western paintings of ghosts and specters from the same time period that I've come across. Go check it out.

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