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Monsters in Miniature: The Bakemono Sōshi

Japanese, 18th/19th century, Monster Scroll (detail), ink and colors on paper; Purchase, Betsy Mudge Wilson, class of 1956, Memorial Fund, 2005.17.1

Today’s post comes from Morgan Williams, class of 2017 and Art Center Student Docent.

On October 29, 2015, Professor Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase gave a talk on the Bakemono Sōshi or Monster Scroll in the first lecture of this semester’s Artful Dodger series in the galleries. As the professor who teaches “The Gothic and Supernatural in Japanese Literature,” she was able to give a perspective on the culture of the supernatural in Japan.
The 28-foot-long monster scroll features over fifty creatures, with monsters ranging from the spirits of women who died in childbirth to the Nuribotoke, who haunts those who do not take care of the household shrine. While the Art Center’s monster scroll dates from the Edo period (1603-1868), monsters have been a popular subject in Japan since the eleventh century.

The audience learned that the concept of the hyakki yagyō, or “the hundred demon night parade,” has been a part of Japanese culture since the Heian culture (ca. 794–1185). The hyakki yagyō can be seen in such notable works as The Tale of Genji and scrolls such as Tosa Mitsunobu’s sixteenth-century handscroll Hyakki Yagyō Zu. In the eighteenth century, Kano school artist Toriyama Sekien popularized depicting the monsters in a more encyclopedic manner, which led to the more stationary monsters shown in the Art Center’s Bakemono Sōshi.

Although the monster scroll is no longer on view, the Project and Focus galleries will be featuring other works of Asian art through December.

Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase speaking

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