A spooky story for Halloween: The Goblin Spider

Ancient Japan, samurai warriors, and your casual spider—casual, that is, until nightfall. According to ancient Japanese legend, these ordinary spiders would morph as dark night enveloped the landscape. Menacing pincers, bulging eyes, and even taking on human form to deceive unsuspecting victims—like the samurai in the tale below—these goblin spiders wreaked terror.

Lafcadio Hearn brings this ancient tale, one of many in the Japanese tradition of ghost stories known as kaidan, to English readers. The Goblin Spider is lavishly illustrated in Takejiro Hasegawa’s five-volume set of crepe-paper books. These brightly colored illustrations are hand-printed using wood blocks on textured pages.

Hearn, Lafcadio. The Goblin Spider. Kobunsha’s Japanese Fairy Tale Series. Second series. No. 1. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1899.

Happy Halloween to you and yours from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

Halloween 2016 RBSC post: Ghosts in the Stacks

Wisdom of Ancient Japan: A Mountain of Skulls

. . . “I cannot,” cried the pilgrim, trembling and clinging;—”I dare not look beneath! Before me and about me there is nothing but skulls of men.”

“And yet, my son,” said the Bodhisattva, laughing softly,—”and yet you do not know of what this mountain is made. . . .”

“A mountain of skulls it is,” responded the Bodhisattva. “But know, my son, that all of them ARE YOUR OWN! Each has at some time been the nest of your dreams and delusions and desires. Not every one of them is the skull of any other being. All,—all without exception,—have been yours, in the billions of your former lives.”

“Fragment,” In Ghostly Japan, 6

***

This image and warning drawn from mythical Japan resonated all too well with the author, who himself had lived many lives.

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), born in western Greece on the island of Lefkada, was the son of an Irish military surgeon and a mother native to the Greek island of Kythira. Raised and educated in Ireland, Britain, and France, Hearn emigrated to the United States when he was nineteen, where he held menial jobs before becoming a translator and journalist.

In 1890, Harper’s offered Hearn the opportunity to go to Japan to write about the country’s efforts to modernize. Shortly after arriving, Hearn became enthralled with Japan—the atmosphere, the cities and towns, the magical-looking trees, the temples, the people. He recorded his first impressions in series of essays and, after marrying the daughter of a samurai family, Hearn took the Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo, and immersed himself in the culture of old Japan, looking for the “roots” of his beloved new home.

A newspaper reporter suddenly made professor, Hearn was appointed in 1895 as Chair of English literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo. During the next eight years, Hearn authored four works that reveal his deep understanding of and immersion in Japanese culture, religion, and literature. These works included Exotics and Retrospectives (1898), Shadowings (1900), A Japanese Miscellany (1901), and the book featured here, In Ghostly Japan (1899).

 

Chinese Ministry of Information Pamphlets

by Yang Wu, Librarian in Residence

Published in succession from 1944 to 1946, this collection of 10 pamphlets was produced by the Republic of China’s Ministry of Information’s United Kingdom Office. Together they offer an interesting perspective on the Chinese Nationalist (Guomindang) government’s information campaign outside of China during the 1940s.

The pamphlets cover a wide range of topics on China and are intended for different audiences. The first, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth works in the collection discuss history, classics, art, education and philosophy and were designed for the general public. The second pamphlet, produced for British military and diplomatic personnel during World War II, gave them a general overview of the geography of China.

Remaining pamphlets introduce readers to the situation of China immediately following World War II. The third pamphlet, on the Guomindang, gives a general discussion of the history of China’s governing party at the time. It describes the party’s ideology, political agendas and brought readers up to date on the Guomindang’s conflicts with the Chinese Communist Party, which had led to civil war during the 1940s. Pamphlet four, discussing agriculture in China, assesses the reason behind the country’s poverty. It argues that China’s rural masses can only be uplifted from poverty through gradual measures such as tax reform, improved agricultural methods and industrialization. The sixth pamphlet gives an overview of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, a program that encouraged and provided assistance to small scale rural industrial enterprises in the country. Started by a group of Chinese and foreign benefactors in World War II, the program was supported by the Guomindang and was seen as a way to both economically sustain the country during wartime and offer employment for idle rural inhabitants and refugees.

The pamphlets in general were created for an educated audience, with good knowledge of western high culture, geography and economic issues. Due to this they were written with remarkable sophistication. The works were authored by a variety of experts on China, both within and outside of the country, including Neville Whymant, a well-known British oriental scholar at the time, Lu Guangmian (卢广绵), a founder of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives and Wu Yuanli (吴元黎), a respected Chinese economist. Works on Chinese history and philosophy, though brief, attempt to stimulate intellectual curiosity towards China. They introduce readers to sources on classical China and draw their conclusions on Chinese civilization from a variety of scholarly resources. Such works also contain useful guides for understanding China, such as charts on Chinese dynasties, reign dates of Chinese emperors since 1368 and diagrams of Buddhist and Daoist symbols (See photos). Pamphlets also compare important events in Chinese history with developments in the West and differences and similarities between classical Chinese and Greek philosophy.

Pamphlets on contemporary China were produced with propaganda purposes in mind. They promoted the Guomindang’s view that China’s problems must be resolved by gradual reforms as opposed to the Communist agenda of radically changing the country through class revolution and redistribution of property and encouraged foreign assistance with Guomindang programs. However, to appeal to their specific audience the pamphlets took an approach of explaining issues through selected facts rather than slogans and moral exhortation. They discuss matters such as poverty and industrial development in China to great length, often citing statistics and other information from independent studies.

Information campaigns between the Guomindang and Chinese Communists towards foreigners during the 1940s are an important part of the history Sino-western relations. To some degree the Chinese Communists successfully swayed foreign opinion to their side in 1949, and their seizure of the country that year led to many discussions among foreigners on whether they were deceived or “lost” China due to their poor knowledge of the situation of the country. Pamphlets in the collection are a small piece of the Guomindang’s foreign outreach, and they offer insights on the party’s approach towards foreigners during the period.

 


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Recent Acquisition: A masterpiece of Chinese literature

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies Librarian

Included in the recent gift from the University of Chicago is Lu Xun’s famous The True Story of Ah-Q published by Kaiming Book Company during the Sino-Japanese War (1939-1945), with illustrations by Feng Zikai. According to Feng’s preface, the set of illustrations in this edition was done for the third time after his first two sets were lost in the chaos of the war. The Libraries’ copy is the ninth reprint of the 1939 (Minguo 28) publication.

Recent Acquisition: Cultural Revolution novel

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies Librarian

Zhu Jian’s Qing shi bao, a Cultural Revolution novel published in 1976, includes illustrations by Chen Danqing that are examples of Cultural Revolution art, and also of the artist’s works in that time period as an “educated youth” in rural areas. Approximately one year later, Chen completed his famous painting “Writing a Letter to Chairman Mao,” and traveled to Tibet where he got inspired for his Tibet series.

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Recent Acquisition: Buddhist Art

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies Librarian

The Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired two resources that serve as important scholarly sources for those who study Chinese/Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist art. These resources are the highly-regarded 1970s reprints of original publications from the 1920s:

BOO_004176802-04The Thousand Buddhas: Ancient Buddhist Paintings from the Cave-temples of Tun-huang on the Western Frontier of China. Recovered and described by Sir Aurel Stein, with an introductory essay by Laurence Binyon

This Tokyo reprint (1978) was praised by Dr. W. Pachow, a Chinese Buddhist scholar, as a “extraordinary” and “very valuable.” His review that appeared on The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies in 1981 is a worthy introduction to the resource that includes a detailed description of the size and composition of the folio and its contents. Also important to note is Dr. Pachow’s point about a few unintended misinterpretations by Sir Aurel Stein who did not understand Chinese.

BOO_004176786-v1-pl_01Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien: Ergebnisse der Kgl. preussischen Turfan-Expeditionen (Postancient Buddhist Culture in Central Asia: Results of the Royal Prussian Turfan-Expedition). Records of items recovered and described by Albert von Le Coq.

This 1973-1975 print of the original Berlin edition (1922-1933) consists of seven volumes. Detailed descriptions about the first five volumes are available online.

The publications symbolically represent the early 20th century history of the Silk Road where long-lost cultural relics were discovered and then disappeared again, some of them permanently. Peter Hopkirk’s Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia is a classic that tells of of the brave expeditions the above authors are credited with (or the blatant exploitation that they are accused of).

 


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