Today I thought it would be appropriate to listen to some traditional Japanese music while reading today's post. I picked some relaxing music, because the book I have reviewed is anything but.
My nephew took these photos of my son, Derek and niece, Athena in Denton, Texas. I doctored them up a bit for fun. I could do that for hours.
I like book covers. I think the last would make a great book cover. I just need to find a story to go with it.
Hell in Japanese Art by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is quite simply one of the most fascinating books I have ever read or seen.
I had become curious about the concept of hell in other cultures and came across this book as a result. It is not only enlightening concerning Japanese belief in the afterlife but also particularly in Buddhist writings of the after life.
It was surprising because all I had ever heard of Buddhism was reincarnation; but according to the ancient writings recorded in this book, there is a fiery furnace and exquisite suffering to endure before given another chance. However, the most minute sins are punished so I wonder how anyone can hope to escape returning to punishment.
Buddhism, at least the strain practiced in traditional Japan is quite elaborate and complex in its descriptions of hell. Like Dante's Inferno, there are several layers, but far more intricate and many, many more levels.
There is the realm of the angry demons. This is where evil spirits constantly battle with heavenly beings.
Then there is the realm of human beings. There are hell chambers for every conceivable sin. To name a few: there is the hell of repetitions, the hell of lamentations, the hell of greater lamentations, hell for priests and so many more.
The Buddhist scripture describe each realm in graphic detail, explaining the sins (greed, adultery, hurting animals, abusing authority, stealing etc...) and the specific tortures in each level the condemned person is sentenced to and for how long.
The scripture spares no detail as to every gruesome agony someone endures. Killing animals incurs torture, killing humans, another type of torture, telling a lie incurs another horrible torture.
But the writing is only half of the book. Japanese artists throughout the ages have painted large, ultra-detailed depictions of each and every type of torture. The most profound to me are the people diving head long into flames.
In fact, fire is the main feature of every chamber of hell and figures prominently in the paintings. These paintings are not only on scrolls or canvas but also triptychs and furniture, such as dressers.
/>Finally, there is a tradition Japanese male jacket with full length prints of paintings of people tortured. I do not know why someone would wear such a thing, but I bet it is a conversation starter. At least in American it would. Maybe Japanese form of etiquette doesn't permit frank discussion of hellish attire.
In short, if one wants to learn about the nether world in Japanese Buddhist beliefs as will as witness a visual account. This book is an excellent choice.
For those interested in buying the book, it is over 500 hundred pages long, but most of it is full page paintings of entire works and also close up details. All the images are in color.
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