Ghosts and Hells: The underworld in Asian art

Ghosts and Hells: The underworld in Asian art


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From Buddhist to J-Horror, from Hokusai prints to Pac-Man, from the Thai spirit culture to horror manga, the figure of the ghost has haunted the Asian imagination for centuries. In China, Thailand and Japan - the lands that the exhibition focuses on - the popular infatuation with terror is very real, and one that permeates a wide variety of cultural productions. From spirits that wander the forest, vengeful cat-women and hungry spirits that return from the dead ("the walking dead") to jumping vampires and yokaïs (supernatural creatures in Japanese folklore), these can appear in multiple guises and play on artistic periods and media.

Ghosts and Hells - the underworld in Asian art explores their omnipresence not only in objects and documents but also in the performing arts, cinema and comics in an attempt to better understand how they work. After all, whilst Buddhism has played its part in the formation of this imagination – implying that souls are in waiting between two reincarnations –, it is indeed on the fringes of religion, in popular and secular art, that the representation of ghosts has truly come into its own.

(Photo: Courtesy Musée du quai Branly)

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