The End is Near

Today Phoenix presented for our group. He touched on the historical context about the time period that the movie is set in. He gave some great background information that will help you understand the Muromachi period and allow you to relate it back to what is happening in the film.

We met with Dr. Harney yesterday and heard some great feedback about our podcast. Dr. Harney suggested that we work on our structure and so last night we spent about two hours editing our outline so we could start re-recording. After changing our outline we began recording the first parts of our podcast. We had such a fun night and we are very excited about how our podcast is coming along. We changed out podcast to a different layout that includes a few more questions to help the podcast flow better. We are going to meet in just a few minutes to start recording the last parts of our podcast. It is all coming together so quickly!!

Group mononoke update

We watched my left eye sees ghost on Monday. I have some feeling about it.  When I heard that we are going to watch a movie about ghost, I thought it would be a horror movie. Surprisingly it is actually a romantic movie.Unlike the Journey to the West, I did not see many interesting Chinese tales in the movie, the movie gave us a lot details on Chinese culture instead. May joined her husband’s family after husband’s death. I found it normal but some of my classmates found it interesting. That is because I am used to Chinese culture so that I cannot see some interesting points in the film.

Today is Founder’s day, we do not have class. But we did meet with Doctor Harney for our podcast. As Doctor Harney mentioned, our podcast has some problems. Actually we knew some of those problems as soon as we finished recording. For me, I think the biggest problem is that we do not have enough conversation. Audiences will easily fall asleep when they listen to one person talking for too long. Additionally, We did our podcast in one room, but some pieces have noise in the background but some does not. We still don’t know why. However we know our podcast still has much room to improve.

 

 

Group Mononoke Update

Hi everyone!

Today Lakken presented for our group. She discussed some of the mythological creatures present in the film including the kodama, the wolves, and the forest spirit. Tristan has done a great job of researching these mythical creatures for our podcast. During group work time, Lakken found some songs that we are going to include in our episode. Tristan and Phoenix continued to refine their parts. Abigail and I wrote out the script for our parts together because our topics of nature and Shinto overlap.

We met tonight to record the last part of our audio draft. We now are very close to the twenty minute mark!! The best part of the whole meeting was adding the music to the beginning of our podcast and hearing what it sounded like along side of what we have already recorded. You’ll have to listen to it, but we are really excited about it and think it’s a great fit. We are also getting the hang of Audacity in general. Soon we will be able to edit our podcast by adding a few more transitions, music, etc.

Pictured below: Our group’s reaction to hearing the music in our intro and Tristan’s spontaneous drawing.

Tomorrow we will post more about our meeting with Dr. Harney and more info from our next group meeting!

Group 1 update for the day!

Group 1 is busy creating our podcast. We are excited to get things rolling and actually recording. As a group, we’ve come to the conclusion that we really dislike hearing ourselves when we try to edit things in the podcast. It’s a small bump that we’ll probably, eventually, get over. We have come into some actual problems as we have begun recording. We aren’t as familiar with audacity as we wish we were so we wouldn’t run into some of the problems we are coming across. We re-recorded part of our podcast and spent much time trying to figure out how to place it in the right space. Tristan and Julia worked together and eventually figured it out. It was a stressful time in the library room, but they luckily figured it out. During this time together, we are realizing certain topics, like the intro are not taking as long as we thought they would be. We are trying to figure out ways to slow things down, like talking slowly and creating transitions between topics. We are still playing with the layout and structure of our podcast, but this evening we have come up with some new ideas for the flow. Hopefully, these next few days we see some great progress in our project.

Tristan and Julia working together to figure out some problems

The Forest Spirit and the Kirin: Between Dragons, Unicorns, and Nature Itself

Yes, I know the Forest Spirit looks creepy here, but it's the best picture I could find. The Forest Spirit IS creepy, anyway. Have you SEEN the movie?
Kirin (Left) and the Forest Spirit (Right)

 

Group Mononoke is hard at work putting the pieces together as to how Studio Ghibli’s film Princess Mononoke  relates to Asian history and mythology, and in the process of analyzing entries about youkai and the like, it became apparent that a particularly crucial figure in the film drew considerably from certain legendary creature. Princess Mononoke‘s central deity in its mythos is the placid yet ominous Forest Spirit, a shapeshifting elk-like being which holds dominion over nature and therefore serves as opposition to all in the film who conspire against nature. As it has multiple forms, it is somewhat an amalgam of different mythological ideas from Asia, with a healthy portion of Studio Ghibli’s originality added in to keep with the stylistic senses of the rest of the film. But even so, the Forest Spirit’s underlying manor bears a striking similarity to an Asian mythological creature of similar status: the Kirin. The Spirit’s likeness to the Kirin isn’t exactly one-to-one, and looking at both creatures might prompt someone to ask if they have any real similarities whatsoever, but what similarities do exist between them are very important to the film, and hearken to myths in a way that requires further study to comprehend. As such, it seems appropriate to give greater attention to this creature and its place in Asian myth, in order to better understand how its inspiration manifests in the film proper.

 

Origins of the Myth and Historical Context

The Kirin (or Qilin if you want it romanized in Pinyin) is a creature that was first referenced in the old Chinese narrative, the Zuo Zhuan, which was a well-regarded commentary on parts of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. In it, the creature’s arrival is said to have marked the impending birth and death of Confucius, an event that thenceforth closely associated the Kirin with the concepts of mortality and – following the widespread adoption of Confucianism throughout China in later centuries – good omens. Its connection to life and death eventually earned it the status of a being connected to the gods, or even a divine being itself. It gained a reputation as a beast of purity and justice, able to peer into people’s hearts and judge their moral character, and only punishing the wicked while never harming the innocent. Later Buddhist influence on the creature’s lore went so far as to describe it as never partaking in another creature’s flesh or stepping on greenery for fear harming the plants, and gave it the ability to walk on water or air instead. Today it remains as powerful symbol of morality and respect for nature, which is clearly evident in the Forest Spirit’s role as protector of nature and the veritable linchpin of life or death in the film.

 

Physical Appearance

As would be expected for a creature that’s existed in human consciousness for over 2000 years, the Kirin’s appearance has seen some changes over time due to inevitable shifts in aesthetic, influence of the appearances of real animals, and intermingling of myths from other cultures. However, there are some features that have remained fairly consistent. The Kirin is almost always depicted as a hooved and horned animal with a body shape similar to that of an ox, horse, or deer. Traditionally it borrows much from the appearance of Chinese dragons by having scales, a fearsome leonine visage with tapering whiskers, and sometimes the ability to manipulate fire. This interpretation persists today, but permutations of it became popular once the Kirin’s name was adapted as a term for a particular real-life animal that was foreign to historic Asia: the giraffe. According to legend, giraffes were to referred to as Kirins once they were brought to Asia from Africa, on the grounds that they were magical creatures not unlike the Kirin itself. As such, their appearance gradually seeped into interpretations of the Kirin as a more mammalian animal, akin to a reptilian steed rather than a draconic beast. This trend was reinforced by the influence of European myths about creatures like the unicorn, which spread to Asia centuries later. The Kirin thusly underwent a “westernization” of sorts to the point where it is now often referred to as “the Chinese unicorn”; it’s quite common to see the creature depicted as an equine or cervine being with a single horn instead of multiple ones. Again, depictions vary, but it goes to show that Kirin is certainly capable of inspiring a creature that may not resemble it clearly, and in time that inspired creature may even become part of the Kirin’s lore.

 

Thematic Connections to the Forest Spirit

Furthermore, the idea to take away from this is that the Kirin’s inspiration for the Forest Spirit in Princess Mononoke is less physical and more practical. The Forest Spirit mirrors the Kirin’s legacy accurately by being a divine being which concerns itself intrinsically with the birth and loss of life. Its every footstep grows and then kills plants in its wake, which may be a reference to the Kirin’s aforementioned aversion to stepping on plants for fear of unjustly harming or killing them, and it can also walk on water. It is trusted to be able to judge the purity and content of others’ hearts, just as the Kirin can, and just as it protects life, it takes away life only in situations where innocence is in danger just like the Kirin is said to do. Summarily, while the Forest Spirit is not quite as explicit in its judgement of others’ moral righteousness, its wrath which is incurred on the entire cast by those who wish to harm nature can be seen as a form of punishment not unlike how the Kirin is reputed to punish the wicked. Only an act of bravery and kindness is able to sate its destructive rampage, and once it’s been appeased, it immediately sets things right as a symbol of justice would.

In conclusion, Princess Mononoke‘s forest spirit can be interpreted as another modernized incarnation of the Kirin with some other elements mixed in. This is far from the only instance of correlation between the film and real-life context (historical or mythological), but given the Kirin’s long-standing legacy and the Forest Spirit’s integral part in the movie, it looks like a particularly latent yet profound reference is made.

 

Works Cited

Alexander, Skye. Unicorns: The Myths, Legends, & Lore. Adams Media Corporation, 2015.

Chan, Joan. East Meets West. Author House, 2009.

Zuo, Qiuming. The Chronicle of Zuo (Chunqiu Zuo Zhuan). JiaHu Books, 2013.

Group mononoke update

Today we watched a film called Journey to the West. It is a Chinese film that is directed by Stephen Chow. As a Chinese, I would like to say that Stephen Chow may be the best movie director among mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. I have watched many Stephen Chow’s movie, he made several movies based on the novel Journey to the West. Although after film watching, many people gave positive feedback, it is not his best Journey to the West theme movie. Back to 1995, he made a movie series named a Chinese Odyssey which is also a retelling of Journey to the west. That movie series helped Stephen Chow made his way into mainland China because it is so successful. It totally overthrows things Chinese know about Journey to the West. Personally the 1995 one is my favorite.

One thing I found is interesting is the look of Monkey King. Apart from this one, every Monkey King in all the movies I have seen looks heroic. I was so upset when that short ugly guy admitted that he was Monkey King. I was as shocked as Xuanzang was. In most Chinese people’s mind, Monkey King is a hero instead of a demon or yokai. In the movie, he showed us his treacherous and craziness, moreover, he surprisingly turned into a huge monkey while attacking people. Although I know it is Stephen Chow’s style, I just cannot relate him with the hero in my heart.

Journey to the West is the novel that is heavily influenced by Buddhism, so does this movie. As we know, a Buddhist monk should be away from meat or love. It is my first time seeing a Journey to the West theme movie that shows everyone Xuanzang does have love for women. I felt strange when I saw Miss Duan kissing Xuanzang at first, but I was relieved when Xuanzang said that the love between people is included in the greater love, nobody should try to reject it. Like Stephen Chow’s another Journey to the West movie, he talked about how Monkey King fell in love with a woman. I think people who think today’s movie was fantastic should watch the 1995 one, Stephen Chow is the main character of that movie. I promise it won’t be bad.

In addition, traditional Journey to the West movie would show the heroic aspect on Monkey King, and Xuanzang in most time would be an annoying partner who always accidentally caused trouble on the way of killing the demon. This movie explains why Xuanzang as a common was always firm in his journey. One thing did not change is that he is still very annoying. In the fish demon scene, the demon was too impatient to listen to Xuanzang Singing.

Here are some images of other movies represent Monkey King or Xuanzang. Hope you like them.    

Group Mononoke Update

Hello from Group Mononoke!

Our group is working really well together and the details for our project seem to be coming together. We had group work time during class today. We were able to discuss some of our secondary sources. I watched a short documentary about Shinto last night which provided some helpful information about the religion and its connection to nature. The documentary said that Shinto is an “exaltation in nature” and that sin is associated with violation of nature or the natural order of things (Grilli, Peter & Westphal, David, directors. Shinto: Nature, Gods, and Man in Japan. Japan Society, 1977). This is interesting because in Princess Mononoke, several of the main characters, including Lady Eboshi, violate the natural world around them. I wonder if the director is trying to point out elements of good and evil in each character by how they relate to or treat the environment. If so, San and Ashitaka are “good” while Lady Eboshi is “bad”. Is it really that black and white? Is this the only way in which the director wants the audience to define “good” and “evil”?

Abigail, Phoenix, Lakken, and Tristan are also researching more about Shinto and how we can connect it to Princess Mononoke. We will continue to work as a group to find even more sources that relate to our topic. Dr. Harney stopped by and discussed our outline with us. He said to think about how we will clearly show transitions within our podcast.

We are currently meeting right now to record our “test” audio clip. We might read the intro that Lakken wrote as a way to talk about the movie or we might read it and incorporate clips from the movie into that part in order to introduce the characters and keep the audience interested. The narrator has a great introductory line which we also might include in our podcast.

While recording the audio clip we had a lot of fun playing around with the shared music files. Tristan has a great radio announcer voice so he might introduce the title of our podcast while some fun, upbeat music plays in the background. If you listen to our audio clip you will hear two of our favorite music files playing softly in the background. 🙂

Pictured below: 1) A sneak peak into a behind-the-scenes group meeting and 2) an awesome drawing of a wolf that Tristan drew

Update from Group Mononoke

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope that everyone’s groups are off to a great start on test runs and drafts as we prepare for the final thing. We heard some great questions from our peers today after Abigail’s presentation. We took those questions into consideration and have decided to do research on some new subtopics. We are working on finding historical context of nature in Japanese culture and how it related. We learned that the forest in the movie is an actual forest and we want to research if there is an important relationship between the forest and movie. We are also working on researching the mythical creatures in Princess Mononoke and finding stories about each of them. We are still using all of the great resources that Tristian brought in. We are retrieving information from all of them and writing our ideas down. Dr. Harney is also helping us by checking to see if we can use audio from the movie in our podcast. This would be very helpful to describe parts of the film that we are putting emphasis on. As a group, we decided that we were going to split up our outline and focus on different parts. We also are going to meet sometime this week and have a meeting around our snow mic. This will give us an opportunity to work out the problems that we find. We are so excited about our new discoveries!

Group Update!

Today was  a very productive day for group 1, as I hope it was for everyone else! We finally came up with a group name after a week of class. We decided to change it to Group Mononoke because for our podcast we will be talking about the movie “Princess Mononoke”. Related image

As a group we found out that the word mononoke is Japanese for spirit or ghost. It fits quite well into this idea of mythical creatures which we will explore in our podcast. Two of our group members, including myself, were absent on Friday due to sport related events so our fellow group members caught us up to speed on what we discussed and how our presentation went. Also, other than picking out a group name, we settled on a podcast topic and thoroughly discussed what to talk about in the presentation tomorrow. Most of our discussion was about the presentation, so I’ll leave most of that for our presenter to share.

Tristan was a great group member today as he brought in many books to help us develop ideas related back to the movie and other resources for our podcast. From his selection, Julia is borrowing a film about shintoism, Phoenix is using a book about nature and seasons, Lakken has a book about folk religion in Japan, I kept a book on the religion of shinto, and Tristan kept the remaining books which varied in topics including the meaning of shinto, daoism, and the meaning of a cult. We decided we would split up the work with these books (and film) to find out more information to help of with our project. Our goal is to continue adding onto our google doc with more information that we learn from these books and other outside sources we find.