Death Bids You Farewell

Hello everyone! This will be our last blog post. Today in class our group gave its last presentation where we talked about the production of our podcast from start to finish. Thank you for going on this journey with us and we hope you will enjoy listening to our podcast! This is Group Death signing off.

Death Prepares for the Final Day

Greetings everyone! Just a quick update for today’s post. In class, three groups presented on the production of their podcast episode. Tomorrow we will be doing the same where we will talk about:

  1. Choosing a Topic
  2. Research: Primary sources, Translation Work, and Journal Articles
  3. Historical Context: China (Han Dynasty-Establishment of People’s Republic of China) and Japan (Heian-Edo)
  4. Production (Audacity and Script Writing)

We look forward to sharing our work tomorrow! For our classmates, there will be a little surprise at the end 🙂

Group Members Working on Group Presentation

The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd

Our class is coming to an end, but group death hasn’t finished yet. We are thinking about adding some changes to our podcast during the weekend and preparing for our final presentation.

In our podcast, we discuss the story of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. In case of anyone curious about why they are called The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, I’m going to introduce about the origin of their name.

The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd is the name of Vega and Altair in china. Vega is named Zhinü (Weaver Girl) during the Spring and Autumn period (BCE 771-476), and it can be found in a book called Classic of Poetry (诗经). 7th month of the Chinese calendar (usually late August) is the time for women in the family to prepare clothes for the winter. It’s also when Vega reaches its highest point in the sky and as one of the brightest stars. Therefore, Vega became a representation of women preparing for the winter clothes. The original name for Niulang (Altair) is Qianniu (牵牛: Pulling cows) which is a preparation for ritual sacrifice. And this sacrifice usually takes place in the 8th month of the Chinese calendar, since at that time the livestock are strongest. Altair also reaches its highest point in 8th month. So, when Altair reaches its highest star ancient people in China would know it’s time for them to sacrifices their livestock.

Vega, Altair, and Deneb forms Summer Triangle. They are the brightest stars on the northern hemisphere’s celestial sphere during the summer. As we can see in the picture, Vega and Altair is separated by the milky way and that is how the story emerges. So, next time when you’re camping in the summer and look at the Summer Triangle, it might remind you about the love story between Vega and Altair.

Kitsune and Women

Women are frequently found as characters within Japanese tales and many times these women are portrayed as kitsune, or fox spirits. There is a special connection found between women and kitsune in Japanese tales. Women are often associated with kitsune in Japanese tales because the fox spirits often transform into women and typically deceive men, however, there are other tales associated with women and kitsune. These tales frequently offer insights into important cultural practices of the time and the roles and expectations of women are often reflective in Japanese tales. The Heian period (794-1185) was a time when Buddhism was beginning to spread throughout Japan and more people were following Confucian practices. These practices were influential on cultural views and expectations of people during this time. Examining the roles of women and men during this period sheds light on cultural views of behavior that would ensure both spiritual and physical wellness. These roles and expectations differ between women and men and help define gender expectations during the Heian Period. Cultural expectations of how women should behave can be found through the mystifying and haunting tales of Japanese culture. The association between women and kitsune has a meaningful relationship in understanding the cultural roles and expectations of women through subtle and sly societal connections.

The Heian period was a time of peace and prosperity (Hidden Sun, 13). There was also a strong emphasis on Confucian beliefs especially on the aspect of filial piety (Hidden Sun, 15). Filial piety is the concept that you should be good to your mother and father and this concept is essential in understanding Japan culture during the Heian period. By the culture having such an emphasis on filial piety, women were given an extra incentive and expectation to get married, become good wives, and good daughter in laws. Within the Confucian ideology patriarchal families were the “model of how societies should be organized” (Widows of Japan,418). Marriage practices during this time were better than earlier periods for women but not yet ideal to certain theologies. Women had some independence within their marriage but other struggles came along with this new found “freedom”. At this time, men were allowed to take multiple wives while women were only permitted one spouse (Haruko, 74). It is important to consider that most scholarly writings typically talk about women in the context of marriage. One reason to acknowledge this finding is because social values that are considered of high importance would be recorded. One of the most important roles of women at the time would be to become a good wife. It was believed that by following these societal beliefs the families would not only gain physical benefits but also spiritual benefits (Lindsey, 38-39). Later during the Edo period (1603-1868), many families adopted the use of a female lifestyle guide called the Onna Chohoki (Lindsey, 36). This lifestyle guide said that marriage determines whether a young women flourishes or withers and if they did not follow the guidelines the divine punishment was typically disease (Lindsey, 39-40). Knowing background information on the Heian period allows for a deeper understanding in to one Japanese tale that had subtle influences on the expectations of women and the roles they played during the Heian period.

The tale, “The Loving Fox”, is a Japanese tale about a man walking down the street who meets a beautiful woman who turns out to be a fox (Royall, 115). According to Taylor Royall’s book, Japanese Tales, the woman warns the man that if they lay together that she will die instead of him and that if he wished to honor her that he should write the lotus sutra in her honor. And this is indeed what happens. This tale has several subtle hints about gender roles woven through the intricate tale about a man simply walking down the street. As mentioned previously, men had more freedom than women during this time. You would not hear this tale being told with the roles reversed. You would not find a tale that a woman was walking down the street and that she thought a man was handsome and approached him. This shows a glimpse into the masculine superiority and its influence over women.

One of the main points to address is the idea that the woman was portrayed as being a fox. The fact that the “woman” was not actually a woman but portrayed as an animal, suggests that being a woman has different value than a man in the tale. The story also seems to emphasizes more the spiritual than the physical by mentioning about the lotus sutra. In this particular tale, marriage is not involved as it is in other kitsune tales, but it is also possible to infer from this tale that there is a consequence for the woman “laying in his arms” because she dies in place of him. There is no punishment for the man which expresses the idea that men have more freedom than women.

For the Heian period being a time of peace and prosperity (Robins-Mowry, 13) women in general did not feel as much of the effects of freedom as men. While there was in no way the same amount of freedom for women as there was for men, it can be seen through Japanese tales with kitsune that the role and expectations of women were different than that of men. During this time, men were also constantly gone to visit other women (Robins-Mowry, 15) which can explain why there were no problems for the man. While some stories about Kitsune, especially those where they are married, emphasize the expectations of women.

However, “The Loving Fox” is a favorite example of a tale where the meaning behind it is more on the subtle side and leaves for more personal interpretation which could have a bigger influence on the culture at that time. After delving deeper into the enriching history of the Heian period, the folklore and tales of the time can begin to bring a new meaning to the sometimes confusing, and mysterious tales. As previously discussed, the roles of women have a connection to kitsune that helps to understand the context of women throughout the Heian period. One last point to acknowledge is that history has many more explanations than just the expectations of women that can be found throughout Japanese tales, and the next time you read or hear of a tale, research the historical background because you may find a subtle connection to explain other significant cultural practices.

Works Cited

Haruko, Wakita, and Suzanne Gay. “Marriage and Property in Premodern Japan from the Perspective of Women’s History.” Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 10, no. 1, 1984, p. 73. doi:10.2307/132182.

Lindsey, William. “Religion and the Good Life: Motivation, Myth, and Metaphor in a Tokugawa Female Lifestyle Guide.” Jstor, Nanzan University,

Robins-Mowry, Dorothy. The Hidden Sun: Women of Modern Japan. Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1983.

Tyler, Royall. Japanese Tales. New York, Pantheon Books, 1987.

“Widows of Japan: an Anthropological Perspective.” Choice Reviews Online, vol. 49, no. 01, Jan. 2011, doi:10.5860/choice.49-0363.

Modern Celebration of Qixi

Hello Everyone!

Group Death is very excited because we are getting “deathly” close to having our final product for our podcast! But until then, we wanted to bring you some other interesting facts about the celebration of Qixi in China.  We have talked a lot about how these stories came to be as well as the historical content that may have influenced different variations in the stories.  Today we want to share how the festival is celebrated modernly and how the tradition is still alive and well today.

Qixi is known as the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day.  It originated from the legend of the cowherd and the weaver girl. This festival is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th Chinese lunar month.  Ways of celebrating include giving gifts, flowers, chocolates, and going to dinners. While love is certainly associated with day, it also about the historical and cultural meaning.  While it used to be more focused on weaving, which was considered a valuable skill in women, now it is more about buying gifts and giving them to you sweetheart.  Qixi is festival that allows for a special occasion to show their affections.  Flowers are a very common gift giving during the festival. If you find yourself in China on the 7th day of the 7th Chinese lunar moon, then you should definitely check out this festival!

Death Spends the Day Recording

Greetings and happy Wednesday from Group Death! Today was a very special day for our campus because it is Founder’s Day. A chance for students to celebrate and remember the humble beginnings of Centre College.  However, this was not a lazy day. After attending the convocation, Group Death immediately went to work on the podcast episode. Our members met with Dr. Harney to receive some helpful comments. We took these into account and applied them to some of the major changes we made over the weekend. For example, our podcast episode will follow a more conversational format compared to our first draft. In addition, we have greatly expanded the Chinese portion of the episode to further show the significance of Qixi in its history.With this, Group Death completed multiple recordings today and hope to get as close to the final piece as possible.

With this, Group Death completed multiple recordings today and hope to get as close to the final piece as possible. We even tried a new interesting technique to try and achieve a better sound quality (pictured below). Sometimes this can be difficult due to the state of study rooms in the library having an echoing effect on the voice. However, our idea didn’t really make a difference so we just stuck with getting close to the snowball microphone. Still a comical moment in production. We look forward to presenting the final draft to you next week!

Tanabata, Death, and Oni


While Group Death has bloodied itself carving through the core of Tanabata intricacies, we have also found other interesting bits to mention that doesn’t fit cleanly into our podcast.

Tanabata is not the only festival in August or July. Another festival called the Obon festival is often mixed up with this holiday. A while back I mentioned how the reading to the kanji for Tanabata should be ‘shichiseki’ but it ended up being called Tanabata to reference a purity tradition. Up until the Edo period many people would put shelves in their houses to perform ancestor worship. However nowadays most people do not perform these rituals, but instead show ancestor worship through the festival of Obon.


藤谷良秀. “Floating Lanterns”,21 August 2011.

The festival lasts around three days. Families visit the places of their ancestors and clean their gravesites. Then, at last, they send candle-lit lanterns down a river. This is similar to tanabata in that strips of paper with wishes written on them are sent down a river. Apparently the original tanabata festival and the Obon festival were like a beginning and end for this sort of festival. Tanabata was a way to say hello to your ancestors, and Obon was a way to say goodbye. Therefore, many people believe the origins of the Obon festival started with the tanabata rituals.

But what does tanabata have to do with youkai?

Good question!

It doesn’t! In the Japanese version of the Star Weaver and the Cowherder there is already a milkyway. However, the main part of the story of Qixi is that a goddess created the milkyway to divide the two. In the Japanese version, the two are just forced to separate on either side of the milkyway. Which begs the question: Where did the Milkyway come from?

There is not much concern for how the milkyway came about and the story of the creation of the milkyway is unpopular and fairly rare. According to You Seihou the Milkyway was created by an oni who, improperly, cut open a melon and its juices flooded the sky, creating the Milkway. There is not much information behind this story, but it is a bit interesting. It brings up many questions, specifically, why does a youkai create a beautiful river of stars in the sky? It’s a mystery that would require a trip to archives in Japan, not something any of us have time for.

Tanabata is a not-so-creepy love story that has a little bit of associations with death, thus it fits nicely into Group Death’s interests.

See you all nice time with other gory details about our podcast!


Works Cited

You Seihou 楊 静芳.中日七夕伝説における天の川の生成に関する比較研究. “A comparison of the creation of the Milky Way in the Chinese and Japanese Tanabata Legend.” Tokyo Gakugei University Repository, 2012.

上江洲, 規子. “実は七夕はお盆と関連が深かった?日本古来の七夕の意外な事実.” 住まいの「本当」と「今」を伝える情報サイト【HOME’S PRESS】. May 23, 2015. Accessed January 17, 2017.

Group Death update

Hello everyone, this is Lawrence from group death to give you the latest update on our podcast. We finished our recording on Saturday. In general, we feel good about what we have done so far, but still there are things we can improve on to make a better podcast. One thing we can improve on is recording. Eve is doing the editing part and she told us there are some parts in the audio that seems like we hit the mic when talking. We are going to figure out a way to avoid that in our next recording. By the way, Eve did a good job on editing. It’s really take more time than you expect in editing and she is also finding the music for our podcast. Everyone in this group is helping her to find some appropriate music, hopefully that will make her job easier. We are also rewriting our script to make it sounds more like a natural voice, since our original script it’s writing like an essay. After we finished our recording and shared some ideas about the podcasts we listened to, we decided to make our podcast less formal. For example, we can add more conversation into the script to make the podcast feels like a discussion instead of reading an academic essay. Also, Sarah is going to do the presentation to provide more information on story of Qixi. Find out more about cowherd and weaver girl on our next presentation.    

Day 9: Finding Meaning in Death

Happy Friday the 13th everyone! Quite the superstitious day for Americans, but we hope it has been a good one. Today, I will be discussing an interesting primary source that I found recently. This week I have been doing a lot of research on marriage during the Han dynasty because this is when the Qixi story was being created. One day, I came across a JSTOR article titled “Women, Kinship, and Property as Seen in a Han Dynasty Will”. In it, Bret Hinsch, a professor at the National Chung Cheng University of Taiwan, analyzes a will written for a man named Zhu Ling who most likely died in 5 AD due to illness. He stipulates how his land will be distributed after his death. In addition, a person called the “old woman”, who historians later deduct is Zhu Ling’s mother, plays a role this land inheritance.

The first major thing this will reveal is the weakness of patrilineal lineage in lower class Chinese families. For example, after the death of Zhu Ling’s father, the “old woman” returned to her own family along with her son. “The raising of a boy by his maternal relatives rather than by his father’s lineage, as Confucian dogma would mandate, suggests that the patrilineal orientation of the family was weaker in early China than is sometimes portrayed” (Hinsch 1998, 5).

The scholar also goes into uxorilocal marriage, a practice where a son of poor parents was sent to live with his wife’s family. Opposite of what Confucian society dictated. However, common people would still resort to an uxorilocal arrangement in order to preserve their wealth and family lineage. However, this went against the law. For example, during the Qin dynasty, “law prohibited husbands in uxorilocal marriages from holding government office, commanding the household, or even conferring on others a household’s lands or buildings. And a 214 B.C. purge directed against undesirable elements in Qin society persecuted men residing with their wives’ families” (Hinsch 1998, 5).

Our group will connect this to Qixi by looking at the first version of the story as one trying to uphold Confucian values. Towards the end, the couple is separated because they became lazy after getting married. This can be a reference to a Confucian belief where it was considered disrespectful to not have children. Meaning, the story almost serves as a warning against uxorilocal and other marriages that were deemed harmful to society.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this update. Have a wonderful weekend!


Works Cited: Hinsch, Bret. “Women, Kinship, and Property as Seen in a Han Dynasty Will.” T’oung Pao, Second Series, 84, no. 1/3 (1998): 1-20.

Group Death: Havoc in the Heavenly Kingdom

Today we watched a contemporary revisit version of Journey to the West. However, the original text has profound influence in China and I’d like to introduce the most famous scene from Journey to the West, Havoc in the Heavenly Kingdom. This scene also explained why Sun WuKong (Monkey King) was imprisoned by the Buddha under the mountain.

Sun WuKong is a monkey born from a magic rock. He is so extraordinary and powerful. Within a short time, he learned 72 transformations (allow him to transform into almost everything), he can fly 108,000 li (13,468 mi) by a single lift. And after several disruptions done to dragon palace, he got the most powerful weapon Ruyi Jingu Bang (As-You-Will Gold-Banded Cudgel).

The god in the heaven saw what he did and they want to give him a job in heaven to prevent he causes more trouble. The Jade Emperor invited Sun WuKong to heaven and told him he will become a horses’ keeper. Sun WuKong felt insulted by the god and he proclaim himself as the Great Sage and the god must admit it. The Jade Emperor agreed his proposal. But later Sun WuKong find out he didn’t get the invitation to a banquet which all the god and goddess were attended. He was infuriated by the fact. He decided to steal the Laozi’s pill of longevity and immortal peach and flew back to his kingdom.

Then the god sent 100,000 celestial warriors, four heavenly Kings, best generals from Heaven’s army to capture him. Both Taoist and Buddhist forces were participated in this action, but they were all defeated by Sun WuKong. Finally, the Bodhisattva of mercy, Guanyin, captured him. However, the god didn’t know how to execute him. They decided to lock him in an Alchemy Furnace to remake the pills of longevity. After 49 days Sun WuKong came out from the Furnace, and became much stronger.

The Jade emperor then asked help from Buddha (The Buddha in the movie we watched). The Buddha came and told Sun WuKong if he can flee from his palm, he will be treated as the great sage. Sun WuKong thought that is too easy for him he can, since he can fly 108,000 li by a single lift.  So, Sun WuKong took a lift and he saw five pillar. He believed that must be the end of the world. To prove his trip, he signed on the pillar and urinates on the pillar. After he came back, he found that those five pillar is the finger of the Buddha’s hand. Then Buddha turned his hand into a mountain. Sun WuKong tried to fled, but Buddha put a seal on the mountain and that imprisoned him for 500 years.