#Focus ICAS12 | Japanese Representations and Performances of the mastery of fire, particularly yin fires
Edo period encyclopedias such as the famous Wakan sansai zue, largely based on earlier Chinese sources, include detailed classifications of a variety of heavenly and earthly yang and yin fires. The latter are described as burning in water or cold or caused by certain long-lived animals or as manifestations of souls of the unquiet dead. Visual representations of this unusual category of ‘energy’ seem to have been overlooked in Western langage studies. Besides illustrations this subject includes kabuki theatrical performances where the yin fires (onibi, kitsunebi etc) were and still are part of stage special effects and is often maintained digitally in films featuring ghostly apparitions.
The second half of this presentation concerns the fire festivals still celebrated today. Even ‘yang’ fires can be connected to various specific forms of performance and mastery such as the still current fire walking rituals, in which yamabushi ascetics ‘take away the heat’ before devotees cross the burning coals.