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Yoshitoshi Tsukioka’s traditional woodblock prints in the series New Forms of Thirty Six-Ghosts use yōkai, supernatural spirits, as a political critique about the loss of the Japanese tradition due to the Meiji State’s homogenizing modern ideology, which emphasized Western scientific and rational thought over traditional Japanese beliefs about the supernatural. Yoshitoshi Tsukioka’s 1888-1892 ukiyo-e, traditional woodblock prints, in the series New Forms of Thirty Six-Ghosts expresses a subtle cultural critique on the Meiji State’s scientific ideology through a use of traditional folklore. This series displays a connection between yōkai, supernatural spirits, and the identity of rural Japanese populations. The Meiji State’s attempts at cultural homogenization were a threat to traditional Japanese folk beliefs. Although the Meiji State was interested in preserving visual Japanese tradition, the government worked to remove beliefs that contradicted Western science and rationality. Through the examination of peer-reviewed scholarly journals and academic books, the hypothesis may be made that folklore is more prevalent among rural lower-class populations in times of political strife and cultural change because folklore offers a platform for anonymous social and political critique and represents unique cultural identities.

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Subject Major(s)

Art History

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Mary Boyes


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

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VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


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Yoshitoshi Tsuikoka’s New Forms of Thirty Six-Ghosts—Visual Tradition in Art as a Cultural Critique on Japan’s Modernization