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Tani Bunchō, Tiger Family and Magpies, Edo period, 1807, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Charlotte Wayne and Richard Wayne in memory of Lenore Wayne. Photo © Museum Associates /LACMA

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The Roles and Representations of Animals in Japanese Art and Culture, Part 3—Bookish Beasts: Reading Animals in Japanese Illustrated Fiction

R. Keller Kimbrough, professor of Japanese, department of Asian languages and civilizations, University of Colorado, Boulder

Artworks representing animals—real or imaginary, religious or secular—span the full breadth and splendor of Japanese artistic production. As the first exhibition devoted to the subject, The Life of Animals in Japanese Art covers 17 centuries (from the fifth century to the present day) and a wide variety of media. At the symposium held on June 7, 2019, in conjunction with the exhibition, R. Keller Kimbrough explored the roles and representations of animals in Japanese picture scrolls and illustrated books from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and early eighteenth centuries. In particular he addressed a series of questions pertaining to the nature of animals and humans. How should we treat animals, based on what we can learn about them in Japanese illustrated fiction? How might we choose to behave if or when we find ourselves reborn into the animal realm?