All posts by jaa15po

Korean Entry 2: Bul-Gae

“What an exhausting costume!” A bul-gae (불 개) or fire dog has grown tired of the act! Bul-gae are fiery dogs from Korean mythology that are said to hail from the kingdom of darkness. They are depicted chasing the sun and the moon causing eclipses as the bite down on them. As the story goes, the only reason eclipses end, is because the sun is too hot for the to keep in there mouth for too long and the moon is too cold. They were said to have been sent to retrieve the celestial bodies under the order of the ruler of the kingdom of darkness. The king was tired of the darkness, so he sent the hounds to fetch the sun and moon, but to no avail. The bul-gae is not known to shapeshift in Korean legend (like the fox can), but the idea of a stubborn fiery character representing the bul-gae really interested me. Many animals in Asian mythology are known to transform, and I though that a humanized bul-gae could be very intriguing. She is hiding among the humans as wealthy young maiden, with little knowledge of the norms and fashion. What caused her to finally show her true colors?

Korean Entry 1: Hanbok

This is a young lady wearing a hanbok (한복) of the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1897. The main concept of the hanbok was created during the Goguryeo Dynasty with the women’s hanbok consisting of a jeogori (jacket) and a chima (skirt) with many different variations depending on one’s gender, social and economic standing, or marital status. Bright colors were reserved for the wealthy, while peasants were mandated to wear white or pale shades of pink, green, or grey for special occasions. Higher class individuals had more choices when it came to the color and fashion. This young woman would be a wealthy unmarried lady as shown by her hair style Daeng’gi Meori (댕기머리), a long braid secured with a ribbon at the bottom. Unmarried women traditionally wore a red top with a red skirt, but I wanted to experiment with colors with this character. The dark navy blue is usually reserved for married women.

Chiinese Entry 6: Feng Huang

A secluded place under the peach blossoms to stretch my wings and fly. Just this once.  No one will notice, right? The Feng Huang (鳳凰) often translated as phoenix or Asian Phoenix, are mythological birds that are found across East Asia. They are known as the ruler of all birds and traditionally have the head of a golden pheasant, the body of an mandarin duck, the legs of a crane, mouth of a parrot, the tail of a peacock, and the wings of a swallow. The phoenix was said to originate from the sun, and is a symbol of high virtue, grace, justice, fidelity, fire and the sun. In ancient times the phoenix had two entities; Feng (鳳) for the males and Huang (凰) for the females. They were later fused to form a single feminine entity which was often paired with the dragon which is traditionally male, the pair symbolizing the Empress and Emperor. The Fenghuang is said to be a sign of good fortune, and only ever descends from the heavens during times of true peace and happiness. Other tales say that the feng huang only appears at the start of a new era. Much like the zhen niao (鴆鳥), there are not any accounts of the feng huang transforming into humans in ancient stories. The idea of this creature shapeshifting into human form (or half human in this case) is a relatively new and I wanted to explore it more with this character.

Chinese Entry 5: Ru Qun

This is a Han Chinese woman from the Tang Dynasty which lasted from 618 to 907. She is wearing a chest fastened Ruqun (襦裙) (gown consisting of “top” and “skirt”); one of the many fashion styles of the dynasty and is living the life of a wealthy concubine. The Tang Dynasty was also known as China’s Golden Age and was when the country was at its most open to foreign influence. Women during this period enjoyed an unparalleled amount of freedom compared to other dynasties. Many women were involved in politics, had religious authority through Daoism, and some even had a hand in military exploits. In fact, it was the Tang Dynasty that gave China its first woman leader, Wu ZeTian. This forward thinking showed in the clothing as well. During the Han Dynasty women’s clothing was very modest, layered, and thick. Women could not show their feet or hands outside their clothes. During the tang dynasty ladies could show their arms and legs and sometimes even show off their figure through the translucent and flowing silk material of the ruqun.

chinese entry 4: Jiangshi

Jiangshi (殭屍) literally meaning “stiff” or “hard” are zombie like creatures of Chinese mythology. The name is often translated as hopping zombie/vampire, as they move by stiffly hopping forward with their arms stretched out for balance. This is caused by the stiffening of the body (rigor mortis) after humans die. They have pale blue/ greenish skin, which has been speculated to be caused by a fungus. Jiangshi hop around at night looking for victims to suck the life force or qi out of. They are only ever out at night to reduce decay and as result, flee whenever they hear a rooster cry, signaling the sunrise. They can also be repelled using the wood of a peach tree, the sound of a black donkeys’ hooves, and mirrors. Jiangshi are said to be created due to improper burials, necromancy/magic rituals, suicide, or the possession of a dead body. The origin of Jiangshi comes from the practice of “corpse driving” from ancient China. When a family’s son was far away and died either as a worker or soldier, their bodies would be sent back to the family. Some poorer families how ever, cold not afford to have their sons body retrieved, so instead they would hire a Taoist priest to assist them. The priest would reanimate the corpse using a sacred ritual that bound the spirit to the body. He would then give the Jiangshi a set of instructions to hop home. Unfortunately, many of these Jiangshi don’t end up arriving to their destination and end up causing trouble along the way. Jiangshi were almost if not always male, and female jiangshi are extremely rare. This young lady was most likely turned into a jianghshi on purpose for other nefarious reasons.

Chinese Entry 3: qi zhuang

This is a Manchurian woman from the Qing Dynasty in China which lasted from 1644 to 1912. She would be the daughter of a Manchurian nobleman of the time and would have access to the most luxurious clothing and lifestyle. This young lady is wearing a Qi Zhuang (旗裝) which is a style of clothing from Manchuria. She is also wearing golden nail guards. This is a sign of nobility as the rich would not be required to do manual labor and could grow out their nails. After the Manchurians took over China in the early to mid-1600s, all Han Chinese people were mandated to wear Manchurian dree and hairstyles (resistance results in death). Qi Zhuang were to be worn exclusively by Manchurian women, with Han Chinese women wearing different variations of Manchu dress. The Qi Zhuang would eventually be modernized in the future and create the more form fitting and well known Qi Pao.


Chinese Entry 2: Zhen Niao

The Hong Kong socialite reveals herself to be a Zhenniao! Zhenniao(鴆鳥)or Zhen birds, are mytholical creatures from ancient Southern China. They are described as either eagle like birds with a purple abdomen and green tipped feathers, or goose like in appearance with a dark purple coloring. A Zhenniao’s body is said to be extremely poisonous from the feathers on its body, to the blood flowing through its veins. The poison from its body was so potent and unparalleled that it was often used in assassinations, the only cure being the horn of a rhinoceros. As a result, stirring tea with a hairpin made from said horn was done to neutralize any poison. This was common as it was said that the poison only had to pass one’s throat to kill them. In fact, the toxins from this creature’s body were so legendary that the word “zhen” became a metaphor for any type of poison being used. In my iteration of this creature, I designed her to be a Zhenniao who shapeshifted into a human to blend into society. China has many myths of animals transforming into humans, and although there are no such tales of Zhenniao doing this, the idea greatly interested me into creating this character as a result.

Chinese entry 1 : Qi Pao

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This is a woman from the early twentieth century in China during the 1920s. This is a wealthy Hong Kong socialite wearing what most people in the west typically think of when we hear “Chinese dress/ clothes” : a Qipao (旗袍) in Mandarine or Cheongsam in Cantonese. Originally, this style of dress actually came from the Manchurians and was a loose fitting A-line gown. When China started becoming more modernized during the twentieth century, the dress was tailored to flatter the figure, and became more form fitting as time when on. It is still worn to this day, mostly for special occasions, and sometimes for everyday wear.