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Weaving and BindingImmigrant Gods and Female Immortals in Ancient Japan$
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Michael Como

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780824829575

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824829575.001.0001

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Silkworms and Consorts

Silkworms and Consorts

(p.136) Chapter 6 Silkworms and Consorts
Weaving and Binding

Michael Como

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter explores a small set of poems and legends that feature royal emissaries who prostrate themselves and crawl as they call out to women with whom rulers have become enamored. Because the motifs of crawling and “calling out” appear related to rites of calling to the spirits of the recently deceased, these legends offer a glimpse into the means by which the myths and legends associated with the Chinese festival calendar came to inform even apparently native cultic practices and literature. Once the sources used in the construction of these legends are analyzed, three salient features involving Chinese rites of sericulture become apparent. First, these legends of crawling and calling out, and the poetry associated with them, amply illustrate the degree to which motifs from Chinese legends of weaving and sericulture informed the literature of the period. Second, the immigrant kinship groups that transmitted the technologies associated with sericulture to the Japanese islands were also likely sources for the diffusion of such weaving cults and legends. Finally, the silkworm's ability to “die” within its cocoon, only to re-emerge as a moth capable of flight, meant that rites of sericulture in Japan were associated not only with the acquisition of wealth, but also with resurrection and immortality.

Keywords:   Chinese festival calendar, myths, legends, cultic practices, sericulture, Chinese rites, immigrant kinship groups, Japan

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