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Die Repräsentation von Tieren im japanischen Ken-Spiel: Versuch einer Interpretation


Linhart, S (2011). Die Repräsentation von Tieren im japanischen Ken-Spiel: Versuch einer Interpretation. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 65(2):541-561.

Abstract

Animal figures play an important role in many games all over the world. In Europe, e.g., the so-called goose game was the most important board game for many centuries in many countries, with the goose being a symbol of good luck. More generally, it is assumed that in many games the metaphoric use of animals is not merely accidental, but based on the meanings associated with a certain animal in a given society at the time when the game was invented or became popular. In Japan, several animals appear in its most widely practiced drinking game, the game of ken. This short article explores the role of animals in three varieties of sansukumi ken, games in which every one out of three figures beats one of the other two while losing to the third one. The three games examined are mushi-ken, the ken of small animals, tora- or tiger-ken, and kitsune- or fox-ken. In mushi-ken it is three animals, impersonated by means of the players’ fingers only, that compete with each other. In tora- and kitsune-ken, however, the tiger and the fox confront two human figures respectively, and players use both of their arms or even their whole bodies in playing, making these two games much more dramatic. The article suggests that the overwhelming popularity of fox-ken from the middle of the 18th to the middle of the 20th century originated in its use of the fox, in Japan at that time considered to be an animal with supernatural qualities, and in the game’s anti-hierarchic character.

Abstract

Animal figures play an important role in many games all over the world. In Europe, e.g., the so-called goose game was the most important board game for many centuries in many countries, with the goose being a symbol of good luck. More generally, it is assumed that in many games the metaphoric use of animals is not merely accidental, but based on the meanings associated with a certain animal in a given society at the time when the game was invented or became popular. In Japan, several animals appear in its most widely practiced drinking game, the game of ken. This short article explores the role of animals in three varieties of sansukumi ken, games in which every one out of three figures beats one of the other two while losing to the third one. The three games examined are mushi-ken, the ken of small animals, tora- or tiger-ken, and kitsune- or fox-ken. In mushi-ken it is three animals, impersonated by means of the players’ fingers only, that compete with each other. In tora- and kitsune-ken, however, the tiger and the fox confront two human figures respectively, and players use both of their arms or even their whole bodies in playing, making these two games much more dramatic. The article suggests that the overwhelming popularity of fox-ken from the middle of the 18th to the middle of the 20th century originated in its use of the fox, in Japan at that time considered to be an animal with supernatural qualities, and in the game’s anti-hierarchic character.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 65 (2011) > 2
Dewey Decimal Classification:950 History of Asia
Language:German
Date:2011
Deposited On:14 Nov 2011 13:38
Last Modified:17 Feb 2018 13:56
Publisher:Schweizerische Asiengesellschaft / Verlag Peter Lang
ISSN:0004-4717
OA Status:Green

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