Shinkei Sanjurokkaisen (New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts) (新形三十六怪撰)

Shinkei Sanjurokkaisen is a series of monster pictures by ukiyo-e artist Yoshitoshi TSUKIOKA from the late Edo period to the early Meiji period. Publication began in 1889, and concluded in 1892 after the death of Yoshitoshi. Several pictures in the latter half of the work were completed by Yoshitoshi's disciples based on his drafts. As the title suggests, it consists of 36 pictures in all.


Yoshitoshi placed special emphasis on monsters as a theme of his own works throughout his lifetime. Among them, this work has been praised as Yoshitoshi's collected studies of monster pictures. The title 'Shinkei' is said to be derived from the word 'shinkei' (meaning "nerve") or from drawing traditional monsters of olden times from a new aspect ('shinkei' meaning "new form"). The frames of the pictures look as if they are eaten by worms. They did not suffer from deterioration, but were designed in this way from the beginning. It is said that Yoshitoshi suffered from nervous breakdown in his later years and that the monsters were his hallucinations.

They are in fact monster pictures, but there are many that depict human beings seeing the monsters as a theme.
Among them, there are those in which only a human being seeing a monster or apparition was drawn, such as 'The picture of Tadatsune NITA seeing oddness in the cave' and 'Narihira.'
In addition, a ghost is drawn like a stain in a fusuma (Japanese sliding door) in 'The picture of the ghost of Seigen missing Princess Sakura.'
An apparition of the skeleton which TAIRA no Kiyomori is said to have met in "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike) was drawn so as to make the fusuma and the moon overlap to look like a skeleton in 'The picture of Kiyomori seeing several hundreds of heads in Fukuhara.'
As above, monsters and apparitions are drawn like illusionism, which is interpreted as human delusions. This is also a characteristic technique used in the work.

[Original Japanese]