Inspiring Images: The Gaki-Zoshi


Images from the Heian period have this incredible pull on me. The scroll itself, and the narratives within. The other-wordly-ness that is familiar in some way. The intense character in the faces of all those figures that show up across so many scrolls. I love the imagery, and I love the thoughts conjured by their narratives.

And perhaps no other narrative captures my attention as fully as the scrolls of the Gaki-Zoshi. These scrolls reflect the suffering of the gaki, that is the hungry ghosts, souls who were doomed to have unquenchable thirst and hunger as they wondered the world. Many of the scrolls describe their conditions, but also how offerings could comfort and save them from their doom.


These works are like comics from a different era. Their imagery is intense, and I find it lingers in my mind for quite some time after I visit them. Much of the story is tied to Buddhist teachings and thought of the Heian era, but the images, and the characters therein are still penetrating and disturbing today.

Read more about them here and here.