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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Kaidan is a genre of supernatural tales that became popular during Japan’s Edo period. In 1627, Hayashi Razan translated numerous supernatural tales from China and collected them in five volumes in a work known as Kaidan zensho, the “Complete Collection of Strange Works.” Hayashi Razan was an influential Neo-Confucian scholar and was instrumental in establishing Neo-Confucianism as a dominant ideological force in Tokugawa Japan. As his teachings and stories reached a wide audience, and the government was supportive of Neo-Confucian ideas in Japan, his Kaidan tales, which contained subtle didactic elements, enjoyed success. However, Kaidan zensho was never translated into English.

Many of the tales within the Kaidan zensho expressed didactic messages by using supernatural depictions of animals as narrative devices. The animals usually were caricatures of a person or group, and were furthermore depicted in a negative fashion. These animals were shown to be unable to act in a moral manner, so their purpose in these tales was to highlight the moral decisions made on the part of the stories’ protagonists.

Chapter one of this thesis introduces the kaidan genre, provides context for 17th century Japan, and how Neo-Confucianism influenced Tokugawa government and culture. Chapter two analyzes the Kaidan zensho tales for their use of animals, grouping the stories by theme – benevolence, ingratitude, fear of women, and impermanence. It explains what the animals represent and how they highlight the moral of the story. Chapter three is my original translation of fifteen tales focusing on animals found in Kaidan zensho, with notes to provide context to the stories.


First Advisor

Amanda Seaman

Second Advisor

Stephen Miller