Asian Horror Encyclopedia: D



Daikoku : One of the seven Gods of Fortune, associated with Ebisu (commerce) and Hoteru (laughter).

Darkside Blues : Japanese horror anime based on the manga by Kikuchi Hideyuki and Ashibe Yūho.  Comparable to Kikuchi’s Demon City Shinjuku, Darkside Blues is set in a future world where the Persona Century Corporation owns almost all of Japan, all except the lawless, haunted Shinjuku district of Tokyo.   It features gothic imagery, torture by gold plating and a lot of psycho-kinetic activity.

Death Customs : In traditional China, there were no community graveyards.  The common people were buried in secluded places so it was not unusual to encounter corpses and skeletal remains in everyday experience.  The Western trend was to centralize death under the church and keep reminders of death out of the way except under religious auspices. 

Only the Chinese wealthy could plan their post-mortem activities in advance.   Frequently, they would purchase fine coffins well in advance of any signs of impending demise and select “longevity clothes” that the corpse would wear through eternity. 

Death fire :  Mysterious fire that appears in the spooky Japanese mountains.   It is the subject of Yumemakura Baku’s novel Gakidama (Baby Goblin) and  Yoshiya Nobuko’s Onibi (Death Fire). See also hi no tama. 

Death spider : see Tsuichi Gumo.

Death stone : Legendary stone in the tale of the Buddhist Priest Gennou.  See also Tamano no mae.

Decapitation : A fundamental horror image.  In a footnote to the essay “Nightmare Touch,” Lafcadio Hearn writes that “in many old Japanese legends and ballads, ghosts are represented as having the power to pull off people’s heads.” 

Demon City Shinjuku :  Horror novel by Kikuchi Hideyuki.  The story centers on a post-apocalyptic Tokyo where the Shinjuku district has become a rebellious neighborhood full of criminals and strange occult creatures.    Like most of his works, this novel was made into animated film in Japan.

Demons:   According to China traditions, demons or spectres are always present and exist everywhere in large multitudes.  The vast majority are invisible except to a highly accomplished adept.  This is fortunate for the sight of the supernatural world is not for the faint hearted.  (See Dogs). The Chinese have a complex system for classifying demons with three basic types.

Through they are invisible, these omnipresent demons manifest themselves by causing boils, tumors and diseases, or even through the appearance of devilish arrows.   In the more extreme cases, they show themselves in terrifying forms, recognizable by their blue or green skin, huge size, and ferocious teeth.

According to Groot's The Religious System in China, the Chinese classify demons in three major categories: terrestrial, aquatic and subterranean.  The terrestrial demons, or khwei, are sometimes represented as dragon-like beasts with human faces, but they can take many forms.  Some authorities called them "one-legged" since the Chinese compound for khwei has the character for a single leg.  This can also mean whole or complete.  The aquatic type are amphibious demons of rain and wind.  Dragons were originally exclusively of this type, which explains the frequent appearance of dragons in lakes and rivers.  Thirdly, the subterranean demons are usually four-legged animals with terrible destructive powers.  Dreaded by well diggers and miners, these include strange goat-like creatures and the celestial stag.

Demonic Possession : Possession is a common feature of Asian folklore.  Possession by fox spirits is by far the most common type, appearing frequently in the folklore and popular culture of China, Japan, and Korea.  In those countries, the common people habitually employ exorcists to relieve the possessed of their terrible, psychic invader.

Devilman :  See Nagai Go.

Divination : Divination is still common in Japan today encompassing a wide variety of techniques.  The Yih-King a.k.a. I-Ching: The Book of Changes is the classic textbook of the art.  In addition to the I-Ching,  divining blocks, drawing lots, temple oracles, and astrology are common forms of divination throughout the Far East.  See also Bones, Oracle.

Divining Blocks : Crescent-shaped Chinese fortune-telling blocks.  In the hands of an adept, these blocks are said to communicate with the gods.  Usually made of bamboo or wood, two of these blocks are dropped on the floor, and a positive or negative inference is taken from whether they land convex or flat side up.

Dogs : In China like the Near East and Europe, dogs can see ghosts and detect possession by spirits better than most humans.  They bark and growl at the spiritually unclean.  Dogs blood plays a role in both Western and Chinese medical magic.  For example, his torturers forced the martyr Father Perboyre to drink dog’s blood to circumvent his supernatural ability to not feel pain.

Some Chinese believed that dogs had the power to see the spirit world and that fluid from a dog’s eye placed in a human eye would allow the human to see the spirit world.  This practice is not recommended for the uninitiated who could die of fright from seeing the terrors of the spirit world.

Dojo-Ji : Based on an event in the Heian period (794-1186).  It’s the story of a spurned women who transforms into a dragon, attacking a bell in a Buddhist monastery. (Weird Tales of Japan, 75)

Dolls : As magical substitutes for human beings, dolls are a universal subject of occult lore and literature.  In ancient China, the famous shaman, or Wu, Yen She, animated dolls for the amusement of the Imperial Court.  The Emperor became jealous of one of the dolls ogling a Court Lady and ordered it cut open.  It was only made of wood and leather.  (Chinese Ghouls and Goblins, 53.)

Like other cultures, the Japanese doll can take on supernatural properties.  In “Live Dolls,”  in Davis’s Myths and Legends of Japan,  Japanese dolls can take a human soul and become alive.  If mistreated, they being misfortune to their abusers.  They may have supernatural powers.  See also Akutagawa’s short story,  “Doll.”  Japan even has shrines for dead dolls.  The short story “Inhuman Love” by Edogawa Rampo is a strange story of a love triangle among a man, his wife and his antique doll.

A 1940 Japanese horror film, Adauchi koi ningyō (Revenge of the Ghost Doll) is another early example of supernatural dolls in Asian popular horror culture.

Doppelgangers :  The phenomena of the living double of a human being is common in Chinese literature as it is in the West with a few interesting twists.  

In Chen Hsuan-yu’s Tang Dynasty tale, “Twixt Body and Soul” the girl and her double merge back together at the end of the story.   One girl has been lying lovesick in her parent’s love, while her double, actually a wraith, ran off with lover and got married. 

In “An Shiu and Her Double,” the double is a fox woman who is identical to a disappointed lover’s heartthrob, except that she dresses as a rich woman.  His love proves superficial as he cannot distinguish the real Ah Shiu from her impostor, but the double reveals herself as a fox.  In a previous life, the fox was An Shiu older sister and now she is trying to redeem herself by proving to be a superior beauty.  She departs and the hero gets the real An Shiu.  As a further irony,  Ah Shiu dresses elegantly to frighten the sticky-fingered servants into thinking that the fox woman returned.

Doors : Mystical  symbol of a gate to other worlds.  Margery Lawrence exploited a Chinese door in her tale “The Bronze Door” found in the collection Number 7 Queer Street.

Doro-doro : Drumbeat that signals appearance of ghost in a Kabuki play (see Addiss. Japanese Ghosts and Demons).

Dragon : The dragon has massive supernatural, spiritual and folkloric associations that transcend cultural and religious boundaries.  The significant difference that divides East and West is that the Western dragon is the epitome of evil – threatening, fire-breathing, maiden-capturing evil.  It is associated with the loathsome family of reptiles, especially snakes.  Ancient dragon-like creatures were also can wyrms or worms in Old English.   The Chinese dragon materializes from the sea mists, representing the fertilizing power of the rain.  The earliest Asiatic dragons have an aquatic, even fish-like quality.  This dragon and his descendants are magnificent creatures who bring strength and good fortune.  Even the image of a dragon can bring good luck. 

Dragonflies :  Traditional symbol of strength among medieval Japanese warriors.  It frequently appeared in Japanese poetry as a symbol of transience and unreliability.   In Myths and Legends of Japan, Davis mentions the folk legend that writing a certain Japanese character in the air will allow the writer to capture a dragonflies.  Hearn wrote extensively on dragonflies in A Japanese Miscellany. 

Dragon King : The Dragon King played a central role in early Japanese mythology.  He stole Buddha's gems and helped the Japanese invade Korea.  He also plays a role in Japan's most famous legend, Taro Urashima, as ruler of the undersea Dragon Palace and father of Princess Otohime.

Drama :  Performing arts throughout Asian had a strong supernatural element.   Supernatural lore, vengeful ghosts, and the after were all common themes, and theatre exposed a largely illiterate audience to the classical literature.   Chinese drama took on many forms from farce to opera, but Japanese drama, both with Noh plays and Kabuki Theatre, gave full support to the supernatural.

According to Eisaburo Kusano, the majority of Noh plays are ghost stories. (Weird Tales of Old Japan)   As examples, he cites the popular plays Funa-Benkei, Izutsu, Kayoi Komachi and Akogi.

Dreams :  A major theme in Asian horror culture.  Dreams play an important role in early folkloric tales in which the dream is a means of entry or communication with the underworld or the world of gods.  Time compression is a key element in such dreams where entire lifetimes are lived in the course of an evening's rest or in the case of "The Dream of Akinosuke," an afternoon's rest.  (See Butterflies).

Classical Asian novels rely heavily on dreams.  Two famous examples are The Dream of the Red Chamber from China, and Korea's Cloud Dream of the Nine.  See Kim Man-Choong.

The Japanese demon, Baku, lives by feeding on dreams.  In Myth and Legends of the Japan, Davis gives four examples of evils dreams that Baku might consume: two intertwined snakes, a talking fox, bloody garments, and a talking rice-pot.   See also Akumu and Snake Wife.

Dryads :  See Tree Spirits.

Duan, Chengshi :  Early Chinese historian.  In his book, Youyang zazu, he tells the fantastic story of a race of people whose heads detach and fly away at night.  The flying  heads have to relocate and connect to their bodies before dawn or death for both body and head ensues.  See Kurahashi Fumiko.