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Genre: bats (komori - 蝙蝠)

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Biography:

"While generally despised in the West, the bat (komori) in East Asia is an emblem of good fortune. According to the French scholar Rolf Stein, the Taoist of ancient China believed that bats, in hanging upside down, concentrated key body essences that turned the animals white and made them immortal. The Taoists also believed that those who ate bats enjoyed a long life. In more recent centuries in China, the auspicious symbolism of the animals has been attributed to the fact that the ideographs for both "bat" and "luck" share the same pronunciation.

Motifs of bats appear more frequently in China than in Japan. However, both countries treat the animals in a similar stylized manner, shaping them like a nyoi scepter, a religious implement with auspicious connotations, or like clouds which, in turn, have been stylized to resemble the nyoi. A design of five bats represents the Five Blessings: longevity, health, wealth, a love of virtue, and a natural death. Also common is a design of two facing bats holding a coin between them. More realistic portrayals of bats are also seen in Japanese art, such as in netsuke carvings."

Quoted from: Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design by Merrily Baird, p. 124.