Table of Contents - Volume 12, number 2 (June 2007) - 26 pages
This amusing action figure is widely known throughout Asia (Tibet, China, and Japan), where it consistently represents something made of rubber, elastic, or a sticky substance like gum.
The string itself does not stretch, but appears to do so as the final design is worked by repeatedly bunching and stretching the fingers — an optical illusion that amazes many onlookers.
The figure is often preceded by one or more intermediate stages, some of which are named. The initial weaving process has a rhythm that is easy to remember and somewhat reminiscent of that used in making ‘Jacob’s Ladder’.
This charming action figure is a continuation of the previous figure (gomu in Japanese). The long hanging loop represents a ‘Swing’ (known locally as buranko).
The design is novel because the hanging loop never gets absorbed, no matter how tightly the figure is extended. That’s because knots forms at the base of each little finger which effectively lock the design.
A gentle back-and-forth rocking motion of the hands initiates the motion of the swing.
This amusing action figure, which represents a child’s toy, is likewise a continuation of the previous figure. The collector also saw it in Niigata prefecture, where a woman called it ‘Railway Train’.
The figure is called ‘Yo-yo’ because the central design (which represents the grooved double disc) moves up and down relative to a string held in the mouth.
The length of the loop you use determines how many times you need to wrap the hanging loop around the central figure.
This simple action figure is a variation of ‘Mosquito’ — a disappearing knot figure known worldwide.
In China the central knot represents a date, the edible fruit of a palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera).
Before the figure is woven, a “cow hitch” is formed around each middle finger. A cow hitch consists of two opposing half-hitches tied in opposite directions.
Once the ‘Date’ is formed, the central knot is dissolved by clapping the hands (purely theatrical) and releasing the upper middle finger loops. The date dissolves as the hands separate (this represents eating the date).
The action can be repeated over and over once the cow hitches are formed.
Although similar action figures are known worldwide, this action figure from India is formed by a method that is unique to Asia. The native name for this figure is Tala Kunchi.
When extended, the right hand of the final design represents a key, while the left hand represents a dead-bolt lock. As the right hand rotates, the design near the left hand expands and contracts.
The method described here has been simplified so that the maker does not have to “fish” for strings.
Nearly every culture has an action figure called ‘Scissors’. In each case, a pair of strings rub against each other like scissor blades.
This example, from India, is called katar in the local dialect. It is preceded by two other non-action figures: janaja dagna (the awning over a funeral bier), and chasma (a mirror).
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