Lea Baten's resourceful book assists in the identification of the familiar and unfamiliar figurines known as ningyo, and explores the roots of the word itself: both meanings, "doll" and "human shape", are associated with play and ritual, life and death. These dolls are not necessarily just playthings with pretty faces, but range from mass-produced, trivial toys to true art pieces and imposing ceremonial ornaments. Materials vary: they can be made from stone, clay, paper, and wood; or brocade, ivory, peral and lacquer. Many of the enormous variety of ninygo may be considered pieces of an unsolved puzzle that are in danger of disappearing without ever having been totally understood in the West. This book investigates the numerous meanings of the "human shape" in Japanese culture, from pre-history to the present, and explores the many, varied and subtle connotations ningyo have for the Japanese. It not only identifies and describes ningyo, detailing their history and meaning, but also contains a complex index and one of the most extensive bibliographies on the doll motif ever published in English.