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Impurity (穢れ kegare), and by extension Purity (清め kiyome), is an important concept in Shinto. In the setting of Touhou it is conflated with the unrelated Buddhist concept of the Pure Lands, and is particularly important to Lunarian culture.
Impurity in Shinto
One of the central beliefs of Shinto is that actions and feelings which are negative (such as anger or hate) or taboo (such as touching a corpse) generate harmful "impurity", tainting both the person and their surroundings. While there are simple ways to remove everyday levels of impurity, greater amounts require a cleansing ritual at a Shinto shrine. Various tools of a shrine, such as the torii gates and shimenawa ropes, act as spiritual barriers which limit the amount of impurity that can pass through, allowing the shrine itself to maintain a high state of purity without "leakage" from outside (and conversely, protecting the outside if the shrine itself becomes impure).
Impurity in Touhou
- Impurity appears in Touhou mostly in the context of the Lunarians, who seek to avoid it at all costs and possess a plant which can detect it. Drinking the Hourai Elixir forever taints a person with the concept of death by its absence, and thus Lunarians consider those who have drunk it to be impure.
- Hina Kagiyama collects impurity.
A number of realms in Touhou are identified as "pure lands", which do not possess the innate impurities of the Earth. As a result, time does not exist in the traditional sense; there are no seasons, no day and night, and things do not change or decay (though this is not always obvious to a casual observer, due to their inhabitants creating the appearance of age for aesthetic reasons). Inhabitants of a Pure Land exist as eternal beings, neither alive nor dead - rather than immortal, they are closer to amortal. The Moon appears to be an "artificial" Pure Land, retaining its status only because it has rarely been exposed to impure things; its inhabitants age extremely slowly rather than not at all, and it risks losing its status if too many impurities are introduced. It is unknown if other Pure Lands could become tainted in this fashion.
Kaguya Houraisan's power over eternity allows her to replicate the effects of a Pure Land, either on a single being or over an area; this power was once used to conceal Eientei, and is currently targeted on a bonsai Udonge Tree as a test of her power's limits.
Most of the various Pure Lands are somehow connected to each other.
Known Pure Lands
Since Yuyuko Saigyouji and Youmu Konpaku are inhabitants of the Netherworld, a land even purer than the Moon is, after Yukari Yakumo opened a gap that let them into the Lunar Capital in Silent Sinner in Blue, the Lunarians were completely unable to detect their presence.