and Oni are prominent folklore characters who grew out of
the religious traditions of Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan
and Taoism in China. Shoki,
otherwise known as the Demon Queller, is regarded as the god
of the afterlife and of exorcism.
Oni refers to a whole host of particularly nasty
to legend, the Oni fear Shoki and so he is able to easily
scare them away from their hapless human victims.
Japanese families with male children used to hang
images of Shoki outside their houses to ward off evil
spirits during Tango no Sekku (Boys' Day Festival), which is
held annually in May. These
days, the festival is for boys and girls and no doubt, Shoki
is more than happy to be protector to both!
Who is Shoki and where did all those demons come from?
The story of Shoki begins in the Chinese province of
Shensi, where he was known as Chung Kuei. It is said that he lived during the T'ang dynasty and that
his sole aim in life was to become a physician to the royal
completed his training and successfully passed the
legend says that he placed first of all the people who
aspired to work for the emperor.
However, there was one problem - Shoki was very ugly.
Even though he was the best person for the job, the
emperor rejected him because of how he looked.
Shoki was so distraught at seeing his dream shattered by something he
had no control over, that upon hearing the news, he took his
own life. He
killed himself in front of the emperor on the very steps of
the imperial palace. The
emperor was overcome with grief and remorse for what he had
said, feeling that his insensitivity had been responsible
for the death of this honest and hard-working man.
The emperor ordered that Shoki be buried with the
highest honors usually reserved for royalty.
Shoki's spirit, grateful to the emperor - vowed to
protect him against demons.
From China, the story of Shoki traveled to Japan during the Edo period
(1600 - 1868). In
the Japanese myths, Shoki quells demons rather than killing
vanquished demons become allies and sometimes even active
helpers in Shoki's quest for good against evil.
The Oni of Japanese myths are demons that have human
also have three eyes, horns, and sharp nails.
Oni as described through history represent just about
all of the emotions and traits that we associate with evil
and wrongdoing. Oni
were said to linger around wicked people and to claim their
souls when they died, transporting them by chariot to Emma-Hoo,
the god of hell.
Given what they looked liked, Oni would be hard to miss except for the
fact that they rarely revealed themselves to humans. They preferred to wreak their brand of havoc by causing
earthquakes and other natural disasters - such as plagues.
They were also famous for helping invading enemies
get a foothold on native soil.
One interesting note from the Buddhist tradition is
that there are mythic stories of monks - good people in real
life that became Oni after death in order to protect the
temples they had once inhabited.
Therefore, not all Oni started out as wicked people.
The Japanese do have a ceremony called Oni-Yarabi, which was designed to
cleanse an infected area of the Oni demons.
However, Shoki was the main person that they called
on to ward off the demons.
Japanese folklore has always been rich with belief in
demons and spirits. These
stories sprang from mythology and superstitions carried over
from various religious traditions.
These stories explain events in nature that might
have been otherwise difficult to understand.
Among these stories, Shoki and Oni remain some of the
most colorful and definitely a national favorite throughout