Shoki: the Demon Queller in Japanese tattooing

Shoki, the demon queller is one of the most powerfull character depicted in Japanese tattooing, he is considered by common people as a protection against illness and poverty.

Shoki (also known as Zhong Kui in China), is a deity from Taoist pantheon who often appeared in the Edo-period (1615-1868).

Numerous legend sorround Shoki in Japan. The two mostly renowned are:
According to the legend, Shoki is the Chinese deity who protected the Emperor Xuanzong from malevolent demons. Once the Emperor was gravely ill, Shoki appeared to him in a dream and subdued the demon that caused the illness. In gratitude ,the Emperor awarded Shoki with the title of “Doctor of Zhongnanshan, which is the legendary birthplace of chinese Taoism.

Another one described Shoki as a Thang-era physician, but was very ugly in appearance.
To advance his career , he took the national examination to enter imperial service, and performed brilliantly, scoring at first place among all applicants. But when Shoki was presented to the Emperor, he was rejected because of is ugliness. Full of shame he committed suicide upon the palace steps by hurting himself against the palace gate until his head was broken. His friend buried him, and during his judgement the Hell King Enma noticed potential in him. He was intelligent enough to score top honors in the imperial examination, but damned forever to hell for committing suicide. The Hell King gave him the title of “Demon Queller” to forever hunt, capture, maintain and order demons.

Shoki popularity peak during Edo-period, when people began to hang images of him outside of their houses to ward off evil spirits during the Boy’s Day Festival (may 5th each year, but now a festival for all children of both sexes) and to adorn the eaves and entrances of their homes with ceramic statue of the deity.

In Japanese tattooing Shoki is often rapresented with bright eyes, an head full of hair, fancy clothes, a drawn sword and a foot on an Oni’s head in order to subduing him.

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