Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day XC - Tengu

Bird-man with big beak,
Ascetic flying demon,
Spirit sticks nose in.

A symbolic creature of great significance in Japanese culture, the Tengu is a tremendously weird avian entity. Commonly considered to be an amalgamation of human and bird, the creature has been configured by Buddhist and Shinto traditions as both a disruptive evil demonic entities and good kami spirits respectively. Over the ages the Tengu's features have become increasingly anthropomorphised and in contrast to the ancient image of a dog-like crow, the creature is now most well-known for its huge nose. According to tradition, this immense snout is a powerful icon warning against arrogance and ill-use of knowledge and the Tengu takes out its wrath on samurai and monks whose behaviour does not become their vocation. Linked to martial arts, the Shugendō sect (hence the distinctive cap and robes in artwork), the ascetic avian's famous form can be found across folk tales and popular culture all over the place. Making mischief and greatly popular in public imagery, the Tengu deserves praise for its awe-inspiring potent protuberance. Have due respect for the vigilant spirit of Japan's skies: the disciplinarian mythic mountain spirit with the massive nose.

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