The tengu, the long-nosed demon 天狗
The Japanese goblin half-man, half-bird
With its crimson face pierced by a huge nose and its wings glued to the body, the tengu is one of the most famous and important characters of Japanese folklore in Japanese popular culture. Mythical creature, we can nevertheless meet some at certain festivals… Follow us!
What is a tengu?
We find several mentions of tengu in the first texts ever written in Japanese , such as the Nihon Shoki (720) . Maisil seems he was shown the scroll paintings japonaisesdès the seventh century.
It was then a mythical creature with human and canine characteristics, as its name suggests. Indeed , Tengu is written with the kanji 天 " ten" ("sky"), and 狗 " gu" ("dog"), which literally means " celestial dog" . This "celestial dog" would be of Chinese origin but in Japan, it would certainly have been associated with demons existing in local folklore, hence the successive changes in its appearance.
Indeed, over the years, the "celestial dog" became a " man-bird". He was then depicted with wings and a huge nose - seven palms long according to the Nihon Shoki - a nose which would be an anthropomorphization of an original beak.
His face is usually reddish crimson, pierced with large frightening eyes and sometimes surrounded by long black or white hair. The tengu are generally represented with the costume of the yamabushi , the ascetic warriors of the mountains , of which they would be the tutelary deities.
The salient feature of these minds is their great pride and vanity. Hence the idiomatic expression when speaking of someone who has become very pretentious : " Tengu ninatta " , literally "become (e) a tengu".
Goblins half gods half demons
Japanese oral tradition was enriched with little by little stories of which the tengu were the heroes and some scholars began to classify them according to their type, from the wisest and most powerful daitengu (literally "great tengu"), to the kotengu (literally "petittengu"), the weakest but also the most ignorant, less anthropomorphic in appearance and closer to a bird.
These creatures became more and more numerous and complex characters, with many powers, one of which was to fly.
The tengu distinguish themselves from other Youkai, Japanese monsters and ghosts by their hostility to Buddhism . They were originally spirits of the Shinto religion and there are many legends where they attack or kidnap monks, distract humans from their Buddhist faith or even steal from temples.
Some traditions make tengu the reincarnated spirits of angry priests or heretics. In the Middle Ages, stories tell of the adventures of the tengu grappling with the imperial family, such as the one where Emperor Sanjo was blinded by one of them.
Tengu are also known for their mastery of martial arts. According to legend, the legendary samurai Minamoto no Yoshitsune was trained by the "king of the tengu ", Sojobo. Training that would have allowed him to defeat the monk Benkei on the bridge of Goto. In the same vein, a swordsman as skilled as Miyamoto Musashifut nicknamed the "little tengu "!
Withthe time, the evil powers of Tengu were mitigated and from the eighteenth century, some of them are considered good spirits that protect lestemples Buddhists and inhabit the mountains on which they watch.
Where to meet tengu?
Today, they are believed to listen to the wishes of humans, bring good luck and promote prosperity in business . They would also have the ability to scare and fight evil spirits and are therefore welcome at Shinto festivals and some people even worship them . They are also very present, good or bad, in manga, anime and video games .
Here are a few places where you'll be lucky enough to be around:
- In the Shimokitazawa district , a festival is dedicated to them every year in early February , just before Setsubun, the spring festival . During the Tenkaichi Tengu parade, a tengu parades through the neighborhood shopping streets while throwing beans that are supposed to bring good luck. It is followed by huge floats decorated with tengu masks.
- Every year, from August 3 to 5, during the biggest festival in the city of Numata (in the prefecture of Gunma ), two huge tengu masks are paraded through the streets of the city.
- Only women have the right to wear tengu, in order to bring luck and happiness to their families and to have easy deliveries, it is said. This festival is dedicated to the tengu of the Kashouzan mountain near Numata. It is a very popular event that attracts thousands of visitors.
- The city of Furubira in Hokkaido organizes two festivals, one in summer and the other in autumn, dedicated to tengu. at the end of these two festivals, the tengu walk on fire.
- In Osaka, every year in mid-October and this since the Edo period (1603-1868 ), legend has it that women who are touched by tengu during the festival dedicated to them will have good children who will grow up easily.
Besides these festivals, there are various cults devoted to different tengu across the archipelago. Their worshipers meet in the mountains where they are supposed to dwell and make offerings and prayers to them.
- Among the most famous are the cult tenguSaburô Mount Izuna (10 km north-northwest of the center of the villedé Nagano). Tengu Saburô is considered to be a gongen (a Japanese syncretic figure corresponding to both a kami , Shinto deity, and the manifestation of a Buddha).
- Tengu Jirôbô is worshiped in the mountains of Hira, west of Lake Biwa.
- Tengu Sôjôbô is revered at Mount Kurama (north of Kyoto), his place of residence, and is said to have the strength of 10,000 tengu on his own.