Shoki and Demon

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1798-1861)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, ca. 1845
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 36.6 x 24.9 cm (14 7/16 x 9 13/16 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Anne van Biema collection, demon, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, oban, ukiyo-e, Zhong Kui
Provenance research underway.

Shoki (Chinese, Zhong Kui), a great exorcist, was a popular deity in China from the middle of the Tang dynasty (618-906), and was known in Japan from the Kamakura period. He is said to have appeared in a dream to the ailing Chinese emperor Xuanzong (713-756), to whom he explained that he was a scholar who had committed suicide a century earlier for failing the imperial examinations, but out of gratitude for an honorable burial granted by an earlier emperor, he had vowed to rid the world of mischievous demons. The emperor, who recovered immediately from his illness, ordered a court painter to paint Zhong Kui just as he appeared in the dream. In Edo period Japan, images of Shoki were hung in homes for the Boys' Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month; some were painted red as talismans against smallpox. In Kuniyoshi's striking image, Shoki, who grasps his sword as a small demon flees behind him, is depicted in a dynamic graphic style that resembles the brushwork of ink painting.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 102, pp. 258, 260.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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