Shoki (Zhong Kui) Vanquishing a Demon

Artist: Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章 (1726-1792)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early 1770s
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 68.2 x 12.3 cm (26 7/8 x 4 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, Buddhism, demon, Edo period (1615 - 1868), hashira-e, Japan, ukiyo-e, Zhong Kui
Provenance research underway.

The exorcist Shoki (Chinese, Zhong Kui) was a popular deity in China from the middle of the Tang dynasty (618-906), and was known in Japan from the Kamakura period (1185-1333). In Chinese legend, he first appeared to the emperor Xuanzong (713-756), who dreamt that a demon that was in the palace grounds was dispelled by a larger demon who wore a hat, robe, belt, and boots. The large demon, Zhong Kui, revealed that he had been a scholar who had committed suicide after failing the imperial examinations a century earlier. In gratitude to an earlier emperor, Zhong Kui had vowed to rid the world of demons. Images of Shoki were widely used during the Edo period. Displayed at the end of the year or for the Boys' Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, Shoki was believed to ward off evil. Images painted entirely red were hung to avert epidemics, especially of smallpox. Here the artist Shunsho has depicted Shoki in the narrow format of a pillar print (hashira-e) that would have substituted for a painting in modest households.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 101, pp. 258-259.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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