The Kura - Japanese Art Treasures

Robert Mangold has been working with Japanese antiques since 1995 with an emphasis on ceramics, Paintings, Armour and Buddhist furniture.
Antique Japanese Scroll, Oni in Priests Robes by Soryu

Antique Japanese Scroll, Oni in Priests Robes by Soryu

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Paintings: Pre 1900: Item # 1492548

Please refer to our stock # Z094 when inquiring.
The Kura
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23 Murasakino Monzen-cho
Kita-ward Kyoto 603-8216
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Long verses fall like rain upon the sinister figure of an Oni (type of devil) dressed in the habit of a priest who glares as he walks through the village, banging out a warning to all evil-doers. Around his neck hangs a bell which he clangs loudly with the hammer held high in one hand. The stern figure carries in the other hand a booklet titled Hogacho. A Hogacho is a record of the name and quantity of persons who donated (hoga) for projects such as the construction and repair of temples or shrines and the publication of scriptures. In the case of the Oni, his Hogacho records the sins and misdeeds of humans for payment in the after world. On his back is an umbrella. Ink on paper in a simple brown cloth border with highlights of Kinran gold in the Ichimonji above and below with dark lacquered wooden rollers like the shift of a priest moving to reveal the regal robes beneath. It is 39.7 x 179 cm (15-1/2 x 70-1/2 inches) and has been completely cleaned and remounted.
The Oni, often depicted as hulking, fearsome creatures with horns, sharp claws, and a menacing appearance, are a prominent feature in Japanese folklore, Buddhist lore, and broader Japanese culture. Their role and representation have evolved over time, encompassing a range of meanings and functions across different contexts.
In folklore, Oni are typically portrayed as malevolent spirits or demons representing chaos, destruction, and malevolence. They are often depicted as ogre-like beings with red or blue skin, wild hair, and tusks. They are known to cause mischief, bring calamities, and even consume human flesh. Oni are common antagonists in folktales, serving as the embodiment of evil and chaos. However, Oni can also have more nuanced roles. In some stories, they are not purely evil but rather more complex characters with a potential for redemption. Thus in Buddhist tradition, Oni take on additional layers of symbolism. They are often seen as the enforcers in hell (Jigoku), punishing the wicked for their sins. In this context, Oni are agents of karmic retribution, ensuring that sinners face the consequences of their actions. This role reinforces the moral lessons of Buddhism, emphasizing the importance of virtuous behavior to avoid suffering in the afterlife. Sometimes the concept of Oni in Buddhism is more metaphorical, representing inner demons or the obstacles one must overcome on the path to enlightenment. They symbolize inner struggles with the vices and negative emotions such as anger, greed, and ignorance that hinder spiritual progress.
In contemporary Japanese culture, Oni have become more multifaceted. They appear in various media, including literature, art, film, and video games, often with different interpretations. While they still retain their traditional fearsome attributes, they are sometimes depicted in a more humorous or sympathetic light. For example, the Oni character in the popular manga and anime "Dragon Ball" is portrayed as a bureaucratic worker in the afterlife, adding a humorous twist to their traditional role. They also feature prominently in cultural festivals such as Setsubun, celebrated on February 3rd during which people perform rituals to drive away evil spirits. One common practice is the throwing of roasted soybeans (mamemaki) while chanting "Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi" ("Oni out, good fortune in"), which is meant to cleanse the home and welcome good luck.
The enduring presence and adaptability of the Oni in Japanese culture underscore their significance as both a reflection of societal values and a versatile symbol in the collective imagination.