Tengu [天狗] are legendary creatures that are said to be a god or a monster according to popular Japanese beliefs. In this article we are going to talk a little bit about these peculiar creatures of Japanese folklore quite seen in films, games and anime.
According to reports, Tengo is seen dressed as Yamabushi, has a red face, a high nose, and has wings to fly. It is commonly considered a monster that guides people to the magician, and is also called Gaiho-sama.
Yamabushi are monks of the Suugendo religion who inhabit mountains.
The origin of Tengu
Originally, the word Tiangu it meant a meteor that signaled an evil event in China. A fireball that enters the atmosphere and falls close to the earth's surface often explodes in the air and makes a loud noise.
This celestial phenomenon was compared to a dog that roars and runs into the sky. Chinese Shiji, like Han and Jin, contain articles about Tiangu. The Tiangu were feared as the star of evil that brought disaster from heaven to earth.
In Buddhism, the word "tiangu" is not originally mentioned in the Three Zangles of the Sutra. However, in Shobho Nenjojo-Jing, volume 19 says: “At all times, it is said that“ At all times, spectral gas is on the rise.
In February 637, in the 9th year of Emperor Seumei's reign, a huge star made a thunderous sound and ran from east to west in the capital sky. People said it was the sound of a meteor or a land mine.
Then the wise monk, Min Min Min, who returned from the Tang Dynasty of China to Japan, said: “It is not a meteor. He said: "It is not a meteor, but a tengu". He repeated himself several times saying that his bark is like thunder.
They were called Tengu no Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) in the Asuka period, but after that, there was no record of being called by that name, and the Chinese view of the creature did not take root in Japan.
From the time of Emperor Seumei until the middle of the Heian period, his character did not appear in any written document. In the Heian period (794-1192), the Tengu reappeared in Japan, and were transformed into yokai (monsters).
The creation of Tengu
It all started when esoteric Buddhism was introduced to Japan by Kukai and Enchin. The Yamabushi were reincarnated after their deaths as arrogant and selfish who wanted to make a profit, and the Tengu religion was assumed by some to be a type of the wizarding world.
On the other hand, the people of the plains feared the mountains as a different world, and called the strange phenomena that occurred there the work of the Tengu. From this, people tend to consider him as the mountain god.
There are still some areas where people still call "Gubin", "mountain man", or "mountain god", referring to various types of Tengu. Today the word [天狗] literally means dog of paradise.
The characteristics of Tengu
Their common features today are a tall, long nose, a red face, dressed like mountain priests, wearing a geta with a tooth and flying free and disorderly, have been interpreted since the Middle Ages.
In fact, Tengu's form in those days was not constant, mainly in the form of monks, but occasionally in the form of children or demons. They were also often brought up in the image of a steeplejack while flying through the air.
Tengu is considered the authority of pride, and the tall nose is considered a symbol of that. If you say "I will become a Tengu", it means that you are proud of yourself. In general, they are eager to teach.
In the Middle Ages, in addition to the six paths of Buddhism, there was also the Tengu path, which was supposed to be the hell of Mugen, where they could not fall into hell because they studied the Buddhist path and could not go to paradise because they dealt with the Law. of Evil.
Types of Tengu
As mentioned, there are several types and forms of Tengu. The overall appearance is a red face and a large nose, and they are said to have wings and fly in the air. There are also types that appear to be a humanoid or crow.
More obscure regional tengu variants include the Guhin (Guest Dog), which has aspects of trees or canines, the Kawatengu that lives underwater and can create False Flame, and the Shibatengu, which is essentially Kappa by another name.
Throughout history it has gained different names and characteristics, there are Kara, Kotobo and Hatengo. There is even a female version called Onnatengu or Mutengu. Below we will see the main ones:
Ootengo or Daitengu
There are several theories, but he is said to be a monster or god who has good and bad sides, a Buddhist priest and an intern with excellent power who becomes a tengu after his death. Therefore, it is said to have greater power than other Tengu.
These are the types of tengu that we are used to seeing in Japanese festival masks. They used to kidnap people, but they also taught their skills. Many humans sought them out in order to gain powers.
Karasutengo or Kotengo
The karasu tengu (烏天狗) has a humanoid body, but a crow's head. He is dressed as a mountain monk and is able to fly at will, also called small [小天狗] or blue [青天狗].
It is named after a crow, but many of them are covered in feathers similar to those of birds of prey. They stood out in the handling of the sword, and Karasu Tengu of Mount Kurama is said to have taught a young Ushiwakamaru how to use a sword.
They also excel in divine power, and it is said that they used to go down to the capital and rage against each other. With tengu time in the appearance of a crow, it fell into oblivion, becoming more popular those with a pointed red nose.
The konoha tengu (木の葉天狗) have human features, but have wings and long noses. They were represented at times carrying a feather. It was common to see masks representing his face at festivals.
His name has been found in several literature, including essays and ghost stories from the Edo period. He is also called Sakai-tori. There is little information about this type of tengu, but it has been described in several ancient scriptures.
In the book “Kokusatojindan” by Kanpo Period [1741-1744] describes him as a large bird, his wings resemble a Tobi, about 6 meters long, and when he senses a person's signal, he immediately flees.
Tengu like a god
Tengu is generally seen as a semi-human or monster, but we mentioned in the article that he can also be considered a God. The famous Ootengo is the object of worship as a mountain god, he is reported in many mountains in Japan.
The Tengu were often represented as brilliant birds, and were also called Matsumyo-maru and Ma-yen. This is the reason why Emperor Sutokujo, who became an evil spirit, is portrayed as the king of the Tengu.
The relationship with mountain gods it is also very close, and it is said that there are always Tengu in the sacred mountains (so they are Yamabushi), and there are many areas where the mountain gods are them, but nicknamed as Daiba.
Even today, he is seen in the Mogami-gun folklore of Yamagata Prefecture as an old man with white hair. In different regions of Japan people have different perspectives on a Tengu, some consider them a God.
The god Sarutahiko mentioned in Kojiki and Nihon Shoki is generally co-fused as a Tengo because of his long nose. Even at festivals, Sarutahiko is represented with the face of a tengu.
Tengu is also said to be a change from one of the eight members who protect Buddhist law, Karo Raten. A giant bird that appears in Indian mythology and is said to have golden wings spitting flames and feeding on dragons.
Legends and Presgues of the Tengu
Seen as mountain demons, the Tengu were also cheaters, did things like the yokai, tricked people into entering the mountains with music, threw stones at houses and frightened people in the shape of a ghost.
Everything that happened that was mysterious and inexplicable was attributed to the Tengu. Some even had people showing skills like writing kanji. Many legends throughout history have emerged telling the Tengu's prose.
In some legends the Tengu caused blindness using their wings, kidnapped children, threw people from the sky, but there are also legends with them kind, protective and helpers of the people. They are also associated with martial arts, cited as creators of the Secret Arts as the Ninja art.
Tengu are seen in different ways, today they are widely reported in anime, manga and games. If you want to know more about the appearance of these creatures in popular works, you can consult on sites like TV Troops.