Circa 1800

The tall figure with a wide-brimmed hat, holding his sword in front of him with two hands, his rageful but drowsy face amusingly carved, with intricately decorated robes, the back showing his belt and sheath, the plug legs and feet replaced with an added signature of Masayuki.

H. 11 cm

Private collection, United Kingdom
With us, pre-2021


Shōki 鍾馗 is a deity from China’s Taoist pantheon who was depicted often in Edo-period (1615-1868) Japanese sculptures and paintings, but one who is today largely neglected. Legends about Shōki reportedly first appear in Tang-era (618-907) Chinese documents. The deity reached Japan by at least the late Heian Period (794 to 1185), for the oldest extant image of Shōki in Japan is a scroll at the Nara National Museum dated to the reign of Emperor Goshirakawa 後白河天皇 (1127-1192). 


Shōki’s popularity peaked in Japan during the Edo period, when people began to hang images of Shōki outside their houses to ward off evil spirits during the Boys' Day festival (Tango no Sekku 端午の節句, May 5 each year, but now a festival for all children of both sexes) and to adorn the eaves and entrances of their homes with ceramic statues of the deity. Today, Shōki is a minor deity relatively neglected or forgotten by most Japanese, except perhaps in Kyoto city, where residents still adorn the eaves and rooftops of their homes with Shōki’s effigy to ward off evil and illness, and to protect the male heir to the family.

A Fine Tall Netsuke of Shoki