Frank Trueba - Scotts Valley, California USA

'Karasu Tengu (from Hansobo)'

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Artist's comments ...

Media: Japanese woodblock print using watercolors - 3 blocks, 6 impressions

This print is based on one of the Karasu Tengu (or Crow Tengu) statues at the Hansobo Shrine in the Kenchoji at Kamkura, Japan. The karasu tengu act as servants and messengers for the yamabushi tengu. At the top sits the tengu hierarchy, sits the tengu king, the white-haired Sojobo who lives on Mt. Kurama. Karasu as portrayed as a crow-faced creature with the body of a man, a small compact head, feathered wings and heavy claws. The Karasu are capable of kidnapping adults and children, starting fires, and ripping apart those who willfully damaged the forest, for the tengu live in trees. Tengu are capricious creatures, and legends alternately describe them as benevolent or malicious. In their more mischievous moods, tengu enjoy playing pranks that range from setting fires in forests or in front of temples to more grave offenses, such as eating people (though this is rare). More mischievous than evil, tengu are proud, vengeful, and easily insulted. They are particularly intolerant of the arrogant, blasphemous, those who misuse power or knowledge for their own gain, and those who disrupt tengu-inhabited forests.

It was also believed that when a child went missing, a tengu had stolen it. The origin of this idea comes from the Chinese origin of the word "tengu." The kanji that are pronounced "tengu" in Japanese can also be read as Chinese for heavenly dog: "T'ien-kou," which refers to the Dog-star of ancient Chinese astronomy, and was thought to be the soul of a young virgin eager to seize a child to take her place in the sky and thus allow her to be reincarnated as a mortal. Thus, tengu are quite an appropriate subject for an exchange in this Year of the Dog.

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