During the early T'ang Dynasty, c.700AD, Shoki was a physician in the province of Shensi, China where he took the examinations required to enter government service. He passed, but did not get first place. Shoki was presented to the court, but the emperor rejected him because he was so ugly. Utterly humiliated, Shoki committed suicide on the steps of the imperial palace. Filled with remorse, the emperor ordered that Shoki be buried with the highest honors. Shortly thereafter, Shoki's ghost appeared to the Emperor in a dream and vowed to protect him against all evil demons and sickness.
The Japanese adopted this story and began to venerate Shoki by placing likenesses and statues of him in and around their households, especially during the Boy's Day festival on May 5th. It is during this day, according to tradition, that evil spirits and bad luck are most prevalent. It is believed that images of Shoki ward off danger from the homes of families with male children.
Paintings, engravings and sculptures show Shoki with a firce expression, bulging eyes, and a bushy windblown beard, wearing high boots, a scholar's black robe and a cap.
The engraving on the blade of the aikuchi shows Shoki quelling a small Oni (demon) than hovers over him. This particular shin shinto aikuchi was made specifically for the Boy's Day celebration. Its nakago is signed by both the swordsmith and the engraver.
|India, Nepal, Sri Lanka
|China and Tibet