Netsuke: Hanging scroll with image of Shôki and demons, 19th century
Ivory; H. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm), W. 1 7/16 in. (3.7 cm), D. 9/16 in. (1.5 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.513)
Shôki, the demon queller, is a Chinese legendary figure who passed the imperial examinations yet was denied an official appointment. The anguished Shôki purportedly killed himself on the steps of the imperial palace. After learning of his tragic situation, the Chinese emperor ordered an official burial for this scholar. In appreciation of the emperor's acknowledgment, Shôki promised to quell evil demons from the realm. In his Japanese manifestation, Shôki appears in a Chinese scholar's cap and robe, often with demons underfoot or cavorting nearby. His image adorns banners hung in celebration of the Boys' Day festival (Tango no Sekku) in order to ward off evil spirits and protect the homes of families with male children.
Here brandishing a sword over the head of a cowering demon, Shôki threateningly emerges from the hanging scroll on which he is depicted. Shôki's sword pierces through to the back of the scroll, where another demon shields himself from the tip of the blade. The carver's signature and seal appear on the back of the scroll.