Kotengu - Great and Small Demons

Great and Small Demons

In the Genpei Jōsuiki, written in the late Kamakura period, a god appears to Go-Shirakawa and gives a detailed account of tengu ghosts. He says that they fall onto the tengu road because, as Buddhists, they cannot go to Hell, yet as people with bad principles, they also cannot go to Heaven. He describes the appearance of different types of tengu: the ghosts of priests, nuns, ordinary men, and ordinary women, all of whom in life possessed excessive pride. The god introduces the notion that not all tengu are equal; knowledgeable men become daitengu (大天狗, great tengu?), but ignorant ones become kotengu (小天狗, small tengu?).

The philosopher Hayashi Razan lists the greatest of these daitengu as Sōjōbō of Kurama, Tarōbō of Atago, and Jirōbō of Hira. The demons of Kurama and Atago are among the most famous tengu.

A section of the Tengu Meigikō, later quoted by Inoue Enryō, lists the daitengu in this order:

  • Sōjōbō (僧正坊?) of Mount Kurama
  • Tarōbō (太郎坊?) of Mount Atago
  • Jirōbō (二郎坊?) of the Hira Mountains
  • Sanjakubō (三尺坊?) of Mount Akiba
  • Ryūhōbō (笠鋒坊?) of Mount Kōmyō
  • Buzenbō (豊前坊?) of Mount Hiko
  • Hōkibō (伯耆坊?) of Daisen (mountain)
  • Myōgibō (妙義坊?) of Mount Ueno (Ueno Park)
  • Sankibō (三鬼坊?) of Itsukushima
  • Zenkibō (前鬼坊?) of Mount Ōmine
  • Kōtenbō (高天坊?) of Katsuragi
  • Tsukuba-hōin (筑波法印?) of Hitachi Province
  • Daranibō (陀羅尼坊?) of Mount Fuji
  • Naigubu (内供奉?) of Mount Takao
  • Sagamibō (相模坊?) of Shiramine
  • Saburō (三郎?) of Mount Iizuna
  • Ajari (阿闍梨?) of Higo Province

Daitengu are often pictured in a more human-like form than their underlings, and due to their long noses, they may also called hanatakatengu (鼻高天狗, tall-nosed tengu?). Kotengu may conversely be depicted as more bird-like. They are sometimes called Karasu-Tengu (烏天狗, crow tengu?), or koppa- or konoha-tengu (木葉天狗, 木の葉天狗foliage tengu?). Inoue Enryō described two kinds of tengu in his Tenguron: the great daitengu, and the small, bird-like konoha-tengu who live in Cryptomeria trees. The konoha-tengu are noted in a book from 1746 called the Shokoku Rijin Dan (諸国里人談?), as bird-like creatures with wings two meters across which were seen catching fish in the Ōi River, but this name rarely appears in literature otherwise.

Creatures that do not fit the classic bird or yamabushi image are sometimes called tengu. For example, tengu in the guise of wood-spirits may be called guhin (occasionally written kuhin) (狗賓, dog guests?), but this word can also refer to tengu with canine mouths or other features. The people of Kōchi Prefecture on Shikoku believe in a creature called shibaten or shibatengu (シバテン, 芝天狗, lawn tengu?), but this is a small childlike being who loves sumō wrestling and sometimes dwells in the water, and is generally considered one of the many kinds of kappa. Another water-dwelling tengu is the kawatengu (川天狗, river tengu?) of the Greater Tokyo Area. This creature is rarely seen, but it is believed to create strange fireballs and be a nuisance to fishermen.

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