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Tattoo designs - T >> Tengu

Tengu tattoo designsTengu Tattoos - In Japanese tattooing, struggle and battling adversity are prominent themes. And in the Japanese tradition, the forces of good and evil, yin and yang, masculine and feminine are represented by opposite and opposing forces and figures, which offer tension and balance within the tattoo vignette. Tengu are demons or goblins who lived in the mountains and forests and came to be known as protectors of the Buddhist Dharma. Tengu often showed up in ancient folk-lore as characters who were highly skilled warriors and teachers of martial arts, mentors of samurai heroes. Folk tales tell of their hatred of vanity and arrogance, and of the tricks the Tengu played on vainglorious samurai warriors and overbearing Buddhist monks.

There's a Japanese expression, 'Tengu ni naru,' which means, 'He's turning into a Tengu,' used when describing a person who is arrogant, proud or conceited.

The word Tengu originated from the Chinese Tiangou, meaning 'Heaven Dog'. The resemblance is in name rather than feature, for the earliest Japanese Tengu was depicted as a crow-like creature rather than a dog. Tengu masks, commonly used in religious festivals and the Japanese Noh theatre, depicted this particular demon with a bird's head and beak. After Buddhism came to Japan around the 5th century, another Tengu appeared in popular folk lore - this one with a human physique, wings, and long nose, known as the Yamabushi Tengu or monk-ghosts.

The Tengu's magical powers allowed them to shape-shift, appear in people's dreams, and to speak to humans without moving their mouths. They could also transport themselves short distances without moving their wings. Early legends tell of the demon shape-shifting into a woman, and sometimes into the Buddha, in order to lead priests astray. But over time, the Tengu came to be hailed as protectors of the Dharma. When a corrupt or pretentious monk died, it is said that he was sent to the realm of the Tengu where he was punished by being given a long-nose. These monk-ghosts became symbol of fallen monks (and warriors). In a time of corruption in Buddhist monasteries, the legends became a poignant instrument of criticism.

Tengu images

During the Edo period, the Tengu stood for a light hearted character in popular art and entertainment. Not surprisingly, the figure with the long bulbous nose took on sexual innuendo. The Japanese take their demons seriously, however, and as recently as 1860, the Edo government left notices for the Tengu to keep away from a particular mountain region during the visit of the Shogun.

Tengu Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!For mischievous designs in art and tattoo, there's plenty to choose from amongst this trickster's portfolio. And as a martial arts motif, the Tengu lends itself to many more interpretations. As a tattoo symbol, the Tengu may be seen as a reminder to the wearer to adhere to the samurai's code of Bushido and virtues of honor, duty, courage and loyalty and to guard against personal weaknesses and vices.

Get inspired by some really amazing images and photos in our Tengu Inspiration Gallery

See also: Japanese tattoo design, Hannya Masks, Oni Tattoos, Japanese Tattoo Index

Tengu tattoo designs and ideas by some of the world's top tattoo artists and flash illustrators.

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Tattoo designs - T >> Tengu

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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