Project Description

Wood Netsuke of Shōki and Oni

The demon queller grimaces in satisfaction as he grasps a struggling oni by the neck. He wears his traditional soft cloth hat and robes, the sleeves swept back to convey a sense of energy. Shōki has unsheathed his sword from the scabbard slung on his back and holds it at the ready in his right hand. The oni raises his hands in protest and kicks with his feet as he attempts to free himself. The wood is dark stained and bears a rich patina.

Unsigned, 18th century

7.2 cm high

According to very ancient Chinese legend, Zhong Kui (Jap. Shōki) was a student of law who took his own life through shame at having failed his exams. On hearing this the emperor ordered a funeral with full honours. In gratitude for this the dead man’s spirit vowed to rid China of all demons. Japanese interpretations of this subject in netsuke form are generally irreverent and humorous.


Sale, Sotheby’s London, 22nd February 1978, lot 181

Teddy Hahn, Darmstadt


Barry Davies Oriental Art, Netsuke from the Teddy Hahn Collection, 1996, no. 28, illustrated in the catalogue

Scholten Japanese Art, Expressions of Style: Netsuke as Art, 2001, no. 63, illustrated