Red and Smallpox Essay

. akamono 赤物 "red things" amulets .

Hoosoogami, Hoosooshin

Hosogami, the God of Smallpox


by Bernard Faure

Daruma, Smallpox and the color Red, the Double Life of a Patriarch

"La double vie du patriache", in Josef A. Kyburz et al., eds., Eloge des sources: Reflets du Japon ancien et moderne, Paris: Editions Philippe
Picquier, pp. 509-538.

Curtesy of Bernard Faure.

The footnotes are at the end.

Why did the patriarch Bodhidharma come from the West?
This is, of course, a famous kooan of Zen Buddhism, and Zen practitioners are supposed to find a non-intellectual answer reflecting the insight they have obtained through meditation. As to Bodhidharma, he has become a popular icon of Japanese culture and politics under the form of Daruma, the blind doll to the eyes of which one adds pupils to ensure the success of enterprises (for instance, in the modern period, on the evening of an electoral victory).

The Buddhist monk Bodhidharma (in Chinese Damo), an Indian missionary to China whom Christian missionaries long mistook for the apostle Thomas, was seen as an arhat and an avatar of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. As the founding patriach of the Chan/Zen school, he became eventually revered as an equal (and almost a double) of the Buddha himself. According to legend, Bodhidharma was the son of southern Indian king. Having obtained enlightenment, he left for China in order to convert the Chinese, and arrived in Canton at the beginning of the sixth century. His encounter with Emperor Liang Wudi (r. 502-49), a ruler who prided himself as a pious Buddhist, was a short one. Bodhidharma showed a certain lack of tactfulness when he declared that pious works were of no value. The emperor, not surprisingly, was annoyed by such bluntness and Bodhidharma deemed more prudent to leave right away for North China. Legend has it that he crossed the Yangze River on a reed, an element which made its way into iconography and to which I will return.

He settled on Song shan, where he is said to have practiced meditation during nine years facing a wall — another element to which I will return. Bodhidharma’s lofty teaching won him a few disciples, but also some powerful enemies, and we are told that he was eventually poisoned by two rivals. Soon after his death, however, a Chinese emissary returning from India claimed to have met him on the Pamir plateau. When Bodhidharma’s tomb was opened, it was found empty. It was therefore concluded that he was a sort of Daoist Immortal, and that his death was only a feigned death. This is, in a nutshell, the legend as it developed within the Chan/Zen tradition.

Such is, in its outline, the image of Bodhidharma as it developed in the Chan tradition toward the eighth century. The legend of the Indian patriarch, however, continued to develop outside of Buddhism, as shown by the attribution to this master of several Daoist works, as well as his promotion to the rank of founder of martial arts.[1] If the Bodhidharma worshiped as the first patriarch of Chan in China as little to do with the Indian monk of the same name, who was mentioned as admiring the pagoda of the Yongning Monastery in Luoyang at the beginning of the sixth century, the distance between the Japanese Daruma and his Chinese prototype seems even greater.

According to a later Japanese tradition, Bodhidharma did not return to India but traveled on to Japan. This version, propagated by the Tendai school, associates Bodhidharma with Shootoku Taishi, who came himself to be considered an avatar of the Tiantai master Nanyue Huisi (517-77). We are told that Shootoku Taishi one day met a starving beggar at the foot of Mt Kataoka (in Nara Prefecture) and exchanged a poem with him. The strange literate beggar was first identified as an immortal in the Nihon shoki. His further identification with Bodhidharma rested upon another widespread legend, according to which Huisi had once been Bodhidharma’s disciple. When the two first met on Mount Tiantai, Bodhidharma predicted that they would both meet again in a next life in Japan. This legend grew with the cult of Shootoku Taishi in the medieval period, and there is still a Daruma Temple at Kataoka, not far from Horyuuji — a monastery associated with Shootoku Taishi.

Let us leap ten centuries forward. Daruma became an extremely popular deity during the Edo period as a protector of children and bringer of good luck. In this folkloric version, the Indian patriarch of Chan/Zen has come a long way. He has been represented since that time as a legless, tumbling talisman doll, which, as the saying goes, “falls seven times and rises eight times." (nana korobi ya oki).[2] This popular representation of Daruma traces its origin back to the belief according to which Bodhidharma, after sitting in meditation for nine years in a cave on Song shan, came to lose his legs.

This representation lent itself to sexual symbolism: thus, until the Meiji period, phallic representations of Daruma in stone or papier-maché were sold.[3] The name "Daruma" was also a nickname given in the Edo period to prostitutes, perhaps because, like the doll, these specialists of tumble could raise the energy of their customers. Daruma is indeed often represented in comical fashion in the company of a prostitute — sometimes even as a transvestite or as a woman. He is also sometimes part of a more or less legitimate couple called “Mr. and Mrs. Daruma.” In some cases his partner is no other than the chubby Okame. These Daruma dolls protected children against illnesses such as smallpox and were supposed, among other things, to facilitate childbirth, bring good harvests, and more generally bring prosperity to their owners. There is also in Zen iconography a representation of the “erect Bodhidharma.” The sexual symbolism is played out in the ukiyoe, where Daruma appears as woman — a courtesan, or a transvestite Daruma and Okame. A representation in which one sees him in the company of two prostitutes — male and female — on a boat made from a reed-leaf associates the sexual motif with that of the crossing of the Yangzi River.

As Harmut Rotermund has pointed out, the image of Daruma standing up (okiagari Daruma) connotes metaphorically the fact of recovering from an illness, of overcoming it rapidly and lightly.[4] The Daruma dolls seem to have been initially good-luck objects (engimono) placed on the domestic altar (kamidana), before becoming mere toys. The okiagari Daruma also became a popular symbol of perseverance (okiagari) and new beginnings. Another association, at first glance surprising, is that which, in the Kantoo region, connects Daruma with silkworms, and transforms him into a talisman for sericiculture: the white cocoons have the form of a Daruma, or perhaps one should say that Daruma is cocoon-like.[5] One still sells today as engimono cocoons called mayu Daruma, on which Daruma features are painted; and this is perhaps related to the fact that, as we will see, both Daruma and the silkworm were symbols of gestation. However, this embryological symbolism, which connects Daruma with the silk-worm, refers also perhaps to the practice of the mushi-okuri or “insect-dispatching”: it may be a kind of funerary rituals for these creatures, which are sacrificed in large numbers during the spinning process, and of which one may have fear that they would become “resentful spirits.”

The images used in the symbolic fight against smallpox during the Edo period often show a Daruma doll and a puppy dog, symbol of good health. In one example, one kid stand on his hands on Daruma's head, another rides on the dog. They are accompanied by poems such as: "Near the sick child, struck by smallpox,/ playing a light game, a paper Daruma and the lucky charm dog." Or: "The fellow Daruma, with his gentle face, does not stay lying in bed." Behind the notion of game, one finds the magical invocation of health for children. The image of Daruma rising again also suggested a rapid recovery.

There were also children's illustated books against smallpox. In one of them, Daruma and his friends, the toys, organize a fbazaar in conjunction with the festival of the smallpox deities; in another, Daruma and his fellows, among which an owl, are scolded by the warrior Tametomo for letting free rein to the smallpox demons, thereby provoking ravages among the infantile population.

These stories, studied in detail by Hartmut Rotermund, show that, by the beginning of the Edo period, Daruma had become a protector against smallpox, and his role consisted in watching the smallpox demons so that they would not harm children.This suggests, however, that he was perceived as a kind of god of smallpox (hoosoogami). We recall that the same spiritual entities — here the hoosoogami — who were seen as the cause of epidemic diseases were eventually transformed into protectors against these same diseases. Like them, Daruma was enrolled in the fight against evil, but he retains some aspects from his past. For instance, while appearing to follow the orders of Tametomo, he is shown playing a double game and implicitly siding with the demons.

At any rate, a Daruma doll was usually offered with other auspicious toys to sick children. We must note in this context the importance of the colour red (which symbolizes, among other things, measles. The altar to the smallpox god was decorated with red paper strips (gohei), a daruma doll, and an owl; sometime also of a doll called shoojoo (orang-outan). Furthermore, the sick child had to wear a red hood.

What is the relation between the early Chan legend and the Edo doll? There are only a few clues, revealing symbolic associations which may never have come to the forefront -- or if they did, were eventually overshadowed by the “official” Zen interpretation. This interpretation prevailed even within Tendai, which transmitted the “one mind precepts of Bodhidharma” (Daruma isshinkai) and from which emerged the first Zen school, called, precisely, the “Daruma school” (Daruma-shuu). Because the “other side” of Bodhidharma -- the dark side -- was always submerged, the following reconstruction is perhaps more an exercise in heuristic imagination than an accurate description of historical reality. But at least, it raises a legitimate question, and may indicate the direction in which we look for an answer.

What is the relationship between the Bodhidharma legend, as it develops initially in Chan during the Tang period, and Daruma, the popular deity of the Edo period? In other words, how did the austere Chan patriarch ever become a tumbler doll? It is a complicated, and obscure story. To understand it, we have to unravel many strands that were woven together into one figure. Daruma will thus appear to us successively as:

- a malevolent spirit (goryoo)
- a crossroad deity (doosojin) associated with sexuality
- a placenta god (ena kojin)
- a “foreign” epidemic deity: god of Songshan and Shinra myoojin
- a smallpox deity (hoosoogami)
- a god of fortune (fukujin)

Minamoto no Tametomo and the God of Smallpox

Other elements contributed to his posthumous success. Let us mention for instance:

- the symbolism of komori, incubation, reclusion, gestation, and its relation with a) easy childbirth on the one hand, silkworms and sericiculture on the other.

- the color symbolism (red) and spatial (south): fire, exorcism, yang

- the tumbling doll device (with its sexual connotations and its symbolism of rebirth or recovery)

This gradual entertwining of motifs was essentially realized during the medieval period. We will examine the main ones, following an approximatively chronological order.

A Malevolent Spirit
Even before encountering the Japanese materials, I have suspected that the choice, at first glance rather arbitrary, of the Indian monk Bodhidharma as the first patriarch of the Chan school may be the result of a scapegoat mechanism of the type described by René Girard in Violence and the Sacred. Whatever happened to the real Bodhidharma, the belief that he had been poisoned by rivals spread very early on, and it was in a way the logical conclusion of the series of hardships met by the foreign monk. The rumor about this tragic figure may be echoed centuries later in Edo Japan by the scholar Tominaga Nakamoto, who sees him as a pitiful figure, whose attempt to convert the Chinese was doomed from the start, and resulted in his murder: "Pitiful Bodhidharma!" Thus, it seems plausible that some of Bodhidharma’s contemporaries considered him to be a potentially dangerous dead, intent on revenge.

The Japanese tradition abounds in stories about charismatic monks who, because of the resentment they felt at the time of death for some injustice they suffered, return as malevolent spirits (onryoo or goryoo), or fall into the evil destinies -- in particular that of the tengu, demoniac beings represented with a beak or a long phallic nose. Although Bodhidharma is never described as a tengu as such, the association was suggested to me by a very beautiful netsuke seen at the British Museum. This netsuke represents a bird-like Tengu hatching from an egg, yet this egg-shaped figure strikingly resembles the popular representations of Daruma. However, the affinities between Bodhidharma and the tengu may not matter so much: the essential is that Bodhidharma’s death, inasmuch as it was not simply denied by its presumed immortality, gave him the aura of a vengeful spirit. Ww have see the importance take by these spirits, divinized under the name of goryoo, during the Heian period. We recall the most famous case, that of the statesman Sugawara no Michizane, whose spirit was placated after he was elevated to the rank of Heavenly Deity [Tenjin] and the Kitano Shrine was consecrated to him. Bodhidharma was to take a different path, more obscure and tortuous.

Daruma at the Crossroad
We have seen how the figure of Bodhidharma inserted itself into the legend of Shootoku Taishi through the intermediary of the Kataoka beggar. According to Hartmut Rotermund, Shootoku Taishi’s gift of a poem was perhaps aimed at revivifying the vital spirits (tama) of the starving man. Shootoku Taishi also allegedly gave his coat to the beggar. This act, which calls to mind St Martin’s gift, has given rise to all kinds of interpretations into which I cannot enter here. Rotermund notes that cloth offerings were made in places deemed dangerous, such as crossroads and passes, and he suggests that we may be dealing here with an act destined to placate the dead.[6]

According to Michael Como, this episod of Shootoku’s legend may have been intended to coopt preexisting rites of purification at the crossroad (chimata).[7] At the intersection of roads connecting Naniwa with the Asuka region, where the court was located at the time, Kataoka was an important ritual space. Scholars have often argued that the Shootoku Taishi cult itself may have intended to placate the vengeful spirit of the Regent, whose entire family had been decimated by his political opponents. However, Shootoku himself was by no means an innocent ruler, and it is plausible that he took preexisting purification rites at Kataoka, in order to placate the vengeful spirits of his defeated enemies — like Mononobe no Moriya. Kataoka was a site were ritual of spirit quelling were regularly undertaken by the Yamato court. These purification rites, center upon the fire god (a red deity), were designed to purify the land by sending evil spirits to the Ne no kuni. They involved the use of ritual dolls (hitogata), substitute bodies that were dressed in the ruler’s clothes before being sent off, like scapegoats, bearers of collective defilement. In this contex, Shootoku Taishi’s offering of his robe to the beggar on the roadside is no longer a sublime act of charity, it is a rite of purification and and of world renewal, connected to the New Year ritual. If Bodhidharma was perceived as a victim of untimely death, a potentially dangerous “foreign” spirit or god, it is not surprising that, after various symbolic drifts, it came to be identified with the Kataoka beggar, a threatening figure who had to be propitiated.

The fact that the Kataoka rituals were performed at a crossroad connects them to those of the crossroad deities (doosojin). As we have seen, these gods, also called sae no kami (“road-blocking deities”), were believed to protect villages and towns against calamities such as epidemics, insects, drought. Often represented by a man and a woman, engaged in implicit or explicit sexual behavior, they passed to ensure fecundity in women and sexual potency in men. We recall they were sometimes “personalized” as Ame no Uzume (Okame) and Sarutahiko. We find again Okame, in the Edo period, in the role of “Mrs. Daruma.” Thus, one can think that Bodhidharma, once identified with the Kataoka beggar — a crossroad deity — became in turn a doosojin, and in some contexts displaced Sarutahiko as partner of Uzume. It is no wonder that Daruma dolls became symbols of sexuality and fecundity, and in particular of easy childbirth.

The figure of the tumbler Daruma, or okiagari Daruma, also has a clear sexual meaning: that which falls and soon raises again is the penis. The sexual symbolism is quite obvious in the phalloid form of some Daruma dolls. With the prohibition in Meiji of Konsei Myoojin (a phallic-shaped deity popular in brothels), all kinds of symbolic substitutes were found, including mushrooms and okiagari-daruma. Small papier-maché phalloi sold at temple festivals were replaced, after the prohibition, by papier-maché representations of Ebisu and Daikoku. Some representations of Daruma are strongly reminiscent of the so-called yin-yang stones, symbolizing the male and female sexual organs. Likewise, the image of a dragon coiling around Daruma (ryËmaki Daruma) is reminiscent of the Tantric kundalini (Jap. Gundari), female energy represented as a snake raising and coiling around the central artery (a symbol also represented by the dragon Kurikara coiled around Fudoo’s sword). A representation of this ryuumaki Daruma motif — preserved in a chapel said to be that of the “Daruma of easy childbirth” (in the Sonoda Village, Rikuzen, Hirazawa, present Miyagi Prefecture) is also strongly reminiscent of the representations of the deity Ugajin — an aspect of the dragon-goddess Benzaiten.[8] Behind that chapel was a stele, at the back of which were engraved these suggestive words: “Daruma! Daruma! Ah, Daruma! Ah, Daruma, Daruma!”[9]

Daruma as Placenta god
The fecundity symbolism brings to consider the figure of Daruma in embryonic gestation. In the esoteric tradition of the Zen school, the famous mythical episod of Bodhidharma spending nine years immersed in “wall contemplation” in a cave on Song shan is interpreted as an embryological allegory.

Question: What about Bodhidharma’s nine years before the wall?
Answer: These are, in fact, the nine months spent in the womb.

Question: Tell me about Bodhidharma with the caul, about Bodhidharma prior to all distinctions, about Bodhidharms’s nine years before the wall.[10]
Answer: During the nine months spent in the maternal womb, the caul is put on. During the nine years of zazen Bodhidharma put on a skin cap -- to ward off the three poisons, to strenghen the roots of life.

A variant reads as follows:

Question: “What about “For nine years Bodhidharma faced the wall and said nothing”?

Answer: . Bodhidharma’s nine year before the wall are the nine months in the womb. This is the donning of the caul. The red hood that Bodhidharma wears as he sits before the wall is that caul. Bodhidharma within the womb has something to teach us.

The above text is found at the end of an embryological missanchoo, a secret interview notebook providing ready-made answers to Zen kooans.[11] Its source is a Rinzai commentary entitled Xiangyan’s Man Up a Tree,” based on the Wumen guan’s case: “The monk Xiangyan said: Suppose there were a man up a tree. He holds onto a tree branch with his teeth. His hands grasp no branch and his feet do not reach the trunk of the tree. Beneath the tree is someone who asks him: What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West? If the man does not respond at all, he will fail the questioner’s need. But if he does answer, he will fall to his death. In this situation how should one respond?”[12] The text glosses all the core-words in the above dialogue in embryological terms: the tree becomes the mother’s body, the man in the tree the embryo within the womb. To “hold onto the branch with his teeth” is to suck at “the root of milk” while still in the womb, etc.

In one of his works on Zen, Suzuki Daisetsu quotes this dialogue, and gives a series of traditional glosses, among which several clearly inspired from Tantric “oral traditions” -- et peu à son goût. One of them, in a text dated from the seventeenth century, is attributed to the Zen master Kohan Shuushin, and gives another example of embryological symbolism:

Main case:
The Chan master Xiangyan Zhixian, addressing the community, said: ‘How about the man up a tree?’

Setchoo replied: ‘Up the tree, easy to say; below the tree, hard to say.’

The master asked: ‘The tree, what is it?’ Explanation: ‘The tree is the mother’s body.’ Commentary: A rootless tree on a rock.

What does “up a tree” mean? Explanation: “It is the place where the child dwells, in the mother’s womb l’enfant.”

What about the above passage? Explanation: “He hangs to the branch with his teeth” means that he sucks the roots of milk in the womb. “His hand cannot grasp the branch” means that his hands are placed against his chest.” “His feet cannot touch the trunk” means that his legs are folded when he faces the mother.

Commentary: During nine years facing the wall, his mouth is like that of a dumb. During these nine years facing the wall, not a breath of wind has passed, the five petals have opened, flowers have scattered, outside spring has come.

Explanation: The nine years spent facing the wall are the nine month within the womb, with the placenta. The fact that Bodhidharma facing the wall wears his red robe over his head symbolizes the placenta.[13]

Several kirigami of Sootoo Zen connect Bodhidharma’s reclusion in the Song shan cave to the myth of the solar goddess Amaterasu withdrawing into the heavenly cave when she felt threatened by her brother Susanoo. As one of these texts put it:

The withrawal of Amaterasu in the heavenly cave can be compared to the dwelling of the child in the womb. The maternal womb corresponds to the Great Shrine [of Ise], the child to the kami that is enshrined in it, and the mother’s vulva to the torii that marks the sacred limit.

As noted earlier, the medieval embryological theory of the five stages of gestation, together with specific beliefs concerning the (placenta (ena), gave birth to the cult of the placenta deity (ena koojin).[14] My hypothesis is that Daruma came to be perceived, in circumstances that remain obscure, as such a placenta deity — a god which was often described as “the warp and woof of heaven and earth.”[15] The demiurgic of this deity explains its identification with the stellar god of the “fundamental destiny” (honmyoo), that is, the Polar Star. This is for instance the case with Matarajin, which, as Suzuki Masataka has shown, was one of the main aspects of a “god of destiny” [shukushin”], both astral and embryological deity, governing life on both macrocosmic and microcosmic, astral and uterine planes.[16]

The prevalence of Zen orthodoxy probably explains why do not possess similarly explicit documents concerning Bodhidharma. We have to seek elsewhere, in less controlled sources like popular iconography or legend. For instance, a representation at the Darumadera representing him at the center of the twelve animals seems to suggest that, like Ugajin and Juzenji, he was also seen by some as a ruler of “fundamental destiny” (benming). Indeed, in another of his main cultic centers, the Shoorinzan Darumadera, he is openly associated with Chintaku Reifujin, in other words, Myooken, the god of the Northern Asterism.

The perception of Daruma as shukushin is suggested by other sources, like the Meishukushuu by Konparu Zenchiku. We recall that this work confers to the old man Okina the character of a primordial deity, and claims that the main Japanese gods and Buddhist patriarchs are so many manifestations of Okina. One of these patriarchs is precisely Bodhidharma, whose relationships with Shootoku Taishi are duly reported by Zenchiku. The latter also tells the strange tradition according to which, during a ritual recitation of the Shoomangyoo, one of the priests, having lost the rhythm, was threatening the order of the ceremony, when of frog of the pond in front of the temple, leaping on a rock, began to croak rythmically, and was able to impose the right cadence again. Interrogated about the incident, Shootoku Taishi allegedly declared that this frog was a manifestation of Bodhidharma, who had come to his rescue. Despite the apocryphal nature of that remark, it suggests a conception of Bodhidharma quite different from that of the Zen patriarch. Yet Zenchiku was very aware of the Zen tradition, and at one point he describes Okina in terms borrowed from it. Not only was Bodhidharma a manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteßvara, as the Chinese tradition has it, according to Japanese tradition he is also said to have reincarnated himself in the person of eminent monks like Gyooki and Eisai.[17]

However, the relations between Bodhidharma and Okina as primordial deity, in his role of shukushin, that is, god of destiny and astral deity, but also of stations and limits — so many associations suggested by the term shuku — are more complex than suggested by Zenchiku. We recall that two manifestations of the shukujin were

Hata no Kookatsu and Nichira, two men who are described as supernatural allies of Shootoku Taishi in his fight against the powers of evil represented by Mononobe no Moriya. The same is true of Bodhidharma. We just saw him intervene on two accounts, as protector of a strategic point ((Kataoka) under the form of crossroad deity, and as officiant of a rite for the protection of the state under the form of a batracian. According to a Jooruri play by Chikamatsu, he is also said to have, under the form of a malevolent spirit, blinded Moriya.[18]

A demon come from afar
Like the Korean Nichira, Bodhidharma is a foreigner. He may also be related to another Korean, Shinra Myoojin, the tutelary deity of Miidera. In documents of the Miidera, this mysterious god is traced back to the mountain god of Song shan, who dwelt (like Bodhidharma) in a cave of that mountain, and who became an epidemic god. Although the Chan tradition has not recorded this, Bodhidharma could well have been identified with this mountain god.[19]

Shinra Myoojin had come to Japan at the time of Enchin’s return from China and he had established himself as protector of Miidera. His name, Shinra Myoojin, obviously refers to the Korean kingdom of Silla, but it essentially meant that this god was perceived as an “alien” god. As it turns out, it seems to be originally a Chinese god. In some versions, he is given other names, one of which is King of Song shan, and he is said to have manifested himself a number of times in China to expel pestilence demons. Thus, this god is none other than a mountain god, the god of Song shan — a god who, in the Chan tradition, received the Chan precepts (also called Bodhidharma’s Mind Precepts) from Chan masters of the so-called Northern School. His main temple was a cave of Song shan, the same cave, apparently, where Bodhidharma allegedly sat for nine years in meditation. It seems thus quite possible that, in popular imagination, the figure of the fierce Indian ascetic would have eventually merged with that of the mountain god. But precisely, the mountain god can drive off pestilence because he was himself perceived initially as a pestilence god — at least until he was converted to Buddhism. In any case, this seems to provide the missing link between the early legend of Bodhidharma on Song shan and his later redefinition as smallpox deity.[20]

Another interesting lead is that which connects Shinra Myoojin and the raging god Susanoo. In some sources, the latter, after being exiled from Japan for having threatened his sister Amatarasu, is said to have emigrated to Korea. Susanoo was also assimilated to Gozu Tennoo, the most powerful epidemic god. Like Shinra Myoojin, Susanoo is a fundamentally ambivalent deity, who could protect from epidemics when worshipped properly, but could as well destroy the unbelievers throught the same epidemics. Thus, the priests of Miidera or of Gion Shrine held this veiled threat over the heads of the ruler and his people. This is how the emperor died for having brought on himself the anger of Raigoo, a Miidera priest whose resentful spirit (onryoo) was apparented to Shinra Myoojin.

According to one legend, Susanoo manifested himself in China as the god of Song shan. He first appeared to the Japanese priest Enchin (the monks who founded Miidera and introduced Shinra Myoojin) as theriomorphic figure, with a man’s head and a snake’s body. As such, he calls to mind Ugajin, a god associated with the dragon-goddess Benzaiten. We seem far from Bodhidharma, but maybe not so. The mention of Ugajin brings to mind a representation of Bodhidharma, whose head emerges from the coils of a snake. But, as mentioned earlier, there are some other symbolic associations between Bodhidharma and Ugajin — one of them being the figure of Juuzenji. Let us also note that the representation of Gozu Tennoo standing on a reed boat may shed some light on the strange legendary episode of Bodhidharma crossing the Yangzi river. Epidemic deities were related to water, and often came from the West, crossing large bodies of water. They were also expulsed on reed boats.

The Red Threat
The red robe is obviously one of the elements that, together with his nature as shukushin, contributed to the metamorphosis of Daruma into a deity of epidemics. In particular, the prevalence of smallpox in early modern Japan explains the popularity of the okiagari Daruma doll. As the disease grew endemic, people were resignated to have it once in their life, and only prayed that it would be light. “Treatment by the red” (kooryoohoo) was found in Europe as well. The god of smallpox is said to like the red color, so one tries to please him in the hope of being cured quickly. It is difficult to say whether Daruma was connected to smallpox deities because he is red — or the other way around. At any rate, the red color of Daruma's robe is highly significant.

The symbolism of Daruma has recently been studied by Yoshino Noriko, in a work consecrated to Daruma. Unfortunately, Yoshino tends to reduce all mythological elements to complicated elucubrations on the symbolism of the yin-yang and the Five Phases (wuxing) of Chinese cosmology. If, in Daruma’s case, her theory has the merit of drawing our attention to the symbolic importance of the “red man,” she goes too far when she reduces him to e mere symbol of the Fire element. She even omits to mention that Daruma was a smallpox deity, and she focuses on the New Year Festival, during which Daruma dolls were sold, interpreting it as a fire festival.

One should also mention in this epidemic contect the relation (or affinities) between Daruma and a figure called “orang-outan” (shoojoo). In Chinese and Japanese imagination, the orang-outan was a monkey with human features, who was very fond of wine (hence his crimson face). The term shoojoo is used figuratively to designate a drunkard, and the “orang-outan fever” (shoojoo-netsu) designates scarlet fever.[21] This animal was also famous for its stupidity. According to Kida Sadakichi, toward the Muromachi period, the image of the shoojoo transformed, for obscure reasons, from that of dull anthropoid ape into that of a god of fortune living in the sea (and more precisely in the någa-palace), and which could give immortality to men.[22] It was even for a while included into the group of the “Seven Gods of Fortune.”

In the Noo play “Shoojoo,” a shoojoo appears under the form of a child to an inn-keeper to buy some wine, while another gets trapped in the net of a fisherman, whom he will later reward for having released him. The shoojoo was also believed to possess a wine-flask that never emptied — a sign that he was a god of wealth and immortality. He was also, however, perceived as a malevolent spirit (goryoo), that of individuals who had died in exile. Finally, he came to be perceived as a god of epidemics, and in particular of smallpox — here again, probably because of his red color. His image is sometimes associated to that of Shuuyen Dooji, the youthful demon of ÷eyama, a wine-lover and an epidemic deity. Thus, the hoosoogami festival that took place in 1836 was called shoojoo matsuri.[23]

A shoojoo doll, sometimes resembling the Daruma doll, was worshiped in houses struck by smallpox. The cult of the shoojoo is said to go back to the founder of the Oobaku sect of Zen, the Chinese priest Yinyuan Longqi (J. Ingen Ryuuki), which established a rite centered on this figure in order to alleviate a smallpox epidemics.[24] According to this tradition, the same Ingen served as model for the dolls of the “little monk who bounces back” (okiagari koboshi). That is, in order to thank Ingen for placating the shoojoo and alleviated the epidemics, his followers fabricated an image of him resembling that of the Chinese “old man who never falls” (budaowen, J. futoo-o), and the two images (of the shoojoo and the priest) came to be worshiped side by side. One finds some representations of the shoojoo under the form of two dolls, looking like Daruma (only a little taller), holding a ladle, accompanied by two okigari koboshi (Daruma dolls of both sexes). It is therefore not through a mere coincidence that the Daruma doll can be found near the shoojoo on the domestic altar to the smallpox deities.

To these “epidemic” affinities suggested by the redness of the complexion or of the robe, one could add others, less epidermic, like the elusive relations of Daruma with monkeys in general, and perhaps also with the simian Sarutahiko. For somewhat obscure reasons, Daruma is said to be a protector of horses and monkeys. A rather unusual motif is that of his relation with the “Prince of the stable” (umayado), that is, Shootoku Taishi, whose legend has him born in a stable. On that occasion, Bodhidharma is said to have reincarnated himself as a horse, which neighed three times.[25] This may still have to do with the notion of Daruma as “placenta deity.” Daruma was also the patron of horse-veterinaries, and appears himself in the Satsuma region as a veterinary. The function of protector of horses also calls to mind figures such as Kokuuzoo and Batoo Kannon, and legends about the origins of silkworms and sericiculture. It may be worth mentioning here that Hata no Kootatsu, the contemporary of Bodhidharma in Shootoku Taishi’s legend, is recorded in the Nihon Shoki for putting an end to a millenarist cult whose deity was a “worm.” In the Uzumasa district of the capital, the fief of the Hata, not far from Kooryuuji (where every year the Matarajin Festival or Ox Festival takes place), a shrine dedicated to the deity of silkworms.

Monkeys were apparently used in some rites against smallpox. They were perceived as the messengers of the god Shoozenshin, a deity of Indian origin whose rite was allegedly transmitted to Japan by Bodhidharma. It is worth noting that the names of this god recalls that of Juuzenji, the Hieizan deity whose important role we have discussed, and who also had monkeys as emissaries. In rites against smallpox, one made a monkey dance (saru-mawashi) to determine whether the illness would be light or not. According to the Sarumawashi no ki, “The main deity [honzon] of the sarumawashi is the first patriarch {Bodhidharma}, its protecting deity is Sarutahiko.”[26] The apotropaic function of this rite is underscored by the Saruya denki, which mentions a legend according to which Sarutahiko made monkeys dance in order to rout the demons’ army.[27]

Daruma was therefore one of these “fashionable gods” (hayarigami), which have been described as characteristic of the Edo period. A classic case of hayarigami is the namazu, a catfish-like deity held for responsible of seisms, and which one tried to placate by a cult. Cornelius Ouwehand has described the resurgence of this cult after the great Edo earthquake in 1853.[28] [check date] The affinity it shares with Daruma as god of calamities [yakujin] is sugegsted by a ukiyo-e representing Daruma as namazu. It is a kind of visual game, in which the monster’s mouth becomes the head of Daruma, as he looks through a breach in a wall.[29] According to Hilburg, Daruma was indeed still worshiped at the beginning of this century as a protector against earthquakes.[30] But he also had violent aspects, as one could expect. Another drawing represents him as a monster with long teeth (kikai no Daruma).[31] He was for instance the patron of beggars, and consequently, like the namazu, a figure of the chaos that constantly threatened the established order.[32] The “red” aspect of Daruma takes a darker connotation with the motif of the “bloody Daruma” (chi Daruma), found in various melodramatic plays of the Edo theatrical repertory, in which the image of Daruma is maculated with blood.[33] This kind of associations shows that he was not always, nor everywhere, the innocent companion of children’s play, but was often the witness of darker scenes.

Bodhidharma against the Stream
Let us dwell a moment on a representation well known of the historians of Sino-Japanese art, that of “Bodhidharma crossing the Yangzi on a reed-leef.” The oldest treatment of the theme dates from the beginning of the thirteenth century and it contains an inscription by Rujing (1163-1228), the master of the founder of the Sooto school of Zen, Doogen (1200-1253). A second painting, preserved in Japan, shows an inscrption by the Chan master Wuzhun Shifan (1177-1249).[34] There is also an estampage on stone, dated from the mid-eleventh century, from the Shaolin monastery.[35] A first study of the theme was made by Li Chu-tsing. Li focuses on a painting by Ding Yunpeng, preserved in the Charles A. Drenowatz Collection in Zürich, and finds it to be atypical of Chan paintings on the same theme. He sees in it merely “an intersting interlude in the development of Chan painting.” His interpretation is that of Chan orthodoxy, and his methodology that of classical art history.

A more recent and interesting attempt is that of Charles Lachman. Lachman notes that the first “biography” of Bodhidharma that mentions the strange crossing dates from 1108, and that the theme does not become widespread before the thirteenth century. Wondering why this episode, represented on stone and in painting, was omitted from written records, he remarks: “Unless, of course, the representation of Bodhidharma on a reed had at the time a meaning different from the one it was to acquire later.” He seems to be unto something here, even if in the end he is unable to free himself from the interpretive constraints of traditional Chan. Thus, while claiming, rightly, that the motif of the rushleaf has been on the whole ignored by both art historians and Buddhologists, Lachman himself eludes the problem — not without noticing that, to cross a river as large as the Yangzi, “the rushleaf would not appear to be the obvious solution.”[36]

According to Lachman, who takes up a suggestion from Helmut Brinker, this image combines (or resonates with) various themes and sources, in particular those of “Shakyamuni emerging from the Mountain” (chushan Shijia, J. shussan Shaka) and of “Guanyin with a Willow Branch” (yangliu Guanyin, J. yanagi Kannon). The Rushleaf motif, however, is not in essence a biographical narrative, as heretofore believed,” Lachman tells us,

“but rather a layered and polysemous icon of the paradigmatic patriarch, an image that structurally and thematically makes simultaneous reference to both the Buddha and his momentous decision to emerge from the mountains; to the attainment of nirvana by “crossing to the other shore”; to the arhats who diligently struggle to ford the stream; and to the poetic voice (from the Classic of Poetry) that will not be kept from its desired goal by merely physical obstacles. In some way, each of these strands inscribes the self-salvific efforts and determination that the Ch’an school championed in general and invested in Bodhidharma in particular.”[37]

It is possible that these references played a role in the contexts of Chan or literati painting. But oviously, apart from an allusion to the passage of the Shi jing (“Who says the river is wide? / On a single reed you can cross it!”[38]), none of them mentions the motif they are supposed to explain, that is, the reed. This is the problem when one limits interpretation to the Chan context of patriarchal transmission or to the artistic context, when the figure of Bodhidharma has clearly gone beyond these contexts to diffuse itself in popular culture and merge with folkloric motifs.[39] This second level of interpretation tends to appear rather in minor forms (ukiyo-e, netsuke, e-hon), where the narrative is less controlled than in the orthodox textual tradition. What appears to be a dubious, aberrant syncretism, and therefore unworthy of study, reveals perhaps a deeper logic.

A clue is unwillingly provided by Li Chi-tsing, when he mentions the existence of a Japanese painting of the beginning of the fourteenth century (currently at Joodoji, in Shizuoka Prefecture), comporting an inscription of the Chinese Zen master Yishan Yining (J. Issan Ichinei). This work depicts Bodhidharma “as a massive, brawny figure, with a huge head with impressive features,… holding a trident, [with a] halo around his head.”[40] The motif of the trident calls rather to mind Tantric deities: in the Sino-Japanese context, one knows for instance several representations of the Gandharva-King, a frightening figure who tames the demons of infantile diseases and empales their heads on his trident — while being himself visibly of demonic origin.

The motif of the reed-leaf points toward the same direction. We find in some documents of the Gozu Tennoo Shrine in Tsushima (Owari, modern Gifu Prefecture), a version of the Japanese creation myth in which the goddess Amaterasu, standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, stirs the ocean below with the tip of her spear, and creating with the foam thus produced the island of Tsushima. At that moment, an old man appears, standing on a reed-leaf. He introduces himself as the tutelary god of that land, and declares that he will later on become a god of epidemics. In other variants, the old man is clearly designated as Gozu Tennoo, and the reed-leaf becomes a one-pronged vajra, a Tantric ritual instrument, which in turn gives birth to the Japanese archipelago.[41] We recall that, during the ritual of expulsion of epidemics, as it is still performed at Tsushima, Gozu Tennoo, having been duly worshiped in his shrine, is sent off ad patres on a reed boat. The motif of the reed leaf seems therefore to connect Gozu Tennoo and Bodhidharma, as epidemic deities.

Even in the Zen school, another conception, more complex, of Bodhidharma, seems to emerge. Thus, in a late biography of the Sootoo Zen master Doogen, we learn that the latter, having fallen ill during his trip to China, was saved in extremis by the kami Inari, who gave him a pill that “dispels poisons and cures all diseases.” In the earlier versions, however, it was the Chinese deity Daigenshuri, a mountain god, protector of the monastery where Doogen had stayed, who came to the rescue. And in a later variant, it is the daughter of the naaga-king (who in the Lotus suutra gives to the Buddha the wish-fulfilling jewel). She is depicted, emerging from the water to give the remedy to the monks of Doogen’s escort, while a gigantic Daruma emerges from a valley behind the hills.[42]

We recall that, in the Chinese legend, Bodhidharma had been poisoned, which, in mythological logic, makes him a specialist of poisons.[43] Indeed, it is only after two unsuccessful attempts, in which the poison did not seem to affect him, having transmitted his teaching to his disciple Huike, he knowingly took the poison and decided to leave this world. The function of Rector of destinies, which, as we have seen, was perhaps an important aspect of the cult of Daruma, also evokes these texts, widespread in Tendai, and largely inspired from Daoism, on the so-called “Method of Bodhidharma to know the time of one’s death.” We may also note that Daruma and Daigenshuri are worshiped as a pair, at the back of the main altar of the Dharma Hall in Sootoo monasteries. This cult calls to mind that of the “back door” (ushirodo) of Japanese Buddhist temples, dedicated to Matarajin or similar deities, protectors with a dubious past or an ambivalent nature. The image of Daruma is usually located on the left (the north-west), Daigenshuri on the right (on the north-east) — two directions associated to the “gate of demons” (kimon).

Daruma as God of Fortune
We can now return to the question from which we started: Why did Daruma become so popular in the Edo period? It is the result of a complex evolution, which metamorphosed him from a “malevolent spirit” to a crossroad deity, a god of the placenta and a controller of human destinies, and finally an epidemic deity and a god of fortune. Many factors contributed to that evolution. If I insisted here on the symbolic dimension, it is clear that not everything has happened at that level, and that sociological and economic factors have also played a role.[44] The development, from the end of the Muromachi period onward, of large urban and commercial agglomerations like Sakai, Osaka, and Edo, and of centres of production and dissemination of products responding to the new urban culture, must obviously be taken into account. It is at this time that “Daruma markets” appear. Conjointly, the progressive disappearance of social groups like the shoomonji, who, in their door-to-door of the New Year, had played important role in the development and the preservation of rituals centered on certain gods of fortune, and at the same time slowed down their “popularization,” may have been instrumental. According to Komatsu Kazuhiko, these deities, from the moment they were no longer associated to specialized, low-caste groups, lost their aura of strangeness and were folklorized. Such was perhaps the case of Daruma, a deity related to beggars.

Daruma’s popularity is also clearly related to the vogue of the tumbler dolls as good luck charma (engimono). Actually, the first tumbler dolls were not Daruma dolls, but another figure called okiagari koboshi (the little monk who bounces back). The term, like that of Daruma, came to designate prostitutes in the slang of Edo. This “little monk” (or “kid,” another meaning of koboshi), appeared in Japan only toward the Muromachi period, but he had a Chinese predecessor, which seems to have been popular since the Tang. The Chinese doll was called budaoweng (J. futoo-o, “the unmovable old man”). As noted earlier, the notion of okiagari, “bouncing back on one’s feet,” evoked a rapid cure, and in this case the hope of a light smallpox. This symbolism y may have paved the way to Daruma’s transformation into a hoosoogami. Indeed, it is only when these tumbler dolls (okiagari koboshi, okiagari Daruma) came to be associated with smallpox in Japan that they became truly popular, more than they had ever been in China.[45]

In the end, we have to admit the existence, not only of one, but of at least two traditions regarding Bodhidharma. Perhaps, in the same way as Freud distinguished between the manifest and the latent content of dreams, we may distinguish in the present case between the manifest symbolic meaning of Bodhidharma, that of the orthodox Zen tradition which reduces him to a Zen patriarch; and the latent meaning(s) of popular traditions, which rest on constant symbolic dissemination. The manifest meaning tends to impose itself and silence the others, but the latter sometime interrupt its monotonous discourse, and errupt in unexpected places, under the most uncanny aspects. It is some of these aspects, which I have tried to retrieve, transforming Bodhidharma, or rather Daruma, into a man. Thus, Bodhidharma is a versatile god, constantly rebounding, each time with a new face staring at us.

Curtesy of Bernard Faure


[1] On the development of the legend in China, see Durand-Dastès.

[2] See also the variant provided by the child-song, whose syllables — “Da.ru.ma.sa.n.ga.ko.ro.n.da (“Daruma has fallen down”) -- were used by children to count from one to ten in games of hide-and-seek.

[3] See Richie and ItØ, 226.

[4] Rotermund 1991: 196.

[5] By contrast, in the Kansai region, Daruma was above all related to the merchant class (and without relation with agricultural cycle, in particular with the New Year Festival).

[6] Rotermubd 1998: 19-20. The offering to the deity usually consisted in strips of cloth (nusa) — hence the idea expressed in the legend to cut a part of one’s robe tooffer it. Hence the idea that the deity to which such offerings were made was a “deity who strips away the sleeves” (sodemogi-sama), who required from the traveler a part of his robe, lest the traveler would be thrown to earth and the sleeves of his robe would be torn away. See Rotermund, ibid., 39. This deity also calls to mind Datsueba.

[7] On this question, see Michael Como.

[8] KitØ, Daruma no shosØ, 573.

[9] Ibid.

[10] In French, “to be born with a caul” (être né coiffé) means to be born under a lucky star. However, I have will argue in next chapter, Bodhidharma was not born particularly lucky.

[11] Missancho, abr. of shitchu himitsu sanzen, “secret sanzen within the chamber”]. See Imaeda on missancho, also called missanroku [records of secret interviews; oral transmission reminiscent of esoteric kuden, kirigami daiji, and sanmotsu, see ZenshË no rekishi, Showa 18, Tokyo: ShibundØ, pp. 179-180. I am grateful to James Sanford for introducing me to this material.

[12] See Wumenguan 13.

[13] Suzuki, 289-90.

[14] See Yamamoto, Kamigatari kenkyË 3, Shunjusha 1989.

[15] See for instance, in the case of JËzenji, the SannØ hiyØki, 539.

[16] Suzuki Masataka

[17] The Keiran shËyØshË notes in passing this biographical detail after reporting how, during Eisai’s return trip from China, his boat was followed for a while by a floating island. Afterwards, Eisai reveals that it was actually a priest by the name of HossØbØ, reincarnated as obe of the dragons of the submarine dragon-palace (and assimilated here implicitly to the goddess Benzaiten. See T, 76: 627b. On GyØki as avatar of Bodhidharma, see KitØ.

[18] See ShØtoku taishi e denki, quoted in KitØ, 389-99.

[19] The relation between goryØ and Shinra myØjin is implicit in the identification between the malevolent spirit of the priest RaigØ and the god. The posthumous anger of RaigØ is said to have killed the emperor Go-SanjØ, who, by fear of the Hieizan reaction, had refused to let RaigØ build an ordination platform at Miidera.

[20] Note also that, in the SØtØ Zen tradition, Bodhidharma is usually represented in the main Hall as counterpart of Daigenshuri, another Chinese mountain god (like that of Songyue and Shinra myØjin).

[21] The term shØjØ also designates “a NØ mask, representing the ghost of a young man with similar colors, as well as a red scarf with which — in a magico-therapeutic gesture — one covered the head of the sick individual.” See Rotermund 1991: 274.

[22] See Kida, “Fukujin to shite no shØjØ,” in Kida, Fukujin, 1976; see also U.A. Casal, “Far Eastern Monkey Lore,” MN 12, 1-2, 1956: 48-49. Casal thinks that the figure of the shØjØ may have been influenced by theat of the Greek satyre, another great drinker.

[23] See Fude makase, in Nihon shomin seikatsu shiryØ shËsei, vol. 2, s.v. 1836/12/2; quoted in Rotermund 1991: 274.

[24] See JËshË honsØ kØmoku keimØ [1844], quoted in Rotermund 1991: 96-97.

[25] Kito, 526.

[26] Kito, 527.

[27] Kito, 528.

[28] Ouwehand, Namazu-e.

[29] Kito, 510.

[30] See Hilburg, Man 18 (1918): 57.

[31] Kito, 511.

[32] Kito, 523.

[33] See for instance Asakusa reikenki, quoted by Kito, 403-411.

[34] Tokugawa Asrt Museum, in Toda Teisuke, Mokkei Gyokkan, Suiboku bijutsu taikei 3, Toky: Kodansha 1973: 44; quoted in Lachman, 253.

[35] Lachman 1993: 258.

[36] Lachman 1993: 258. Significantly, the title of his essay has become “Why did the Patriarch Cross the River?” — and the reed/rush appears only in the subtitle, to qualify the Indian patriarch (“The ‘Rushleaf Bodhidharma Reconsidered”).

[37] Lachman 1993: 266.

[38] Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, New York: Columbia University Press, 1984: 25.

[39] The case of the namazu, a favorite motif of some Zen paintings, and Ouwehand’s treatment of its mythological background, constitute another paradigmatic example of the need to go beyond sectarian interpretations.

[40] See Jan Fontein and Money L. Hickman, Zen Painting and Calligraphy, Museum of Fine Arts, Catalog, no 22, Boston 1970: 53-56.

[41] See Yamamoto, Ijin, 586-88. On Japan as a “divine land” in the shape of a one-pronged vajra, see also Keiran shËyØshË, T. 76: 626.

[42] See Echizen no kuni Eiheiji kaisanki (1689), Tokyo University Historiographical Institute. I am indebted to William Duncan for this reference.

[43] Note in this respect that smallpox was perceived by a kind of “fetal” poisoning caused by the mother.

[44] See for instance on this point Andrée Belleville, “Der tori-Markt, ein Glücksfest japanischer Wirte und Geschäftsbesitzer,” doctroral dissertation, Albert-Ludwigs Univerity. Zürich: Zentralstelle der Studentenschaft, 2000.

[45] On Chinese tumblers, see Daruma no shosØ, 574-75; on Korean tumblers, see ibid., 577-78. The development of okiagari-daruma in the countryside (and more particularly and Eastern and Northern Japan) was permitted by another development, that of silkworm breeding. The Daruma doll became a object of good luck (engimono) for sericiculture. The embryological symbolism, that associates Daruma with silkworms (mayu Daruma), may also point toward the practice of mushi-okuri (although silkworms are beneficial, they die in large numbers, and might become goryoo themselves)


hoosoo-e 疱瘡絵 "smallpox pictures"
prints to protect children from smallpox

According to Mr. Kido, the selling of Daruma dolls with eyes started around 1764. During that period, many children suffered of smallpox, which is especially dangerous for the eyes. A Daruma was then used at a talisman to protect from this eye affliction.
Me-ire - Painting Eyes for Daruma 達磨の目入れ Daruma and his EYES

. akamono, aka mono 赤もの red things (for good luck) .
Ko no Su Dolls 鴻巣人形 Konosu ningyoo

. Shoojoo 猩猩 /猩々 Shojo, a legendary drunkard
With a red face and red hair, warding off smallpox.

. WKD : The color RED in Japanese Culture  


Hoosoogami, Hoosooshin 疱瘡神(ほうそうがみ、ほうそうしん)

Tsukioka Kuniyoshi 月岡芳年画

© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

hoosoo no sandara-boshi e kawazu kana
. Kobayashi Issa and the Smallpox .


. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .

yuku haru ya Yokawa e nobori imo no kami

spring comes to an end -
the God of Smallpox
is going upstream of Yokawa

Smallpox had been raving havoc in Kyoto, but finally, as spring comes to an end and moves from the city up to the mountains, so does the spread of the disease finally come to a halt.

Imo no Kami, Toosoo no Kami 痘瘡の神 Toso no Kami God of Smallpox


. minwa 民話 folktales / densetsu 伝説 Japanese Legends .

Sasara Sanpachi 佐々良三八 legend from Fukuoka

. hoosoo 疱瘡 伝説 Hoso - Legends about Smallpox .


. Kani Saizō 可児才蔵 Kani Saizo .
Kani Yoshinaga 可児吉長 - (1554 - 1613)

Once Saizo saw something strange and threatening trying to come in through his window, so he jumped out of the window and killed it. It was the God of Smallpox.
People started to pray to Saizo and put his figure in their Shelf of the Gods or pasted a painting of him at the door entrance to hinder the God of Smallpox from entering their home.


kigo for spring

. smallpox (shutoo 種痘)
ueboosoo 植疱瘡(うえぼうそう)


Japanese Tales - By Royall Tyler
Very kind of him, no doubt
An epidemic sickness that caused a terrible cough was once going around and everyone from peasant to emperor caught it.
A cook had finished working in his employer's kitchen and left for home late in the evening after the household had retired. At the gate he mat a haughty, frightening gentleman in a red cload and formal headdress. The cook had no idea who this was, but since there was no doubting his quality he knelt and bowed.
"Do you know who I am?" the gentleman asked.
"No sir."
"I used to be a major counselor named Ban no Yoshio, and I died in exile in Iyo province. I'd committed a serious offense against his majesty, you see, and I was quite justly punished.
But I owe my country a great deal for the favor I enjoyed while I still served at court, and whe it turned out that this year there was to be a wave of sickness which would kill everyone, I petitioned to have the epidemic commuted instead to coughing. That is why everyone is down with a cough. I was waiting here because I wanted to let people know. Don't be afraid"
When he has spoken, he vanished.
The cook fearfully continued on his way and told others what he had seen and heard. That was how people found out that Ban no Yoshio was not a god of pestilence.
But why did Ban choose that cook to talk to? He could have choose anyone else. Well, no doubt he had his reason.
- source : books.google.co.jp

Ban Dainagon Yoshio
大納言 伴善男


Imo no Kami, Toosoo no Kami 痘瘡の神, Toso no Kami God of Smallpox
and a hokku by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .





Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Kusatsu hariko 草津張り子 papermachee dolls from Kusatsu
Dolls of this town are realted to warding off smallpox (hoosoo yoke 疱瘡除け).
They come in a set.
A small Daruma figure is also part of the set. There are two pieces of red paper to place the dolls on, put rice with red beans in the small white dish and make an offering in the morning with the wish for a child to get well from the smallpox. In the evening the two pieces of paper are placed under the pillow of the child. This has to be repeated for seven days. At the end of this period the Shojo doll is taken to the village border and discarded as an offering there, taking with him the smallpox of the child.
This custom is called
yotsu tsuji shoojoogaeshi 四ッ辻猩々返し

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Fukuoka - Northern Kyushu

Sasano Saizoo, Sasano Saizō 笹野才蔵 Sasano Saizo
with his monkey carrying a gohei 御幣 wand
He was the son of a rich man in Hakata, warding off the deity of smallpox by jumping out of the window of his home to hit the monster. He is now a helpful amulet to ward off disease. Paintings of Saizo are attached to the entrance door of a home.
Dolls of Saizo are made in many parts of Northern Kyushu.

The story of Saizo is also part of Kabuki and Noh performances.

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

a legend from Fukuoka 福岡県
Sasara Sanpachi 佐々良三八
a samurai in the clan of 名護屋山三郎
and the God of Smallpox 疱瘡神

Once he helped a weak dog who was surrounded by a strong crowd of other dogs. This dog was in fact the Deity of Smallpox. To show his gratitude, he said he would protect anyone who writes the following into the shell of an abalone with seven holes 7穴のあわび貝 and hangs it at the entrance of his home:
佐々良三八様御宿 - This is a dwelling of Sasara Sanpachi!