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Oni

The meaning of «oni»

An oni (.mw-parser-output ruby>rt{font-feature-settings:"ruby"1;font-size:85%}.mw-parser-output ruby.large{font-size:250%}.mw-parser-output ruby.large>rt{font-size:50%}鬼 (おに)) is a kind of yōkai, demon, ogre, or troll in Japanese folklore. They are typically portrayed as hulking figures with one or more horns growing out of their heads. Stereotypically, they are conceived of as red, blue, or white-colored, wearing loincloths of tiger pelt, and carrying iron kanabō clubs.

They are popular characters in Japanese art, literature, and theater,[1] and appear as stock villains in the well-known fairytales of Momotarō (Peach Boy), Issun-bōshi, and Kobutori Jīsan.

Depictions of yokai oni vary widely but usually portray them as hideous, gigantic ogre-like creatures with a single horn or multiple horns emerging from their heads,[2] with sharp claws, wild hair, and fang-like tusks.[3]

They are often depicted wearing tiger-skin loincloths and carrying iron clubs called kanabō (金棒).[2] This image leads to the expression "oni with an iron club" (鬼に金棒, oni-ni-kanabō), that is, to be invincible or undefeatable.[4][5]

Their skin may be any number of colors, but red, blue, and green are particularly common.[6][7] They may sometimes also be depicted as black-skinned, or yellow-skinned.[2]

They may occasionally be depicted with a third eye on their forehead,[2][8] or extra fingers and toes.[8]

An old etymology for "oni" is that the word derives from on, the on'yomi reading of a character (隠) meaning "to hide or conceal", due to oni having the tendency of "hiding behind things, not wishing to appear". This explanation is found in the 10th century dictionary Wamyōshō, which reveals that the oni at the time had a different meaning, defined as "a soul/spirit of the dead".[9][10]

The character for oni, 鬼 (pinyin: guǐ; Jyutping: gwai2) in Chinese also means a dead or ancestral spirit, and not necessarily an evil specter.[9] Accordingly, Chinese (Taoist) origins for the concept of oni has been proposed.[11] Particularly powerful oni may be described as kishin or kijin (literally "oni god"; the "ki" is an alternate character reading of "oni"), a term used in Japanese Buddhism to refer to Wrathful Deities.

The oni was syncretized with Hindu-Buddhist creatures such as the man-devouring yaksha and the rakshasa, and became the oni who tormented sinners as wardens of Hell (Jigoku),[12] administering sentences passed down by Hell's magistrate, King Yama (Enma Daiō).[6] The hungry ghosts called gaki (餓鬼) has also been sometimes considered a type of oni (the Kanji for "ki" 鬼 is also read "oni").[6][10] Accordingly, a wicked soul beyond rehabilitation transforms into an oni after death. Only the very worst people turn into oni while alive, and these are the oni causing troubles among humans as presented in folk tales.[13]

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