We’ve already seen quite a few holy beasts of legend on this blog, including the kirin, hō-ō, baku, komainu, and shiisaa. Here’s another one!
Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered how many yokai there are in total, read on!
Hakutaku are wise chimerical beasts that resemble a white ox. They have nine eyes in total — 3 on the head, and 3 on each of its broad sides. They live in remote mountains, and only appear in eras and countries where the ruler of the land is a wise and virtuous leader. They are extremely good omens and symbols of good luck. Hakutaku can speak human languages, and are highly knowledgeable about all things in creation.
Hakutaku, like the other holy beasts mentioned above, are Chinese imports. One of the most famous accounts of a hakutaku comes from the legendary Chinese Yellow Emperor (2697–2597 BCE). The emperor was performing an imperial tour of his lands, and in the east near the sea, he climbed a mountain and encountered a hakutaku (bai ze in Chinese). The two spoke, and the hakutaku told the emperor that in all of creation there were 11,520 different kinds of yokai. The emperor had his subordinates record everything the hakutaku said, and it was preserved in a volume known as the hakutakuzu. This volume recorded each kind of yokai, along with what kind of evils they do, or disasters they bring, as well as how to deal with them — a sort of demonic disaster manual, if you will. Unfortunately the hakutakuzu was lost long, long ago, and no surviving copies exist.
Because of its incredible knowledge of the various kinds of yokai and monsters, paintings of the hakutaku were very popular in Japan during the Edo period. They were sold and used as good luck charms as well as wards against evil spirits, disease, and yokai. Because the hakutaku knows all, it was believed that yokai would stay away from him.
Are you interested in yokai? Can’t get enough of strange Japanese culture? Then you should check out my book, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, on Amazon.com and learn the story behind over one hundred of these bizarre monsters!