Fujin: Origins Along The Slik Road

Familiar with Japanese mythology? You are? Then you most likely have heard of Fujin correct? Fujin is the Japanese god of wind. Normally he is depicted alongside the god of thunder/storms, Raijin and they are even similar in appearance. Although there is a catch, Fujin and Raijin are not humanoid gods like say the Greek or Roman gods. They look like demonic creatures. They have been known to bring devastating typhoons to Japan over the centuries. Typhoons that cause damages as well as loss of life. However, on some days, Fujin decides to be a nice god. In the year 1274 (and then again in 1281), Mongols tried to invade Japan. Fujin wasn’t having any of that shit and destroyed the fleets with devastating windstorms. That’s where the term “kamikaze” come from. “Kami” meaning “god” or “divine” and “kaze” meaning “wind”, so kamikaze literally means “divine wind.” Fujin is also depicted with his “windbag” 99% of the time. This bag contains the winds and according to Japanese mythology, Fujin opened the bag at the world’s creation and blew away all the clouds so that brightness was shown down on the world. Fujin was also said to have been inspired from the Greek god of the North Wind (and bringer of winter), Boreas.

Boreas was a very popular god in Greek culture as opposed to say someone like Ares. He was often depicted as an older man with a shaggy beard, wings and winged feet. Sometimes his beard is spiked like icicles as he brings winter to the land of Greece. He also has a “windbag” which he used to control the winds although some pictures have him literally blowing the winds from his mouth. How could this guy have gotten from Greece all the way to Japan? Easy. Alexander the Great was the guy who was (supposedly) responsible.

When Alexander the Great was building his empire, he brought the Greek gods/mythology/religion with him. When his empire was dying out, the Greek gods were transformed into Buddhist representations. Herakles (or you might know him as Hercules) was used as a representation of Vajrapani, the protector of the Buddha. Atlas, the guy who has to hold up the heavens, was taken too and would often be depicted as the guy who would hold up Buddhist structures (sometimes with decorated Greek columns). Boreas was then turned into a god named Wardo. Another representation of the wind god, this time female, was found in the Kizil Caves in the Tarim Basin. The name of that goddess is unknown as well as the god that she transformed into in China. I don’t believe that this god had a wind bag, but it was said that it blew wind through its mouth. The thing to note about this Chinese wind god, is that it was said to have been demonic in appearance….kinda like how Fujin is. It is known that Japanese culture has roots in Chinese culture so I believe that Japan took the demonic appearance of that Chinese god, changed the name and gave him his own mythological stories.

Boreas was not the only god to have been transformed into something similar in another culture. The Hindu monkey deity Hanuman is said to have been the inspiration of Sun Wukong as they both fight demons, are monkeys (and command an army of them) and have similar powers.Cultural exchanges are said to have been the cause of this as well as Xuanzang’s journey to India to collect the Buddhist sutras

Fujin  <–Fujin is theorized to be based off of Boreas –>Boreas

3 thoughts on “Fujin: Origins Along The Slik Road

  1. Jacob Wilson

    Domenic, this was a very interesting read. When you said that the Greek gods were transformed into Buddhist representations, that made me think of my comparison of Slavic and Chinese vampires, in my abstract. The fact that some religions are taking other religions’ gods and goddesses, and changing their personalities, is crazy. Be original. In my project, I briefly mentioned how the Chinese vampires are known as “Jiangshi” and have a slightly different twist to Slavic vampires. Yet still share similar appearances. I am very interested in how you are going to present your research. Research paper? Brochure?

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  2. Ian Robreno

    This post is interesting because it speaks to the syncretic nature of culture in terms of religion. In my On the Periphery of Islam class, my peers and I explored how in many locations of the Islamic world, the status of Islam varied greatly as in each location, a different version of Islam seemed to be in place. This makes some sense when you consider that Islam is a religious faith that values and often preserve knowledge, such that it can lead to a merger of both pre-Islamic and Islamic ideas. Hence, these different versions seem to garner their disparities in practice from pre-existing cultures. This, on a higher sense, emulates how societies appropriate and normalize outside ideas into their overall culture.

    One of the most specific examples was our discussion about the Maldives. During Ibn Battuta’s stay there, he encounters the local story of their conversion to Islam. The account essentially describes a djinn in the shape of a ship made of lanterns being warded off by lines being preached from the Quran. The sultan had all of their shrines torn down, their idols smashed, and all people converted to Islam. One would assume that after this event, the entirety of the islands would be converted to Islam, in nearly all respects.

    However, as Tim Mackintosh-Smith shows us in his explorations of the Maldives nearly a thousand years later, this is not the case. During his exploration of the Maldives, he discovered local, sparse groups of surviving pre-Islamic culture. This was mostly in the form of very voodoo-esque principles, as it combined both violent buddhist, pagan, and Islamic ideas and practices into a single faith. They would perform “magic” ceremonies by reciting lines from the Quran, either resulting in mystical incantations or devious hexes being cast.

    Conclusively, a similar phenomenon can be seen by taking a philosophical eye to Alexander bringing his faith and ideals to Japan. As you research has shown, the native beliefs of the Japanese was not snuffed out by Alexander’s; instead, it survived by adapting, fusing with ideas of the oppressing religion and rose up with anew. In a way, this is how many ideas in societies perpetrate, not by enforcement, but by the very syncretic- and influential-nature of human ideas and understanding.

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