T’ien-kou literally translates as “Celestial Dog” and refers to two different but possibly related things:
• T’ien-kou are shooting stars.
• T’ien-kou are dreaded dog-shaped mountain Demons.
T’ien-kou the spirits first emerged from the sky amidst thunder and lightning. They may or may not be the shooting stars or may possibly be something that arrived with them. If T’ien-kou were first appearing now, instead of thousands of years ago, they’d be considered malignant space aliens. Instead they’re meteor Demons. T’ien-kou are dangerous, unpleasant spirits. They kidnap and eat children. T’ien-kou are vengeful spirits who will nurse a grudge. They harm those who harm them.
Tengu and T’ien-Kou are not identical but have many resemblances, not least their name. Whether or not they are the same species of spirit has been fodder for centuries of great debate.
Although they’re called celestial dogs, T’ien-Kou resemble birds. They possess birds’ beaks, wings, and claws, but they have tangled, matted hair like a human. They are master shape-shifters who can transform into any form, including that of humans.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.