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Tenkyou (Kokumon: 떤꾜우, Gyoumon: 天教; "teachings of heaven"), sometimes referred to as Senrian folk religion, is a polytheistic and animistic or pantheistic religion originating in Senria. It is typically considered to be the indigenous religion of Senria and the ethnic religion of the Senrian people; it is also sometimes categorized as a nature religion.

The central tenet of Tenkyou is the existence of ki, a vital force inherent to the universe and all things in it. Tenkyou doctrine holds that the goal of the living should be to keep ki in balance through the kannagara, which encompasses practices such as spiritual awareness, the ethic of reciprocity, and the maintenance of extrinsic and intrinsic purity. The maintenance of purity encompasses a variety of practices and rituals, the most significant of which is the performance of rituals and offerings dedicated to kami, supernatural entities regarded as manifestations of ki. Much of the practice of Tenkyou consists of the worship of kami, whether at domestic altars known as kamidana or at public shrines staffed by clergy. Tenkyou lacks a single creator, specific doctrinal text, or central authority, instead existing as a diverse collection of local, regional, and national traditions.

Certain elements of Tenkyou can be traced back to the Sugawara period, though a debate exists among anthropologists and historians about when it becomes reasonable to describe the spiritual practices and beliefs of prehistoric Senria as "early Tenkyou". The religion became increasingly organized as a result of the centralization of political power during the subsequent Eiken, Sunzuu, and Kaihou periods, with the development of state rites & registers and the compilation of Tenkyou myths & rituals into formal chronicles. Over the following several centuries, extensive syncretization with Zohism and Badi altered Tenkyou belief and practice, particularly that of Tenkyou as a folk religion; clergy from all three religions subsequently worked to oppose the spread of Sotirianity to the archipelago. A deliberate effort to establish a form of "State Tenkyou" as a means of bolstering nationalism followed the Keiou Restoration; this was ended by the Senrian Revolution, which led to the formal separation of church and state in Senria.

Tenkyou is found primarily within Senria, which is home to more than 100,000 formal public shrines; 69.4% of Senria's population identified Tenkyou as their religion in the country's 2015 census, and in 2018 as much as 94% of Senrians reported participating in some selection of Tenkyou rituals annually. Most Senrian adherents also practice some form of Zohism or Badi alongside Tenkyou; aspects of Tenkyou have also been retained by Senrian new religious movements. The religion has played a seminal role in shaping Senrian culture, and in many cases Senrian customs and Tenkyou practices are effectively synonymous. Outside of Senria, most practicioners of Tenkyou are members of the Senrian diaspora; however, it has also attracted some interest from non-Senrian populations. Tenkyou shrines are overseen by the World Association of Tenkyou Shrines.




Ki and motu

One of the most fundamental concepts in Tenkyou is that of ki. In contemporary Senrian, ki is written as in Kokumon and as in Gyoumon. In ancient Tenkyou texts, it was commonly referred to with the character and the pronunciation iki or yasu; however, these were steadily superseded during the feudal period by (later simplified to ) due to the use of that character to describe a similar concept in Shangean folk religion and Zohism.

A polysemous word with several meanings, including "breath", "gas", "spirit", "mood", and "condition", in the context of Tenkyou ki is the inherent vital force of the universe, a conception which is both similar to and influenced heavily by the Shangean concept of qi and the Satrian concept of prana, and which bears some similarities with the ancient Piraean concept of pneuma. Existing alongside ki is motu (Kokumon: [], Gyoumon: , "thing, corporeal object"), or physical matter. Tenkyou dogma holds that all motu, everything which physically exists, is permeated by ki, which connects and binds all things in existence together with each other. Physical things are made distinct from each other based on whether they hold several additional aspects alongside their ki:

All which exists is motu () imbued with ki ().
The earth, the waters, the winds, and fire have ki, but not mei (, life).
The trees, grasses, and flowers have ki and mei, but not tikaku (知覚, perception).
The beasts, fowl, and fishes have ki, mei, and tikaku, but not gi (, justice or morality).
Humans have ki, mei, tikaku, and gi, but not sinsei (神性, divinity).
Kami have ki, mei, tikaku, gi, and sinsei.

— Kamo no Takasue, Precepts of the Ancient Way (793)

Ki is regarded as multifaceted and divisible by practicioners of Tenkyou. Several different systems for dividing ki into various aspects and attributes exist, often heavily influenced by Tenkyou's long history of religious syncretism. The most common division is into the two aspects of yin (Kokumon [], in, or [], on, Gyoumon ; or Kokumon 아꾸, aku, Gyoumon ) and yang (Kokumon [], you, or [], myou, Gyoumon ; or Kokumon , i, Gyoumon ), a practice reinforced by the Zohist concept of e and yi. However, ki can also be divided into four aspects known as kon (Kokumon , Gyoumon , "soul, vigor, willpower"), which consist of youkon (Kokumon 요우꼰, Gyoumon 恿魂, "kon of bravery"), keikon (Kokumon 께꼰, Gyoumon 惠魂; "kon of harmony"), tikon (Kokumon 띠꼰, Gyoumon 知魂; "kon of knowledge"), and aikon (Kokumon 애꼰, Gyoumon 愛魂; "kon of love"); and into the hakke (Kokumon: [], Gyoumon: 八卦), or eight trigrams. None of these divisions are wholly separate from each other, nor do any of them wholly oppose each other; there are elements of each within every other, inextricably connecting them, and they all ultimately unify back into ki.

Maintaining the proper flow and balance of the various facets of ki is a concept of primary spiritual importance in Tenkyou, regarded as the primary duty and goal of believers. The assorted practices by which a practitioner maintains the balance of their ki, encompassing a varying set of religious rituals, moral guidelines, and personal activities, is referred to as tou ([], ; "path, road, way") or kannagara ([], 随神; "following of the kami"). Proper adherence to these practices is called toku ([], ), literally "virtue", and is central to traditional Senrian conceptions of ethics.

Ukiyo-e prints depicting the kami Pairyuu in human and dragon form respectively.


Kami are supernatural deific entities which represent the primary object of worship and veneration in Tenkyou. Kami are considered to represent a particular manifestation of ki bearing the aspect of divinity or numinosity, but beyond this the term is conceptually broad and fluid, having varied extensively in different regions, theological traditions, and timeframes; they encompass deities, spirits, natural forces and phenomena, elements of the landscape, concepts, honored dead who are regarded as having obtained divinity through their deeds in life, combinations of the aforementioned with each other, and intangible elements of all of the aforementioned. Northern theologians and anthropologists typically categorize the conception and worship of kami as polytheistic or animistic in nature.

[more on the nature and typical traits of kami]

[some particularly prominent kami: theoretically the most important are tenryuu and zuihou]

[both are heavily overshadowed, however, by the kami pairyuu, traditionally regarded as progenitor of the senrian nation]

[others: aoryuu, ougetuhime, ouyamatumi, ounitiki, ousuirogu]


[creation myth, afterlife, etc]

Important texts

[various mythological and semihistorical works]



[actual large-scale shrines; structure thereof]

[consecrating shrines, bunrei and kanzou and gosintai]

[shrine visits and pilgrimages]

[cases of sacred places/objects rather than shrine buildings]

A hokora located in southern Ubeyama Prefecture.

[hokora, or wayside shrines]

[mikosi, sacred palanquins]

Two Tenkyou priests, a kannusi and a miko, at the Keiou Shrine.


[kannusi and miko; who is in the clergy, how you become clergy]

[the role of clergy in maintaining shrines, performing rituals, etc]


[often translated as enlightenment; a sense of awareness both into the nature of ki and into oneself, held to be the result of keeping one’s ki well-balanced combined with meditation and introspection]

[worth noting the zohists, in syncretistic situations, regard this as a very basic sort of spiritual awareness]


[reciprocity or karma, a moral arc to the universe which is brought about through two things - meiyun, or destiny, and enbun, or chance]

An ablution pavilion, or temizuya, at Hirano-zinguu.


[purity of motu and reikon (the individual soul), inextricably linked to the balance of ki]

[extrinsic and intrinsic purity maintained through various rituals, harae]

A small kamidana on a Senrian research vessel.


[household shrines to ancestors and kami; often accompanied by household shrines to zohist and badi figures]


Boats on the Yonesiro River as part of a religious festival in Keisi.

[various festivals, some national, many regional or local, music and dance and parades,

Life-cycle events

[rites of passage - first visit to shrine, marriages, funerals]

Other practices

[divination (onmyoudou), amulets, mediums, qigong/yoga type stuff, spirit healing, etc]


[unclear origins in distant past]

[things take shape]

[antiquity and medieval syncretism]

[state tenkyou]

[since the revolution]

A hokora with a mixture of Tenkyou, Zohist, and Badist imagery in Utimura.


[extensive syncretism with Zohism, Badi, Taoshi on several counts, though because taoshi arrived with zohism senrians tend to group them together] [common elements w/ zohism - emphasis on the soul as an entity, ritual purity, and a fundamental energy/life-force which permeates the universe] [tenkyou adoptions fm/ zohism - a conception of enlightenment and salvation, a caste system via sengshui, LOTS of philosophy, ethics, and architecture, several deities]

[common elements w/ taoshi - emphasis on the ideal of a natural order which can be balanced and maintained through the performance of certain rituals] [tenkyou adoptions fm/ taoshi - concepts of meritocracy and proper conduct, lots of literature and legal code, rationalist and deontologist philosophy]

[common elements w/ for badi - emphasis on natural elements and attributes, performance of elemental rites, philosophy and theology as a form of knowledge-gathering] [tenkyou adoptions fm/ badi - badi's pseudoscientific method, conservationist ideals, consequentialist philosophy, fusing of badi elements with tenkyou kami]

[any syncretism from satrian traditions that, cheongung, etc. that isn't through zohism - much more limited, but might be found in some contexts]

[many senrians simultaneously practice tenkyou rituals and secularized sotirian holidays; many senrian new religions still draw from tenkyou]


[in senria]

A ritual being formed at a Tenkyou shrine in Etruria.


See also