Chinese mythology | Wikipedia audio article

Chinese mythology | Wikipedia audio article


Chinese mythology (中國神話 Mandarin Chinese:
Zhōngguó shénhuà) is mythology that has been passed down in oral form or recorded
in literature in the geographic area now known as “China”. Chinese mythology includes many
varied myths from regional and cultural traditions. Chinese mythology is far from monolithic,
not being an integrated system, even among just Han people. Chinese mythology is encountered
in the traditions of various classes of people, geographic regions, historical periods including
the present, and from various ethnic groups. China is the home of many mythological traditions,
including that of Han Chinese and their Huaxia predecessors, as well as Tibetan mythology,
Turkic mythology, Korean mythology, and many others. However, the study of Chinese mythology
tends to focus upon material in Chinese language. Much of the mythology involves exciting stories
full of fantastic people and beings, the use of magical powers, often taking place in an
exotic mythological place or time. Like many mythologies, Chinese mythology has in the
past been believed to be, at least in part, a factual recording of history. Along with
Chinese folklore, Chinese mythology forms an important part of Chinese folk religion.
Many stories regarding characters and events of the distant past have a double tradition:
ones which present a more historicized or euhemerized version and ones which presents
a more mythological version. Many myths involve the creation and cosmology of the universe
and its deities and inhabitants. Some mythology involves creation myths, the origin of things,
people and culture. Some involve the origin of the Chinese state. Some myths present a
chronology of prehistoric times, many of these involve a culture hero who taught people how
to build houses, or cook, or write, or was the ancestor of an ethnic group or dynastic
family. Mythology is intimately related to ritual. Many myths are oral associations with
ritual acts, such as dances, ceremonies, and sacrifices.==Mythology and religion==There has been an extensive interaction between
Chinese mythology and Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Elements of pre-Han dynasty
mythology such as those in Shan Hai Jing were adapted into these belief systems as they
developed (in the case of Taoism), or were assimilated into Chinese culture (in the case
of Buddhism). Elements from the teachings and beliefs of these systems became incorporated
into Chinese mythology. For example, the Taoist belief of a spiritual paradise became incorporated
into mythology as the place where immortals and deities dwelt. Sometimes mythological
and religious ideas have become widespread across China’s many regions and diverse ethnic
societies. In other cases beliefs are more limited to certain social groups, for example
the veneration of white stones by the Qiang. One mythological theme that has a long history
and many variations involves a shamanic world view, for example in the cases of Mongolian
shamanism among the Mongols, Hmong shamanism among the Miao people, and the shamanic beliefs
of the Qing dynasty from 1643 to 1912, derived from the Manchus. Politically, mythology was
often used to legitimize the dynasties of China, with the founding house of a dynasty
claiming divine descent.==Mythology and philosophy==True mythology is distinguished from philosophical
treatises and theories. Elaborations on the Wu Xing are not really part of mythology,
although belief in five elements could appear. The Hundred Schools of Thought is a phrase
suggesting the diversity of philosophical thought that developed during the Warring
States of China. Then, and subsequently, philosophical movements had a complicated relationship with
mythology. However, as far as they influence or are influenced by mythology, John C. Ferguson
(1928, Introduction) divides the philosophical camps into two rough halves, a Liberal group
and a Conservative group. The liberal group being associated with the idea of individuality
and change, for example as seen in the mythology of divination in China, such as the mythology
of the dragon horse that delivered the eight bagua diagrams to Fu Xi, and methods of individual
empowerment as seen in the Yi Jing (Book of Changes). The Liberal tendency is towards
individual freedom, Daoism, and Nature. The relationship of the Conservative philosophies
to mythology is seen in the legendary Nine Tripod Cauldrons, mythology about the emperors
and central bureaucratic governance, Confucianism, written histories, ceremonial observances,
subordination of the individual to the social groups of family and state, and a fixation
on stability and enduring institutions. The distinction between the Liberal and Conservative
is very general, but important in Chinese thought. Contradictions can be found in the
details, however these are often traditional, such as the embrace by Confucius of the philosophical
aspects of the Yi Jing, and the back-and-forth about the Mandate of Heaven wherein one dynasty
ends and another begins based according to accounts (some of heavily mythological) where
the Way of Heaven results in change, but then a new ethical stable dynasty becomes established.
Examples of this include the stories of Yi Yin, Tang of Shang and Jie of Xia or the similar
fantastic stories around Zhou Gong and King Zhou of Shang.==Mythology and ritual==
Mythology exists in relationship with other aspects of society and culture, such as ritual.
Various rituals are explained by mythology. For example, the ritual burning of mortuary
banknotes (Hell Money), lighting fireworks, and so on.===Yubu===A good example of the relationship of Chinese
mythology and ritual is the Yubu, also known as the Steps or Paces of Yu. During the course
of his activities in controlling the Great Flood, Yu was supposed to have so fatigued
himself that he lost all the hair from his legs and developed a serious limp. Daoist
practitioners sometimes incorporate a curiously choreographed pedal locomotion into various
rituals. Mythology and practice, one explains the other: in these rituals, the sacred time
of Yu merges with the sacral practice of the present.==Gender studies==Gender is a significant phenomenon in Chinese
mythology. On the one hand there are traditions about sexual reproduction, fertility/mother
goddesses, and evidence by scholars (such as Jordan Paper) of a patriarchal influence
over time. Tu’er Shen is an example of a gender-oriented deity. The marking of gender in Chinese is
different than in English. Especially in Classical Chinese, it is unnecessary to mark for gender
in most nouns and pronouns, thus making gender difficult to determine in some cases, and
then difficult in English to write about, without implying some viewpoint on the gender
of the subject (the same can be true for number or proper nouns versus common nouns). In any
case, much of Chinese mythology is informed by an idea of gender duality and balance,
as exemplified in the idea of yin and yang.==Cosmology==Various ideas about the nature of the earth,
the universe, and their relationship to each other have historically existed as either
a background or a focus of mythologies. One typical view is of a square earth separated
from a round sky by sky pillars (mountains, trees, or undefined). Above the sky is the
realm of Heaven, often viewed of as a vast area, with many inhabitants. Often the heavenly
inhabitants are thought to be of an “as above so below” nature, their lives and social arrangements
being parallel to those on earth, with a hierarchical government run by a supreme emperor, many
palaces and lesser dwellings, a vast bureaucracy of many functions, clerks, guards, and servants.
Below was a vast under ground land, also known as Diyu, Yellow Springs, Hell, and other names.
As time progressed, the idea of an underground land in which the souls of the departed were
punished for their misdeeds during life became explicit, related to developments in Daoism
and Buddhism. The underground world also came to be conceived of as inhabited by a vast
bureaucracy, with kings, judges, torturers, conductors of souls, minor bureaucrats, recording
secretaries, similar to the structure of society in the Middle Kingdom (earthly China).===Mythological places and concepts===The mythology of China includes a mythological
geography describing individual mythological descriptions of places and the features; sometimes,
this reaches to the level of a cosmological conception. Various features of mythological
terrain are described in myth, including a Heavenly world above the earth, a land of
the dead beneath the earth, palaces beneath the sea, and various fantastic areas or features
of the earth, located beyond the limits of the known earth. Such mythological features
include mountains, rivers, forests or fantastic trees, and caves or grottoes. These then serve
as the location for the actions of various beings and creatures. One concept encountered
in some myths is the idea of travel between Earth and Heaven by means of climbing up or
down the pillars separating the two, there usually being four or Eight Pillars or an
unspecified number of these Sky Ladders.====Directional====
The Four Symbols of Chinese cosmology were the Azure Dragon of the East, the Black Tortoise
of the North, the White Tiger of the West, and the
Vermillion Bird of the South. These totem animals represented the four cardinal directions,
with a lot of associated symbolism and beliefs. A fifth cardinal direction was also postulated:
the center, represented by the emperor of China, located in the middle of his Middle
Kingdom (Zhong Guo, or China). The real or mythological inhabitants making their dwellings
at these cardinal points were numerous, as is associated mythology.====Heavenly realm====The Heavenly realm could be known as Tian,
Heaven, or the sky. Sometimes this was personified into a deity (sky god). In some descriptions
this was an elaborate place ruled over by a supreme deity, or a group of supreme deities.
Jade Emperor being associated with Daoism and Buddhas with Buddism. Many astronomically
observable features were subjects of mythology or the mythological locations and settings
for mythic scenes these include the sun, stars, moon, planets, Milky Way (sometimes referred
to as the River of Heaven), clouds, and other features. These were often the home or destination
of various deities, divinities, shamans, and many more. Another concept of the Heavenly
realm is that of the Cords of the Sky. Travel between Heaven and Earth was usually described
as achieved by flying or climbing. The Queqiao (鵲橋; Quèqiáo) was a bridge formed by
birds flying across the Milky Way, as seen in The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl mythology
surrounding the Qixi Festival.====Subterranean realm====According to mythology, beneath the Earth
is another realm, that of an underground world. This world is generally said to be inhabited
by souls of the dead (see hun and po. Inhabited by souls of dead humans and various supernatural
beings this subterranean hell is known by various names, including Diyu or the Yellow
Springs. In more historically recent mythology, this subterranean land is generally described
as somewhat similar to the ideas about the land above land above. It possesses a hierarchical
government bureaucracy, centered in the capital city of Youdu. The rulers are various kings,
whose duties include making sure that the souls of dead humans are correctly placed
according to the merits of their life on earth, and that adequate records are kept about the
process. One example being Yánluó the wáng (“King Yanluo”). Various functions are said
to be performed by minor officials and their minions, such as Ox-Head and Horse-Face, humanoid
devils with animal features. The functions performed in Diyu tend to focus on punishment
by torture according to the crimes committed during life, weighed against any merits earned
through good deeds through a process of judgment. In some versions of mythology or Chinese folk
religion, the souls are re-incarnated after being given the Drink of Forgetfulness by
Meng Po.====Earthly realm====
Much mythology involves remote, exotic, or hard-to-get-to places. All sorts of mythological
geography is said to exist at the extremes of the cardinal directions of earth. Much
of the earthly terrain has been said to be inhabited by local spirits (sometimes called
fairies or genii loci), especially mountains and bodies of water. There are Grotto Heavens,
and also earthly paradises.=====Seas, rivers, and islands=====
Various bodies of water appear in Chinese mythology. This includes oceans, rivers, streams,
ponds. Often they are part of a mythological geography, and may have notable features,
such as mythological islands, or other mythological features. There are mythological versions
of all the major rivers that have existed in China in between ancient and modern China
(most of these rivers are the same, but not all). Sometimes these rivers are said to originate
from the Milky Way or Kunlun. Anyway, they are said to flow west to east because Gonggong
wrecked the world pillar at Buzhou, tilting Earth and Heaven away from each other at that
sector. Examples of these mythologized rivers include the Yangzi (including various stretches
under different names), the Yellow River, the mythological Red River in the west, near
Kunlun, and the Weak River, a mythological river in “the west”, near “Kunlun”, which
flowed with a liquid too light in specific gravity for floating or swimming (but unbreathable).
Examples of features along mythological rivers include the Dragon Gates (Longmen) which were
rapid waterfalls where select carp can transform into dragons, by swimming upstream and leaping
up over the falls. Examples of islands include Mount Penglai, a paradisaical isle in the
sea, vaguely east of China but sometimes conflated with Japan.=====Mountains and in-between places=====Various other mythological locales include
what are known as fairylands or paradises, pillars separating Earth and Sky, ruined or
otherwise. The Earth has many extreme and exotic locales — they are separated by pillars
between Earth and Heaven, supporting the sky, usually four or eight. Generally, Chinese
mythology regarded people as living in the middle regions of the world and conceived
the exotic earthly places to exist in the directional extremes to the north, east, south,
or west. Eventually, the idea of an eastern and western paradise seems to have arisen.
In the west according to certain myths there was Kunlun. On the eastern seacoast was Feather
Mountain, the place of exile of Gun and other events during or just after the world flood.
Further east was Fusang, a mythical tree, or else an island (sometimes interpreted as
Japan). The geography of China, in which the land seems to be higher in the west aand tilt
down toward the east and with the rivers tending to flow west-to-east was explained by the
damage Gonggong did to the world pillar Mount Buzhou, mountain pillars separating the sky
from the world (China), which also displaced the Celestial Pole, so that the sky rotates
off-center.=====Kunlun=====In the west was Kunlun (although also sometimes
said to be towards the south seas. Kunlun was pictured as having a mountain or mountain
range, Kunlun Mountain where dwelt various divinities, grew fabulous plants, home to
exotic animals, and various deities and immortals (today there is a real mountain or range named
Kunlun, as there has in the past, however the identity has shifted further west over
time). The Qing Niao bird was a mythical bird, and messenger of Xi Wangmu to the rest of
the world. Nearby to Kunlun, it was sometimes said or written and forming a sort of protective
barrier to the western paradise or “fairyland” named Xuánpǔ (玄圃) where also was to
be found the jade pool Yáochí (瑤池), eventually thought to exist on mount Kunlun
(which itself was thought to possess cliffs insurmountable to normal mortals was the Moving
Sands, a semi-mythological place also to the west of China (the real Taklamakan Desert
to the west of or in China is known for its shifting sands). There were other locations
of mythological geography around the area of Kunlun such as Jade Mountain and the various
colored rivers which flew out of Kunlun.==Mythological and semi-mythological chronology
==Mythological and semi-mythological chronology
includes mythic representations of the creation of the world, population (and sometimes re-polpulations)
by humans, sometimes floods, and various cultural developments, such as the development of ruling
dynasties. Many myths and stories have been recounted about the early dynasties, however,
more purely historical literature tends to begin with the Qin dynasty (for example, see
Paludin 1998). On the other hand, accounts of the Shang, Xia, and early Zhou dynasties
tend to mythologize. By a historical process of euhemerism many of these myths evolved
over time into variant versions with an emphasis on moral parables and rationalization of some
of the more fantastic ideas.===Mythology of time and calendar===Mythology of time and the calendar includes
the twelve zodiacal animals and various divine or spiritual genii regulating or appointed
as guardians for years, days, or hours.====Twelve zodiacal animals====In China and surrounding areas a calendrical
system consisting of measuring time in cycles of twelve represented by twelve has an ancient
historical past. The exact line-up of animals is sometimes slightly different, but the basic
principle is that each animal takes a turn as the emblematic or totem animal for a year
or other unit of time in a cycle of one dozen. This is explained by various myths.===Correlation of mythological and real time
===Some Chinese mythology becomes specific about
chronological time, based on the ganzhi system, numbers of human generations, or other details
suggesting synchronization between the mythological chronology and the ideas of modern historians.
However, real correlation begins in the Year of the Metal Monkey, Zhou dynasty, 841 BCE,
a since validated claim by Sima Qian (Wu 1982, 40-41). However, although historians take
note of this, subsequent mythology has not tended to reflect this quest for rational,
historical timelining.==Creation myths==Various ideas about the creation of the universe,
the earth, the sky, various deities and creatures, and the origin of various clans or ethnic
groups of humans have circulated in the area of China for millennia. These creation myths
may include the origins of the universe and everything, the origins of humans, or the
origins of specific groups, such as a Han Chinese in descent from Yandi and Huangdi
(as 炎黃子孫, “Descendants of the Flame and Yellow Emperors”). Various myths contain
explanations of various origins and the progress of cultural development.===Pangu===One common story involves Pangu. Among other
sources, he was written about by Taoist author Xu Zheng c. 200 CE, as claimed to be the first
sentient being and creator, “making the heavens and the earth.”==Age of heroes==Various culture heroes have been said to have
helped or saved humanity in many ways, such as stopping floods, teaching the use of fire,
and so on. As mythic chronology is inherently nonlinear, with time being telescopically
expanded or contracted, and with various contradictions. The earliest culture heroes were sometimes
considered deities sometimes heroic humans, sometimes considered to be heroic humans,
and often little distinction was made. Examples of early culture heroes include Youchao (“Have
Nest”) who taught people how to make wooden shelters (Wu 1982, 51, and Christie 1968,
84), Suiren {“Fire Maker”} who taught people the use of fire and cooking thus saving them
from much food-poisoning together with progress toward development of cuisine (Wu 1982, 51,
and Christie 1968, 84). An example of a non-Han ethnicity culture hero is Panhu. Because of
their self-identification as descendants from these original ancestors, Panhu has been worshiped
by the Yao people and the She people, often as King Pan, and the eating of dog meat tabooed
(Yang et al 2005, 52-53). This ancestral myth is also has been found among the Miao people
and Li people (Yang et al 2005, 100 and 180). Some of the first culture heroes are the legendary
emperors who succeeded the times of the part human part serpent deities Nuwa and Fuxi;
these emperors tend to be portrayed as more explicitly human, although Huangdi, the Yellow
Emperor, is often portrayed as part dragon during life.===Mythological emperors=======Historicity?====
Some historicized versions of semi-historical and undeniably mythologized accounts of ancient
times those who have, upon evidence such as tradition and archeoastronomy, apply actual
BCE dates to the mythological chronology. Traditional Chinese accounts of the early
emperors chronologically locate the Yellow Emperor as having lived in the Northern Chinese
plain around 2698 to 2599 BCE (Wu 1982, 61), about seventeen generations after the time
of Shennong (Wu 1982, 56 and 100 n. 25). A major difference between the possible historicity
of material embedded in mythological accounts being that through the time of the last Flame
Emperor (Yandi) information was being recorded using knotted ropes (Wu 1982, 56), whereas
the introduction of writing is associated with the reign of Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor),
although the historical continuity of a written tradition beginning then is a matter of discussion
by experts. The most prominent of first emperors, such as, in chronological order, Huangdi,
Gaoyang (Zhuanxu), Gaoxin (Di Ku), Yao, and Shun. These emperors were said to be morally
upright and benevolent, and examples to be emulated by latter-day kings and emperors.
Sometimes approximate calculations of times have been made based on the claimed number
of generations from one significant mythological figure to the next, as in the case of the
legendary founder of the Ji family, Hou Ji, whose descendants generations after his mythological
appearance would rule as the historical Zhou dynasty, beginning around 1046 BCE. Despite
various assignations of dates to the accounts of these Emperors, fantastic claims about
the length of their reigns are common, the average reign-lengths that these numbers imply
are improbable, and is a lack of consensus regarding these dates by modern historians,
and their mythological use may be limited to establishing a relative chronology.===Three Primeval Emperors, Five Premier
Emperors, and Three Dynasties===The mythological history of people (or at
least the Han Chinese people) begins with two groups, one of three and one of five.
The numbers are symbolically significant, however the actual membership of the two groups
is not explicated. There are different lists. The older group is the Three Primeval Emperors,
who were followed by the Five Premier Emperors (Wu 1982, 43-105). After that came the Three
Dynasties (Wu 1982, 55): these were the Xia dynasty, Shang dynasty, and the Zhou dynasty.
These three are all historically attested to, but separating the myth from the history
is not always clear; anyway there is a lot of mythology around the Three Primeval Emperors,
Five Premier Emperors, and Three Dynasties. An age of Three Primeval Emperors followed
by the age of the Five Premier Emperors (Sānhuáng-Wǔdì) contrasts with the subsequent treatment of
chronology by dynasties, up to recent times. Since the time the Qin emperor titled himself
huangdi by combining two previous titles into one, huangdi was the title for Chinese emperors
for ages (Wu 1982, 102 note 3).====Three Primeval Emperors=========Title=====
The title of the Three Primeval Emperors is huang, in Chinese. The original connotation
of this title is unknown, and it is variously translated into English. Translations include
“Sovereign”, “Emperor”, and “August”.=====Names=====
The names of the Three Primeval Emperors include Youchao (“Have Nest”), Suiren (“Fire Maker”),
Paoxi/Fuxi (“Animal Domesticator”), and Shennong (“Divine Husbandman”) (Wu 1982, 50). Sometimes
Huangdi is included.====Five Premier Emperors=========Title=====
The title of the Five Premier Emperors is di, in Chinese. The original connotation of
this title is unknown, or how it compares or contrasts with the term huang, and it is
variously translated into English. Translations include “Sovereign”, “Emperor”, and “Lord”.=====Names=====
Names of the Five Premier Emperors include Huangdi, Shaohao, Zhuanxu, Di Ku, Yao, and
Shun.===Nuwa and Fuxi===Nuwa and Fuxi (also known as Paoxi) are sometimes
worshiped as the ultimate ancestor of all humankind, and are often represented as half-snake,
half-humans. Her companion, Fuxi, also called Fu Hsi and Paoxi was her brother and husband.====Nuwa saves the world====
After Gong-Gong was said to have damaged the world pillar holding the earth and sky apart,
the sky was rent causing fires, floods (the Flood of Nuwa) and other devastating events
which were only remedied when Nuwa repaired the sky with five colored stones. (Also referred
to as Nü Kwa) appeared in literature no earlier than c. 350 BCE. It is sometimes believed
that Nüwa molded humans from clay to populate or re-populate the world, thus creating modern
humans.====Fuxi and the Yellow River map====The production of the Yellow River Map is
associated mythologically with Fuxi but is also sometimes placed in subsequent eras.===Shennong and the Flame Emperors===Shennong is variously translated as “Divine
Farmer” or “Divine Peasant”, or “Agriculture God”, and also known as the Wugushen (Spirit
of the Five Grains) and Wuguxiandi “First Deity of the Five Grains”. Shennong is a mythological
Chinese deity in Chinese folk religion and venerated as a mythical sage ruler of prehistoric
China. Shennong’s descendants began to style themselves as Flame Emperors, or Yandi (Wu
1982, 56). Yandi was sometimes considered an important mythological emperor, but better
considered as series of emperors bearing the same title, the “Flame Emperor(s)”. Yan literally
means “flame”, implying that Yan Emperor’s people possibly uphold a symbol of fire as
their tribal totems. K. C. Wu speculates that this appellation may be connected with the
use of fire to clear the fields in slash and burn agriculture (Wu 1982, 56). And, Yandi
is also a Red Emperor.===Huangdi, the “Yellow Emperor”, and Leizu
===One of the more important figures in Chinese
mythology is Huang Di, sometimes translated into English as Yellow Emperor. He also appears
as Xuanyuan. Huang Di is also referred to as one of the Five August ones, and one of
the few consistent members of the list (Yang 2005, 138). There were also other colored
emperors, such as Black, Green, Red, and White. According to some mythology, Huang Di was
the son of Shaodian, who was the half-brother of Yan Di (Yang 2005, 138). Huang Di’s mother
was said to be Fubao. Huand Di’s wife Leizu is supposed to have invented sericulture.
In some version Cangjie invented writing during the reign of Huang Di. The Yellow Emperor
is said to have fought a great battle against Chiyou. Huangdi had various wiaves and many
descendants, including Shaohao (leader of the Dongyi).===Di Ku===Ku, or Di Ku, an important mythological emperor,
descendant of Huangdi and ancestor to the ruling family of the Shang dynasty of the
second millenium BCE.===Yao and Shun===Yao and Shun were important mythological rulers.
They were exemplars of propriety in rulership. The Great Flood began during the reign of
Yao, and continued through the time of Shun. Shun (the successor of Yao, who passed over
his own son and made Shun his successor because of Shun’s ability and morality). Historically,
when Qin Shi Huang united China in 221 BCE, he used propaganda to acclaim his achievements
as surpassing those of mythological rulers who had gone before him. He combined the ancient
titles of Huáng (皇) and Dì (帝) to create a new title, Huángdì (皇帝), thus, the
Qin emperor was using mythology to bolster his claims to be the legitimate and absolute
ruler of the whole earth. This reflected what was or was to become a longstanding belief
that the all civilized people should have one government, and that it should be Chinese
(Latourette 1947, 3).===Gun, Yu, and the Great Flood===Shun passed on his place as emperor to Yu
the Great. The Yellow River, prone to flooding, erupted in a huge flood in the time of Yao,
which disrupted society and endangered human existence, as agricultural fields drowned,
hunting game disappeared, and the people were dislocated to hills and mountains. Yu’s father,
Gun, was put in charge of flood control by Yao, but failed to alleviate the problem after
nine years. For failing to control the flood Gun was executed by orders of Shun by his
minister Zhurong, in some euhemerized versions, and according to others of which Gun was merely
exiled for opposing the elevation of Shun as co-emperor. In more purely mythological
versions, the story is more along the lines that Gun transformed into an animal shape
to escape the wrath of Heaven (for having dared to go to heaven and steal the flood-fighting
expanding earth xirang), fled to Feather Mountain, was struck dead by Heaven, by means of the
fire god Zhurong, then, after three years, Yu appeared out of his belly, usually in the
form of some fantastic animal. Yu took his father’s place fighting the flood, leading
the people to build canals and levees, often said to be with the help of Xirang, the flood-fighting
expanding earth. After thirteen years of toil, Yu abated the flood. (Although why when Gun
used the xirang it failed to work and he was punished by Heaven, but when Yu used it he
was able to stop the flood and was rewarded by Heaven is a question frequently made in
the myths.) The mythology of Yu and his associates during their work in controlling the flood
and simultaneously saving the people can be seen in various ways to symbolize societal
and cultural developments of various types, such as innovations in hunting, agriculture,
well-digging, astronomy, social and political organizing, and other cultural innovations
that occur during the course of the mythology around the flood stories. For example, a historicized
version of xirang is that this soil may represent an innovative type of raised garden, made
up of soil, brushwood, and similar materials. Thus, Yu and his work in controlling the flood
with xirang would symbolize a societal development allowing a large scale approach to transforming
wetlands into arable fields (Hawkes 1985, 138-139). Yu was said to be the founder of
the Xia dynasty.===First dynasties===
The first three dynasties have especial significance in mythology.====Xia dynasty====The Xia dynasty is a real, historical dynasty
known through archeology and literary accounts. However, many of these accounts contain elements
of a clearly semi-mythological, and in some versions completely mythological or fanciful.
The founding mythology of the early dynasties tend to have certain common general features,
including the divine assistance obtained in the founding and the reasons for it. The fighter
of the Great Flood, Yu “the Great” had served Yao and Shun and they enfeoffed him as the
Prince of Xia, an area of land. (Wu 1982, 106) Upon Yu’s death questions arose regarding
the method of imperial succession, which would be a key factor as an example for Chinese
culture for millenia. The question was that, upon Yu’s death, who would succeed him? Would
it be his son, Qi of Xia also known as Kai, or the deputy that competently and diligently
helped in the work against the great flood, a mighty hunter who helped feed the people
during a time when agriculture had been rendered impossible, Bo Yi? The mythological variants
are much concerned with the relative merits between the two. Qi’s succession broke the
previous convention of meritorious succession in favor of hereditary succession, thus initiating
a dynastic tradition (Wu 1982, 116-117). The new dynasty was called “Xia” after Yu’s centre
of power.====Shang dynasty====Again, as in common with the founding of Xia,
there are mythological material regarding how the previous dynasty turned to evil and
unworthy ways, and the founder (of miraculous birth or ancestry) overthrew it. The mythology
of the Shang dynasty is distinct from philosophical and historical accounts. Significant mythology
includes the origin of its founders, the miraculous birth by Jiandi of Shang founder Qi, also
known as Xie of Shang, after she became pregnant upon swallowing or holding in her bosom a
bird’s egg (Yang et al 2005, 148-150 and 186). After several generations, Xie (or Qi)’s descendant
Tang became king of Shang by overthrowing Jie, the last king of the Xia dynasty, said
to be a very drunken and bloodthirsty tyrant. The fifth book of the philosopher Mozi describes
the end of the Xia dynasty and the beginning of the Shang: During the reign of King Jie of Xia, there
was a great climatic change. Legends hold that the paths of the sun and moon changed,
the seasons became confused, and the five grains dried up. Ghouls cried in the country
and cranes shrieked for ten nights. Heaven ordered Shang Tang to receive the heavenly
commission from the Xia dynasty, which had failed morally and which Heaven was determined
to end. Shang Tang was commanded to destroy Xia with the promise of Heaven’s help. In
the dark, Heaven destroyed the fortress’ pool, and Shang Tang then gained victory easily.
After discussing the end of Xia and the beginning of Shang, Mozi describes the end of Shang
and the beginning of the succeeding Zhou dynasty: During the reign of Shang Zhòu, Heaven could
not endure Zhòu’s morality and neglect of timely sacrifices. It rained mud for ten days
and nights, the nine cauldrons shifted positions, supernatural prodigies appeared, and ghosts
cried at night. There were women who became men while it rained flesh and thorny brambles,
covering the national highways. A red bird brought a message: “Heaven decrees King Wen
of Zhou to punish Yin and possess its empire”. The Yellow River formed charts and the earth
brought forth mythical horses. When King Wu became king, three gods appeared to him in
a dream, telling him that they had drowned Shang Zhòu in wine and that King Wu was to
attack him. On the way back from victory, the heavens gave him the emblem of a yellow
bird. The mythological events surrounding the end
of the Shang dynasty and the establishment of the Zhou greatly influenced the subject
and story told in the popular novel Investiture of the Gods.====Founding of the Zhōu dynasty====
The origins of the Ji dynastic founding family of the Zhōu dynasty is replete with mythological
material, going back to its legendary founder Houji (who was originally name Qi, but a different
Qi than the Shang founder known as Xie or Qi). Myths about Houji include those of his
mythical origins, of which there are two main myths. The end of the Shang overlaps the rise
of the Zhōu, so there is shared material. Once established, the Zhōu were characterized
by their volume of literature, in the beginning much of it justifying their overthrow of the
Shang. However, it was not long before much historical material appeared, of a rational,
rationalized, philosophical, or otherwise non-mythological nature.=====Bagua=====One of the main legacies of the rise of Zhou
was the insemination of the classic book I Ching, however the eight trigrams must be
from a far earlier period than Wengong, and even more than the editing and commentary
by Confucius — mythology references the culture hero sometimes named Fuxi (Legge 1899, “Introduction”
and Siu 1968, “Preface” and “Introduction to the I Ching”, see also Helmutt, Wilhelm).===Subsequent dynasties===
Dynasties succeeding Zhou had notable mythological material, such as the accumulation of legend
around the Jian’an transition between Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms contention,
reflected in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. From the Tang dynasty on, legends occur around
the monk Xuanzang’s quest for Buddhist scriptures (sutras) from the area more-or-less corresponding
to modern India, which influenced the Ming dynasty novel Journey to the West.==Important deities, spirits, and mythological
people==There are various important deities, spirits,
and mythological people in Chinese mythology and folk religion. Some are clearly divine,
such as the Jade Emperor (and even he is sometimes said to have begun life as a mortal). However,
in Chinese language many beings are referred to as shen. (Sometimes Chinese mythology is
called 中國神話 — Mandarin Chinese: Zhōngguó Shénhuà). Due to the ambiguity of this word
when translated into English, it is not always clear how to classify in English the entities
described shen (not to be confused with the mythological clam). The category shen is rather
comprehensive and generic in Chinese myth and religion, shen may be spirits, goddesses
or gods, ghosts, or other. Another important concept is the classification of immortals
(xian). Immortals are more a category of quality than a description of an actual type. Immortals
are defined by living for a long time (maybe forever). However, this is not a static quality,
since Daoist adepts, shamans, or others are said to become immortals through right effort
and various practices. Another example is the immortality sometimes obtained by the
lohans, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas of Buddhist religion and mythology (this contrasts with
indefinitely prolonged series of unenlightened re-births). Chinese mythology often tends
to not make a clear differentiation between Buddhist and Daoist types. Various deities,
spirits, and immortals (xian) are encountered in various myths. Some of these are particularly
associated with Daoism. Some immortals or others became incorporated into Daoism as
it developed as a phenomena, deriving from ancient shamanic cults or other sources. The
line between Daoism and folk religion is not clear. Other mythological beings are clearly
derived through the process of the introduction of Buddhism into China.===Major deities===
The concept of a principal or presiding deity has fluctuated over time in Chinese mythology.====Shangdi====Shangdi, also sometimes Huángtiān Dàdì
(皇天大帝), appeared as early as the Shang dynasty. In later eras, he was more commonly
referred to as Huángtiān Shàngdì (皇天上帝). The use of Huángtiān Dàdì refers to the
Jade Emperor and Tian.====Jade Emperor====Chinese mythology holds that the Jade Emperor
was charged with running of the three realms: heaven, hell, and the realm of the living.
The Jade Emperor adjudicated and meted out rewards and remedies to saints, the living,
and the deceased according to a merit system loosely called the Jade Principles Golden
Script (玉律金篇, Yù lǜ jīn piān). When proposed judgments were objected to,
usually by other saints, the administration would occasionally resort to the counsels
of advisory elders. The Jade Emperor appeared in literature after the establishment of Taoism
in China; his appearance as Yu Huang dates back to beyond the times of Yellow Emperor,
Nüwa, or Fuxi.====Tian====Tian can be either a sky deity by that name
or Heaven — the Sky itself. Tian appeared in literature c. 700 BCE, possibly earlier
as dating depends on the date of the Shujing (Book of Documents). There are no creation-oriented
narratives for Tian. The qualities of Tian and Shangdi appear to have merged in later
literature and are now worshiped as one entity (“皇天上帝”, Huángtiān Shàngdì) in,
for example, the Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. The extent of the distinction between Tian
and Shangdi is debated. The sinologist Herrlee Creel claims that an analysis of the Shang
oracle bones reveals Shangdi to have preceded Tian as a deity, and that Zhou dynasty authors
replaced the term “Shangdi” with “Tian” to cement the claims of their influence.===Daoism and Chinese mythology===Over time certain aspects of folk religion
and belief coalesced and were refined into a group of formal religious beliefs, practices,
and philosophy known as Daoism. One of the founders of Daoism was Old Man Laozi, who
himself entered into legend or mythology. There is much overlap between religion and
mythology, and between Chinese folk religion and Daoism. However, certain beings or concepts
of Chinese mythology have a particularly strong association with religious or philosophical
Daoism. For example the Jade Emperor, Yùhuáng, is a major actor in many myths. In Daoist-related
mythology there is often a strong presence of sorcery and magic, such as spells, charms,
magical abilities, and elixirs. The development of Daoism as it came to be called was a lengthy
one, with various strands including both rationalist ethical philosophy and a magico-religious
stand informed by mythology. As Daoism developed as a concept from its traditional roots in
Chinese folk religion and mythology, its legitimacy was bolstered by claims of originating with
Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor (Ferguson 1928, 20). For example, the some of the Huangdi
Sijing material, the Huangdi Yinfujing, and the Huangdi Neijing are Daoist classics with
claims to a scriptural legacy going back to Huangdi.====Jade Emperor====
The Jade Emperor, Yùhuáng has had a long and very active mythology, including making
the world safe for the people by ridding it of demons long ago, holding a race of various
animals which determined the order of the twelve-year calendar cycle, and generally
running various affairs on Earth and the Underworld from his abode in Heaven. Besides his active
life in mythology, Yùhuáng is a major divinity of worship in modern Daoism.====Eight Immortals====The Eight Immortals have an existence in mythology
as well as developed a presence in religious Daoism, and art and literature. The standard
group is He Xian’gu, Cao Guojiu, Li Tieguai, Lan Caihe, Lü Dongbin, Han Xiangzi, Zhang
Guolao, and Han Zhongli (also known as Zhongli Quan). Collectively or individual the eight
immortals walk, ride, fly, or congregate in many myths.===Buddhist influences===Bhuddism was historically introduced to China,
probably in the first century CE, accompanied by the import of various ideas about deities
and supernatural beings including Kṣitigarbha who was re-named Dizang. the Four Heavenly
Kings, the main Buddha himself Shakyamuni Buddha (釋迦牟尼佛, Shìjiāmóunífó),
Avalokiteśvara who after a few centuries metamorphosized into Guanyin (also Kuanyin)
a bodhisattva of compassion, and Hotei the Laughing Buddha. New Buddhist material continued
to enter China, with a big spike in the Tang dynasty, when the monk Xuanzang brought over
600 texts from India. (Schafer 1963, 273-275) Over time, Guanyin also became a Daoist immortal,
and was the subject of much mythology.====Guanyin====Guanyin is also known as Kwan Yin, Guanshiyin,
the Goddess of Mercy and many other names. The mythology around Guanyin is two-fold,
one based on the Avalokitasvara/Avalokiteśvara tradition from India and one based on an alleged
Chinese young woman’s life, as appears in the legend of Miaoshan. Guanyin is worshiped
as a goddess, yet has a most impressive mythological resumé. Many myths and legends exist about
Guan Yin. In all of them she is exceptionally compassionate.====Kṣitigarbha====
Kṣitigarbha was a Bhuddist deity from the area of India who was re-named Dizang, In
China. He usually appears as Usually depicted as a monk with a halo around his shaved head,
he carries a staff to force open the gates of hell and a wish-fulfilling jewel to light
up the darkness.====Four Heavenly Kings====
There are a group known as the Four Heavenly Kings, one for each cardinal direction. Statues
of them can be encountered in the Hall of the Heavenly Kings of many Buddhist temples.====Laughing Buddha====In an interesting development, the mythology
of a fat, laughing Buddha developed in China. A little like Santa Claus he wandered the
world like a jolly elf, carrying a sack full of goodies.===Confucian influence===A major factor in Chinese mythology is shown
in the development of the tradition known as Confucianism, named after a writer and
school master who lived around 551–479 BCE. Confucius embraced the traditions of ancestor
veneration. He also came to be a major figure of worship in Daoism, which also had its genesis
in traditional Chinese religion. The legitimacy of the Confucian movement was bolstered by
the claim that its origins could be found in the mythology (often claimed to be history)
of Yao and Shun (Ferguson 1928, 20).===Sharing between folk religion and mythology
===Modern and ancient Chinese culture had plenty
of room for both religion and mythology. Certain deities or spirits receive special attention.
These include divinities of wealth, longevity, fertility. Mythologically, it is possible
to attain many desires through ritual activity involved with mythological themes. For example,
many stores and restaurants in China or of the Chinese diaspora have shrines to Guan
Yu, also known as Guandi.====Guandi====Guandi began as a Three Kingdoms general,
Guan Yu. Over the subsequent centuries, Guan Yu became promoted by official decree to be
the god Guandi. He is a god primarily of brotherhood and social organizations such as businesses,
although this is sometimes seen in connection with martial power and war. According to mythology,
Guan Yu made a famous covenant of brotherhood in a peach orchard.====Three Star deities=========Star God of Longevity=====
An example of Sharing between folk religion and mythology is the Star God of Longevity.===Afterlife and family===Much Chinese mythology concerns the afterlife,
explaining what happens people after they die. This is related to ancestor veneration,
the mythological geography of heaven and hell, the rituals at family tombs, and so on.====Immortals (xiān)====Sometimes, in mythology, certain humans develop
the ability to live indefinitely, avoiding death, and becoming divine xiān. Such humans
generally also are said to develop special powers. Generally, these abilities are said
to develop through such practices of Chinese alchemy, obtaining an Elixir of life, and/or
various austerities of diet or sexuality. Symbolic associations with immortality include
a spotted deer, cranes, the Lingzhi mushroom, and a gourd and bat. often Immortals are mythologically
located in Mountain Paradises, such as Kunlun. Various common English translations of xiān
exist, such as, Immortal, Fairy, and Sage. An example of a Daoist imortal is Wong Tai
Sin, who began as a fourth century CE hermit and developed into a divine healer.====Ghosts or spirits of the deceased====Common beliefs and stories in Chinese mythology
involve a soul or spirit that survives after the death of someone’s body. There are many
types.====Living dead====
Jiangshi are a type of re-animated corpse.=====Zhong Kui=====In the mythological folklore, Zhong Kui became
a suicide upon unfairly evaluated in the civil service tests. However, Zhong Kui’s ghost
was judged fairly in the afterlife as a worthy candidate for promotion, so he became a protective
spirit. The mythology of Zhong Kui provides a good example of this type of story.====Holidays and festival rituals====Abundant mythology is associated with religious
holidays and folk festivals.=====Qingming Festival=====The Qingming festival is a good example of
a Chinese holiday that involves family activities associated with a seasonally-recurring annual
event; and, also, ancestor veneration.=====Qixi Festival=====The seasonally-recurring annual holiday of
Qixi involves love and romance. A main mythological tale is “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl”.===Weather deities===
Various deities or spirits are associated with weather phenomena, such as drought or
thunder. Dragons are often associated with rain. Examples include the deity or mythological
person Ba, also known as Hànbá or Nuba. Ba is the daughter of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi)
whom she aided during his Battle at Zhuolu against Chiyou: after Chiyou had fielded a
wind god (Feng Bo) and a rain god (Yu Shi), Ba descended from heaven to use her drought
power to defeat their wind and rain powers. She is one of the first goddesses attested
to in Chinese literature, appearing in the early collection of poetry, the Shijing, as
well as in the later Shanhaijing. At least up through the middle of the twentieth century,
ceremonies to produce rain were held in many regions of China. The basic idea of these
ceremonies, which could last several hours, was to drive Ba out of the region. Another
example, is Lei Gong, god of thunder.===Astronomical deities===
Various goddesses, gods, or spirits are especially associated with certain astronomical objects.====Sun (and Suns)====
Various mythology involves the sun. One solar deity is Xihe, goddess of the sun. There is
a myth of Kua Fu, a giant who followed the sun, during the course of his chase he drained
all of the waters dry including the Yellow River, and after he died of thirst was transformed
into a mountain range or a forest. Known as sānzúwū are three-legged crow or crows
associated with the sun, or the ten suns, of which Houyi shot down nine. Sometimes mythology
portrays there being more than one sun.=====Houyi and the Ten Suns=====
It was said that there were ten suns, each one taking a turn at on its allotted day to
cross the sky (this has been thought evidence of a ten day week used at one time). There
is a mythological account of how at one on a certain morning ten suns all rose into the
sky together. The oppressive heat lead to drought, the plants began to wither, and huamns
and animals were all on the verge of death. A mighty archer Yi, or Houyi, shot down all
but one of them, saving humanity.====Moon====Chang’e (or in older versions Chang’O) is
goddess of the moon. Another lunar deity is Changxi, probably an older version of Chang’e
with the name changed due to a naming taboo. Chang’e is modern.=====Chang’e=====
In mythology it was said that Chang’e had been married to the heroic archer Houyi, but
one day she swallowed a Pill of Immortality and floated up to the moon. Now it is said
Chang’e lives in a cold crystal palace on the moon. Every year during a full moon toward
harvest time, Chang’e is worshiped. This is the Mid-Autumn Festival, families gather under
the moonlight and celebrate in honour of the moon. Although somewhat lonely, Chang’e is
not alone on the moon.=====Wu Gang and the Magic Tree=====
A magical tree grows on the moon. It is possibly an osmanthus tree (Osmanthus fragrans), some
type of laurel (Lauraceae), such as a cassia such as (Cinnamomum cassia), but more likely
a unique specimen of a magical tree. Every month the Immortal Wu Gang cuts away at the
tree, chopping it smaller and smaller. Then, just when he just has it chopped completely
down, it magically grows back. Once it has grown back Wu Gang returns to his chopping,
in an endless monthly cycle.=====Rabbit in the Moon=====
An alchemical hare or rabbit lives on the moon. The lunar rabbit can be seen when the
moon is full, busy with mortar and pestle, preparing the Elixir of Immortality.=====Three-legged toad=====(See Liu Haichan for Chinese characters)
A three-legged toad lives on the moon. During full moons the three-legged Golden Toad Jin
Chan frequents near houses or businesses that will soon receive good news generally in the
form of wealth. Also known as a Money Toad, statuettes of this toad are used as a charm
in Fengshui. The mythology of the Immortal Liu Haichan (who seems to be a form of Caishen/Zhao
Gong, God of Wealth) is associated with this tripedal toad.===Deities of places===
Various goddesses, gods, spirits, fairies, or monsters are associated with specific places,
such as particular rivers, mountains, or the ocean. Some of these locations are associated
with real geography, others are known only through mythological imagination.====Xi Wangmu====
Xi Wangmu, meaning Queen Mother of the West, predates organized Daoism, yet is now strongly
identified with Daoism. Xi Wangmu is generally mythologically located in a western wonderland
“to the west”, now identified with the Kunlun of mythology. Thus, she is the ruler of a
passageway between Earth and Heaven.=====Mazu=====
Mazu is a major goddess. She is a goddess of the sea. Mazu worship is credited with
leading to miraculous salvations at sea, protecting sailors and travelers from drowning. She is
a tutelary deity of seafarers, including fishermen and sailors, especially along coastal China
and areas of the Chinese diaspora.====Xiang River goddesses====
The two Xiang River goddesses are ancient in mythology. They are associated with the
Xiang River in the former Chu area of China. They are also mythologically credited with
causing a certain type of bamboo to develop a mottled appearance said to resemble tear-drops
(lacrima deae). The two Xiang River godesses (Xiangfei) are named Éhuáng and Nǚyīng.===Deities or spirits of human activities
===Various deities or spirits are associated
with certain human activities. Various deities or spirits are associated with the households
in general or with cities. Some provide tutelary help to persons pursuing certain occupations
or seeking to have children.====Household deities and spirits====
The Chinese household was often the subject of mythology and related ritual. The welfare
of the family was mythologically-related to the perceived help of helpful deities and
spirits, and avoiding the baneful affects of malicious ones. Of these household deities
the most important was the kitchen god Zao Jun. The Kitchen God was viewed as a sort
of intermediary between the household and the supreme god, who would judge, then reward
or punish a household based on the Kitchen God’s report (Christie 1968, 112). Zao Jun
was propitiated at appropriate times by offerings of food and incense, and various mythological
stories about him exist. Lesser deities or spirits were also thought to help out the
household through their intervention. For example, the guardians of the doors, the Menshen
pair and others.====Territories administrators====
Various deities and spirits have been mythologically associated with the welfare of areas of land
and with cities. Some were good, tutelary guardians: others were malicious ghosts or
evil hauntings.=====Houtu=====
Houtu is a deity of the entire earth, acting as a guardian.=====Tudi=====
The Tudi or Tudigong were the spiritual dukes or gods in charge of protecting particular
parcels of land, acting as the local gods of individual villages.=====City gods=====
In old China, the city was almost synonymous with the city wall. Most cities also had a
moat, made to further protect the perimeter of the city and as an artifact of building
the ramparts. A City god guarded an individual city. There were many cities. There were many
cities and many city gods.====Occupational tutelaries====
The life of a scholar has long been pursued in China, in part due to rewarding those who
study hard and do well in standardized tests. The is a whole area myth around the Imperial
examination in Chinese mythology. For example, in the area of literature, success in standardized
tests, and other culture there are associated pair Kui Xing and Wenchang Wang.====Life and social association====
There are deities mythologically associated with various intimate aspects of human life,
including motherhood, general sodality and formal syndicals, lifespan and fate, and war
and death. Many are currently worshiped in Buddhism, Daoism, or Chinese folk religion.
Guandi is a prominent example, but there are many others.=====Promoters of health=====A good example of a medicine deity is Sun
Simiao, who became Yaowang. Another is Baosheng Dadi.=====Bixia=====
Bixia is mythologically connected with motherhood and fertility. She is currently a popular
goddess.=====Siming=====
The Siming is a god of lifespan and fate.=====Male sexuality=====
Tu’er Shen is a leveret or rabbit gay deity, patron of gay men who engage in same gender
love and sexual activities.===Miscellaneous mythological beings===
Various deities, spirits, or other mythological beings are encountered in Chinese mythology,
some of them related to the religious beliefs of China. Some of them are currently worshiped,
some of them now only appear as characters in myths, and some both ways. Fangfeng: the giant who helped fight flood,
executed by Yu the Great Feng Meng: apprentice to Hou Yi, and his eventual
murderer Gao Yao
Magu (deity): Daoist immortal, “Auntie Hemp” Nezha: Taoist protection deity
Tam Kung: sea deity with the ability to forecast weather
Xingtian: headless giant decapitated by the Yellow Emperor as punishment for challenging
him; his face is on his torso as he has no head
Yuqiang: Yellow Emperor’s descendent, god of north sea and wind
Zhurong: god of fire Daoji: compassionate folk hero known for wild
and eccentric behaviour Erlang Shen: possessed a third eye in the
middle of his forehead that saw the truth==
Mythological creatures==Non-divine mythological beings are sometimes
divided into several parts each ruled over by a particular type of being– humans ruled
over by the Emperor, winged creatures ruled over by the phoenix, and scaly, finned, or
crawly creatures ruled over by the dragon.===The Four Intelligents===
The Four Intelligents were four species of animals of particular intelligence (not considering
humans). Each one represented and ruled over a class of animals. The Four Intelligents
were the dragon, the phoenix, the unicorn, and the tortoise. For example, Xu Shen’s dictionary
Shuowen Jiezi (under the entry for long, dragon) describes the dragon as: “Head of all animals
that swim or crawl…” (Wu 1982, 5-6).===Dragons, dragon-like and related creatures
===The Chinese dragon is one of the most important
mythical creatures in Chinese mythology, considered to be the most powerful and divine creature
and the controller of all waters who could create clouds with their breath. The dragon
symbolized great power and was very supportive of heroes and gods. The conventional dragon
has a certain description, however there are other dragons or dragon-like beings that vary
from this description. For example, the Chi of mythology lacks horns. Dragons often chase
or play with a mystical or flaming pearl. A dragon-fenghuang pairing is a common motif
in art, the fenghuang often being called a “phoenix”.
One of the most famous dragons in Chinese mythology is Yinglong, the god of rain. Many
people in different places pray to Yinglong to receive rain. Chinese people use the term
龍的傳人 (“Descendants of the Dragon”) as a sign of their ethnic identity. Shenlong
is a master of storms and bringer of rain. Zhulong the Torch Dragon is a giant red solar
deity. Sometimes he appears in composite snake-like, human-dragon form. There were various dragon
kings. They mostly lived undersea and were of the Ao family, such as Ao Guang.
Various mythology accounting human-dragon relationships exist, such as the story of
Longmu, a woman who raise dragons. Specific dragons, or types of dragon, include:
Dilong, the earth dragon; Fuzanglong, the treasure dragon; Jiaolong, dragon of floods
and sea; Teng, a flying creature, sometimes considered a type of snake or dragon-snake;
Tianlong, the celestial dragon, sometimes associated with centipede qualities; Yinglong,
the water dragon, a powerful servant of Yellow Emperor.===Fish and fish-like===Various mythology of China involves fish or
fish-like beings. Part human, part sea creatures of the Mermaid (人魚) type appear. The Kun
(or Peng) was a giant monstrous fish transformation of the Peng bird. Carp that leapt the dragon
gate falls of the Yellow River were said to transform into dragon. This was used as a
symbol for a scholar’s successful graduation in the Imperial examination system.===Snakelike and reptilian===Various snakes and reptilians appear in Chinese
mythology, folklore, and religion. These range from divine or semi-divine to merely fantastic
types of the bestiary sort. Sometimes the dragon is considered part of this category,
related to it, or the ruler of all the swimming and crawling folk. This may include the giant
marine turtle or tortoise Ao, the Bashe snake reputed to swallow elephants, a nine-headed
snake monster reminiscent of the hydra known as Xiangliu, and the White Serpent from the
novel Legend of the White Snake.===Birds===Various birds are found in Chinese mythology,
some of them obviously based on real birds, other ones obviously not, and some in-between.
The Crane is an example of a real type of bird with mythological enhancements. Cranes
are linked with immortality, and may be transformed xian immortals, or ferry an immortal upon
their back. The Vermilion Bird is iconic of the south. Sometimes confused with the Fenghuang,
the vermilion bird of the south is associated with fire. The Peng was a gigantic bird phase
of the gigantic Kun fish. The Jingwei is a mythical bird which tries to fill up the ocean
with twigs and pebbles symbolizing indefatigable determination. The Qingniao was the messenger
or servant of Xi Wangmu. Other birds include the Bi Fang bird,a one-legged
bird. Bi is also number nineteen of the Twenty-Eight Mansions of traditional Chinese astronomy,
the Net (Bi). There are supposed to be the Jiān (鶼; jian1): the mythical one-eyed
bird with one wing; Jianjian (鶼鶼): a pair of such birds dependent on each other, inseparable,
hence representing husband and wife. There was a Shang-Yang rainbird. The Jiufeng is
a nine-headed bird used to scare children. The Sù Shuāng (鷫鷞; su4shuang3) sometimes
appears as a goose-like bird. The Zhen is a poisonous bird. There may be a Jiguang (吉光;
jíguāng).===Mythological humanoid===Mythological humanoids includes the former
human, the part-human and the human-like, although these sometimes merge into other
categories. Kui: one-legged mountain demon or dragon who
invented music and dance; also Shun’s Music Master
Xiāo (魈; xiao1): mountain spirit or demon Yaoguai: demons===
Mythological mammalians===Various mythological mammals exist in Chinese
mythology. Some of these form the totem animals of the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese language
of mythology tends not to mark words for gender or number, so English language translations
can be problematic. Also, species or even genera are not always distinguished, with
the named animal often being seen as the local version of that type, such is as the case
with sheep and goats, or the versatile term sometimes translated as ox.====Fox spirits====Fox spirits feature prominently in mythology
throughout the mythology of East Asia. In China, these are generally known as Huli jing.
There are various types, such as the nine-tailed fox.====Dogs====Various dogs appear in the mythology of China,
featuring more prominently in some ethnic cultures more than others. The zodiacal dog
is featured in the Chinese zodiac.====Bovidae====The Bovidae appearing in the mythologies of
China include the Ox (including the common cow, buffalo), and the yak), sheep and goats,
and perhaps antelopes (some times “unicorns” are thought to be types of antelopes).=====Ox=====Oxen may includingrefer to the common cow,
the buffalo), and the yak. The zodiacal ox is one of the twelve zodiacal signs in the
twelve-year calendar cycle. Yak tails are mentioned as magical whisks used by Daoist
sorcerors. The ox appears in various agricultural myths.=====Sheep and goats=====Sheep (and/or goats) appear in various myths
and stories. The zodiacal sheep is one of the twelve zodiacal signs in the twelve-year
calendar cycle. A semi-mythical, semi-historical story involves the adventures of the Han diplomat
Su Wu held captive among the Xiongnu for nineteen years and forced to herd sheep and/or goats.====Horses====Horses frequently gallop through Chinese mythology.
Sometimes the poets say that they are related to dragons. The zodiacal horse is one of the
twelve zodiacal signs in the twelve-year calendar cycle.====Unicorns====
Various types of “unicorns” can be found in the myths, designated by the term lin, which
is often translated as “unicorn”. They possess many similarities to the European unicorn,
although not necessarily having only one horn. There are six types of lin (Sheppard 1930,
97). One type of lin is the Qilin, a chimeric or composite animal with several variations.
Xu Shen in his early 2nd century CE) dictionary Shuowen Jiezi defines what is represented
by this particular lin (in K. C. Wu’s translation) as “an animal of benevolence, having the body
of an antelope, the tail of an ox, and a single horn.” Also, according to the Shuowen Jiezi,
the horn was sometimes said to have been frightening in appearance to scare off would be attackers,
but really flesh-tipped so as to cause no harm. Lin, or unicorns appear only during
the reign of benevolent rulers. In 451 BCE, Confucius recorded that a unicorn had appeared,
but was slain in a ducal hunt. Confucius was so upset upon reporting this that he set aside
his brush and wrote no more. (Wu 1982, 6 and 45 note 13) The giraffe was not well known
in China and poorly described: about 1200 CE the lin and the giraffe began to trade
characteristics in their mythological conceptions (Sheppard 1930, 286 note 36). It is possible
that the unicorns resulted from different descriptions of animals which later became
extinct, or they no longer ranged in the area of China.====Cats====
Various cats appear in Chinese mythology, many of them large. Examples are Pixiu, resembled
a winged lion, and Rui Shi (瑞獅, Ruì Shī), guardian lions. Sometimes they are found pulling
the chariot of Xiwangmu. The cat is one of the twelve annual zodiacal animals in Vietnamese
and related cultural calendars, having the place of the rabbit found in the Chinese system.====Ungulate====
Various ungulates are encountered. Xīniú: a rhinoceros; became mythologized when rhinoceroses
became extinct in China. Depictions later changed to a more bovine appearance, with
a short, curved horn on its head used to communicate with the sky.====Simian====Various beings with simian characteristics
appear in Chinese mythology and religion. The Monkey King was a warder of evil spirits,
respected and loved, an ancient deity at least influenced by the Hindu deity Hanuman. The
Monkey god is still worshiped by some people in modern China. Some of the mythology associated
with the Monkey King influenced the novel Journey to the West. The xiao of mythology
appears as a long-armed ape or a four-winged bird, making it hard to categorize exactly;
but this is true of various composite beings of mythology. An implausible claim that traditional
Chinese mythology possesses “hsigo”, or “flying monkeys” has been made on the Internet, becoming
a viral meme: however, these do not actually exist in authentic current Chinese mythology;
indeed, “hsigo” is not even a plausible Chinese word. (Victor Mair, on the Language Log at
the University of Pennsylvania.)===Abstract or difficult to classify=======The Four Fiends====Hundun: chaos
Taotie: gluttony Táowù (梼杌): ignorance; provided confusion
and apathy and made mortals free of the curiosity and reason needed to reach enlightenment
Qióngqí (窮奇): deviousness====Other====
Nian: lives under the sea or in mountains; attacks children
Longma: winged horse similar to the Qilin Luduan: can detect the truth
Xiezhi (also Xie Cai): the creature of justice said to be able to distinguish lies from truths;
it had a long, straight horn used to gore liars
Bai Ze: legendary creature said to have been encountered by the Yellow Emperor and to have
given him a compendium listing all the demons in the world==Mythological plants==
Various mythological plants appear in Chinese mythology. Some of these in Heaven or Earthly
Paradises, some of them in particularly inaccessible or hard-to-find areas of the Earth; examples
include the Fusang world tree habitation of sun(s), the Lingzhi mushrooms of immortality,
the Peaches of Immortality, and the magical Yao Grass. Also encountered are various plants
of jasper and jade growing in the gardens of the Paradises.==Major sources==
Some myths survive in theatrical or literary formats as plays or novels, others are still
collected from the oral traditions of China and surrounding areas. Other material can
be gleaned from examining various other artifacts such as Chinese ritual bronzes, ceramics,
paintings, silk tapestries and elements of Chinese architecture.===Literary sources===The earliest written evidence is found in
the Oracle bone script, written on scapulae or tortoise plastrons, in the process of the
divination practices Shang dynasty (ended approximately 1046 BCE. A copious and eclectic
source of information on Chinese mythology is the written materials recovered from the
Dunhuang manuscripts library, now scattered in libraries around the world.====Pre-Han and Han dynasty era literature
====The oldest written sources of Chimese mythology
are short inscriptions, rather than literature as such.=====Shells and bones=====The earliest known written inscriptions of
Chinese mythology are found on the shells and bones from about 3000 years before present
(Yang et al 2005, 4). Most known Shell and Bone inscriptions are from artifacts used
for divination purposes during the late Shang dynasty (Yin). Their use in the study of mythology
is fragmentary.=====Bronzes=====Very ancient bronze pieces have also been
found, especially beginning in the Zhou dynasty (founded about 3,000 years before present),
with allusions or short descriptions adding to modern knowledge of Ancient Chinese mythology.
The sacred or magical attitude towards some of these cast inscriptions is shown in that
they sometimes appear in places almost inaccessible to being read, such as the inside of a vessel
(often quite large and heavy, often covered with a lid, and perhaps meant to store food).
However, there was a wide spread belief that such writings were read by gods or spirits
(Barrett 2008, 31). One such vessel (a xu (盨), with the characters appearing on the
inside-bottom) is a Zhou bronze with a 98 character description of the deeds of Yu draining
the flood (Yang et al 2005, 5).=====Confucian Classics and the Zhou dynasty
=====Some information can be found in the Confucian
Classics, and other Zhou dynasty era material, especially Book of Rites, but also Lüshi
Chunqiu.=====Confucian Classics and the Zhou dynasty
=====Some information can be found in the Confucian
Classics, and other Zhou dynasty era material, especially Book of Rites, but also the Lüshi
Chunqiu. The Book of Documents contains some Chinese myths.=====Chuci and poetry sources=====
Some information on Chinese mythology is found in the verse poetry associated with the ancient
state of Chu such as “Lisao”, “Jiu Ge”, and “Heavenly Questions”, contained in the Chuci
anthology, traditionally attributed to the authorship of Qu Yuan of Chu. The Chuci was
compiled during Han, but contains some older material, dating back prior to the defeat
of Chu (state) during the rise of the Qin dynasty. Later poetic sources also address
mythology, for example, Tang poetry.=====Prose Literature of Han=====
Useful historical documents include the Records of the Grand Historian, completed by Sima
Qian before his death in about 220 CE. Legends were passed down for over a thousand years
before being written in books such as Classic of Mountains and Seas (Shanhaijing), basically
a gazzetteer mixing known and mythological geography. Another major Han source on mythology
is the Huainanzi.====Three Kingdoms through Tang====Three Kingdoms through Tang dynasty eras also
includes some factors relevant to Chinese mythology.=====Sixteen Kingdoms=====
The mythologically relevant book Soushen Ji dates to the Jin dynasty (265–420), during
the Sixteen Kingdoms era. Also known as In Search of the Supernatural, it is a 4th-century
compilation of stories and hearsay concerning spirits, ghosts, and supernatural phenomena.====Song dynasty====
Surviving Song dynasty literature informative on Chinese mythology includes the Taiping
Yulan.====Chinese novels====Some myths were passed down through oral traditions
literature, and art, such as theater and song before being recorded as novels. One example
is Epic of Darkness. Books in the shenmo genre of vernacular fiction revolve around gods
and monsters. Important mythological fiction which allude to these these myths, include
Fengshen Bang (Investiture of the Gods), a mythological fiction dealing with the founding
of the Zhou dynasty; Journey to the West attributed to Wu Cheng’en, published in the 1590s, a
fictionalized account of the pilgrimage of Xuanzang to India to obtain Buddhist religious
texts in which the main character and his companions such as Sun Wukong encounter ghosts,
monsters, and demons, as well as the Flaming Mountains; and, Baishe Zhuan (Madame White
Snake), a romantic tale set in Hangzhou involving a female snake who attained human form and
fell in love with a man. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, by Pu Songling contains
many stories of fox spirits, and other phenomena. Another example is Zi Bu Yu, a collection
of supernatural stories compiled during the Qing dynasty.====Literary genres====Certain genres of literature are notable for
dealing with themes from mythology or tales of the supernatural; for example, the Zhiguai
(誌怪) literary genre that deals with strange (mostly supernatural) events and stories.====India====
The literature of India contains material about Chinese mythology, due to the influence
of textual sources imported into China, and translated into Chinese and the ideas widely
adopted by Chinese people. This was primarily in regard to Buddhist texts, containing Buddhist
mythology from the area in and around the area now known as India. Some Hindu material
may have been more directly imported.==In popular culture==Thousands of years of the development of Chinese
mythology has resulted in Chinese mythology in popular culture, in the sense of popular
culture affected or inspired by this tradition. This includes television shows, cinema, and
video games. Also, many of the vehicles associated with the modern Chinese space program are
named after mythology, such as the planned lunar explorer Chang’e 4, named after the
lunar goddess and its communications relay satellite Queqiao, named after the lovers
bridge over the Milky Way formed by magpies.==See also====Category tree for Chinese mythology====Notes====References==
Barrett, T. H. 2008. The Woman Who Discovered Printing. New Haven: Yale University Press.
ISBN 978-0-300-12728-7 Christie, Anthony (1968). Chinese Mythology.
Feltham: Hamlyn Publishing. ISBN 0600006379 Ferguson, John C. 1928. “China” in Volume
VIII of Mythology of All Races. Archeological Institute of America.
Hawkes, David, translator and introduction (2011 [1985]). Qu Yuan et al., The Songs of
the South: An Ancient Chinese Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets. London:
Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-044375-2 Latourette, Kenneth Scott The Chinese: Their
History and Culture (Third Edition, Revised), 1947. New York: Macmillan.
Legge, James, translator and “Introduction”. The I Ching: The Book of Changes Second Edition.
New York: Dover 1963 (1899). Library of Congress 63-19508
Paludan, Ann (1998). Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the
Rulers of Imperial China. New York, New York: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05090-2
Paper, Jordan D. (1995). The Spirits are Drunk: Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion.
Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-2315-8.
Schafer, Edward H. (1963) The Golden Peaches of Samarkand. Berkeley: University of California
Press. Sheppard, Odell. 1930. The Lore of the Unicorn
— Myths and Legends. London: Random House UK. ISBN 0 09 185135 1 and ISBN 1-85958-489-6
(both claimed on book) Siu, R. G. H. 1968. The Man of Many Qualities:
A Legacy of the I Ching, “Preface” and “Introduction”. Cambridge: Michigan Institute of Technology
Press. LoCccn 68-18242. Strassberg, Richard E., editor, translator,
and comments. 2002 [2018]. A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the GUIDEWAYS THROUGH
MOUNTAINS AND SEAS. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-29851-4
Werner, E.T.C. (1922). Myths and Legends of China. New York: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd.
Werner, E. T. C. (1994 [1922]). Myths and Legends of China. New York: Dover Publications.
ISBN 0-486-28092-6 Wu, K. C. (1982). The Chinese Heritage. New
York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-517-54475X. Yang, Lihui and Deming An, with Jessica Anderson
Turner (2005). Handbook of Chinese Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533263-6==External links==
Media related to Mythology of China at Wikimedia Commons
Encyclopedia of Chinese Gods and Goddesses Ferguson, John C. 1928. “China” in Volume
VIII of Mythology of All Races. Archeological Institute of America.
Guide to Chinese gods Chinese myths online
Collection of images from Chinese mythology 中国行业神崇拜

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