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Myths and Legends of China, by Edward T.C. Werner, [1922], at

Chapter IV

The Gods of China

The Birth of the Soul

The dualism noted in the last chapter is well illustrated by the Chinese pantheon. Whether as the result of the co-operation of the yin and the yang or of the final dissolution of P’an Ku, human beings came into existence. To the primitive mind the body and its shadow, an object and its reflection in water, real life and dream life, sensibility and insensibility (as in fainting, etc.), suggest the idea of another life parallel with this life and of the doings of the ‘other self’ in it. This ‘other self,’ this spirit, which leaves the body for longer or shorter intervals in dreams, swoons, death, may return or be brought back, and the body revive. Spirits which do not return or are not brought back may cause mischief, either alone, or by entry into another human or animal body or even an inanimate object, and should therefore be propitiated. Hence worship and deification.

The Populous Otherworld

The Chinese pantheon has gradually become so multitudinous that there is scarcely a being or thing which is not, or has not been at some time or other, propitiated or worshipped. As there are good and evil people in this world, so there are gods and demons in the Otherworld: we find a polytheism limited only by a polydemonism. The dualistic hierarchy is almost all-embracing. To get a clear idea of this populous Otherworld, of the supernal and infernal hosts and their organizations, it needs but to imagine the social structure in its main features as it existed p. 94 throughout the greater part of Chinese history, and to make certain additions. The social structure consisted of the ruler, his court, his civil, military, and ecclesiastical officials, and his subjects (classed as Scholars—officials and gentry—Agriculturists, Artisans, and Merchants, in that order).

Worship of Shang Ti

When these died, their other selves continued to exist and to hold the same rank in the spirit world as they did in this one. The ti, emperor, became the Shang Ti, Emperor on High, who dwelt in T’ien, Heaven (originally the great dome).  1 And Shang Ti, the Emperor on High, was worshipped by ti, the emperor here below, in order to pacify or please him—to ensure a continuance of his benevolence on his behalf in the world of spirits. Confusion of ideas and paucity of primitive language lead to personification and worship of a thing or being in which a spirit has taken up its abode in place of or in addition to worship of the spirit itself. Thus Heaven (T’ien) itself came to be personified and worshipped in addition to Shang Ti, the Emperor who had gone to Heaven, and who was considered as the chief ruler in the spiritual world. The worship of Shang Ti was in existence before that of T’ien was introduced. Shang Ti was worshipped by the emperor and his family as their ancestor, or the head of the hierarchy of their ancestors. The people could not worship Shang Ti, for to do so would imply a familiarity or a claim of relationship punishable with death. The emperor worshipped his ancestors, the officials theirs, the people theirs. But, in the same way and sense that the people worshipped the emperor on earth, as the ‘father’ of the nation, namely, by adoration and p. 95 obeisance, so also could they in this way and this sense worship Shang Ti. An Englishman may take off his hat as the king passes in the street to his coronation without taking any part in the official service in Westminster Abbey. So the ‘worship’ of Shang Ti by the people was not done officially or with any special ceremonial or on fixed State occasions, as in the case of the worship of Shang Ti by the emperor. This, subject to a qualification to be mentioned later, is really all that is meant (or should be meant) when it is said that the Chinese worship Shang Ti.

As regards sacrifices to Shang Ti, these could be offered officially only by the emperor, as High Priest on earth, who was attended or assisted in the ceremonies by members of his own family or clan or the proper State officials (often, even in comparatively modern times, members of the imperial family or clan). In these official sacrifices, which formed part of the State worship, the people could not take part; nor did they at first offer sacrifices to Shang Ti in their own homes or elsewhere. In what way and to what extent they did so later will be shown presently.

Worship of T’ien

Owing to T’ien, Heaven, the abode of the spirits, becoming personified, it came to be worshipped not only by the emperor, but by the people also. But there was a difference between these two worships, because the emperor performed his worship of Heaven officially at the great altar of the Temple of Heaven at Peking (in early times at the altar in the suburb of the capital), whereas the people (continuing always to worship their ancestors) worshipped Heaven, when they did so at all—the custom being observed by some and not by others, just as in Western countries some people go to church, while others p. 96 stay away—usually at the time of the New Year, in a simple, unceremonious way, by lighting some incense-sticks and waving them toward the sky in the courtyards of their own houses or in the street just outside their doors.

Confusion of Shang Ti and T’ien

The qualification necessary to the above description is that, as time went on and especially since the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960–1280), much confusion arose regarding Shang Ti and T’ien, and thus it came about that the terms became mixed and their definitions obscure. This confusion of ideas has prevailed down to the present time. One result of this is that the people may sometimes state, when they wave their incense-sticks or light their candles, that their humble sacrifice is made to Shang Ti, whom in reality they have no right either to worship or to offer sacrifice to, but whom they may unofficially pay respect and make obeisance to, as they might and did to the emperor behind the high boards on the roadsides which shielded him from their view as he was borne along in his elaborate procession on the few occasions when he came forth from the imperial city.

Thus we find that, while only the emperor could worship and sacrifice to Shang Ti, and only he could officially worship and sacrifice to T’ien, the people who early personified and worshipped T’ien, as already shown, came, owing to confusion of the meanings of Shang Ti and T’ien, unofficially to ‘worship’ both, but only in the sense and to the extent indicated, and to offer ‘sacrifices’ to both, also only in the sense and to the extent indicated. But for these qualifications, the statement that the Chinese worship and sacrifice to Shang Ti and T’ien would be apt to convey an incorrect idea. p. 97

From this it will be apparent that Shang Ti, the Supreme Ruler on High, and T’ien, Heaven (later personified), do not mean ‘God’ in the sense that the word is used in the Christian religion. To state that they do, as so many writers on China have done, without pointing out the essential differences, is misleading. That Chinese religion was or is “a monotheistic worship of God” is further disproved by the fact that Shang Ti and T’ien do not appear in the list of the popular pantheon at all, though all the other gods are there represented. Neither Shang Ti nor T’ien mean the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of the New Testament. Did they mean this, the efforts of the Christian missionaries to convert the Chinese would be largely superfluous. The Christian religion, even the Holy Trinity, is a monotheism. That the Chinese religion (even though a summary of extracts from the majority of foreign books on China might point to its being so) is not a monotheism, but a polytheism or even a pantheism (as long as that term is taken in the sense of universal deification and not in that of one spiritual being immanent in all things), the rest of this chapter will abundantly prove.

There have been three periods in which gods have been created in unusually large numbers: that of the mythical emperor Hsien Yüan (2698–2598 B.C.), that of Chiang Tzŭ-ya (in the twelfth century B.C.), and that of the first emperor of the Ming dynasty (in the fourteenth century A.D.).

The Otherworld Similar to this World

The similarity of the Otherworld to this world above alluded to is well shown by Du Bose in his Dragon, Image, and, Demon, from which I quote the following passages: p. 98

“The world of spirits is an exact counterpart of the Chinese Empire, or, as has been remarked, it is ‘China ploughed under’; this is the world of light; put out the lights and you have Tartarus. China has eighteen [now twenty-two] provinces, so has Hades; each province has eight or nine prefects, or departments; so each province in Hades has eight or nine departments; every prefect or department averages ten counties, so every department in Hades has ten counties. In Soochow the Governor, the provincial Treasurer, the Criminal Judge, the Intendant of Circuit, the Prefect or Departmental Governor, and the three District Magistrates or County Governors each have temples with their apotheoses in the other world. Not only these, but every yamên secretary, runner, executioner, policeman, and constable has his counterpart in the land of darkness. The market-towns have also mandarins of lesser rank in charge, besides a host of revenue collectors, the bureau of government works and other departments, with several hundred thousand officials, who all rank as gods beyond the grave. These deities are civilians; the military having a similar gradation for the armies of Hades, whose captains are gods, and whose battalions are devils.

“The framers of this wonderful scheme for the spirits of the dead, having no higher standard, transferred to the authorities of that world the etiquette, tastes, and venality of their correlate officials in the Chinese Government, thus making it necessary to use similar means to appease the one which are found necessary to move the other. All the State gods have their assistants, attendants, door-keepers, runners, horses, horsemen, detectives, and executioners, corresponding in every particular to those of Chinese officials of the same rank.” (Pp. 358–359.) p. 99

This likeness explains also why the hierarchy of beings in the Otherworld concerns itself not only with the affairs of the Otherworld, but with those of this world as well. So faithful is the likeness that we find the gods (the term is used in this chapter to include goddesses, who are, however, relatively few) subjected to many of the rules and conditions existing on this earth. Not only do they, as already shown, differ in rank, but they hold levées and audiences and may be promoted for distinguished services, just as the Chinese officials are. They “may rise from an humble position to one near the Pearly Emperor, who gives them the reward of merit for ruling well the affairs of men. The correlative deities of the mandarins are only of equal rank, yet the fact that they have been apotheosized makes them their superiors and fit objects of worship. Chinese mandarins rotate in office, generally every three years, and then there is a corresponding change in Hades. The image in the temple remains the same, but the spirit which dwells in the clay tabernacle changes, so the idol has a different name, birthday, and tenant. The priests are informed by the Great Wizard of the Dragon Tiger Mountain, but how can the people know gods which are not the same to-day as yesterday?” (Pp. 360–361.)

The gods also indulge in amusements, marry, sin, are punished, die, are resurrected, or die and are transformed, or die finally.  2

The Three Religions

We have in China the universal worship of ancestors, which constitutes (or did until A.D. 1912) the State p. 100 religion, usually known as Confucianism, and in addition we have the gods of the specific religions (which also originally took their rise in ancestor-worship), namely, Buddhism and Taoism. (Other religions, though tolerated, are not recognized as Chinese religions.) It is with a brief account of this great hierarchy and its mythology that we will now concern ourselves.

Besides the ordinary ancestor-worship (as distinct from the State worship) the people took to Buddhism and Taoism, which became the popular religions, and the literati also honoured the gods of these two sects. Buddhist deities gradually became installed in Taoist temples, and the Taoist immortals were given seats beside the Buddhas in their sanctuaries. Every one patronized the god who seemed to him the most popular and the most lucrative. There even came to be united in the same temple and worshipped at the same altar the three religious founders or figure-heads, Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Tzŭ. The three religions were even regarded as forming one whole, or at least, though different, as having one and the same object: san êrh i yeh, or han san wei i, “the three are one,” or “the three unite to form one” (a quotation from the phrase T’ai chi han san wei i of Fang Yü-lu: “When they reach the extreme the three are seen to be one”). In the popular pictorial representations of the pantheon this impartiality is clearly shown.

The Super-triad

The toleration, fraternity, or co-mixture of the three religions—ancestor-worship or Confucianism, Chinese Buddhism, and Taoism—explains the compound nature of the triune head of the Chinese pantheon. The p. 101 numerous deities of Buddhism and Taoism culminate each in a triad of gods (the Three Precious Ones and the Three Pure Ones respectively), but the three religions jointly have also a triad compounded of one representative member of each. This general or super-triad is, of course, composed of Confucius, Lao Tzŭ, and Buddha. This is the officially decreed order, though it is varied occasionally by Buddha being placed in the centre (the place of honour) as an act of ceremonial deference shown to a ‘stranger’ or ‘guest’ from another country.

Worship of the Living

Before proceeding to consider the gods of China in detail, it is necessary to note that ancestor-worship, which, as before stated, is worship of the ghosts of deceased persons, who are usually but not invariably relatives of the worshipper, has at times a sort of preliminary stage in this world consisting of the worship of living beings. Emperors, viceroys, popular officials, or people beloved for their good deeds have had altars, temples, and images erected to them, where they are worshipped in the same way as those who have already “shuffled off this mortal coil.” The most usual cases are perhaps those of the worship of living emperors and those in which some high official who has gained the gratitude of the people is transferred to another post. The explanation is simple. The second self which exists after death is identical with the second self inhabiting the body during life. Therefore it may be propitiated or gratified by sacrifices of food, drink, etc., or theatricals performed in its honour, and continue its protection and good offices even though now far away. p. 102


Confucianism (Ju Chiao) is said to be the religion of the learned, and the learned were the officials and the literati or lettered class, which includes scholars waiting for posts, those who have failed to get posts (or, though qualified, prefer to live in retirement), and those who have retired from posts. Of this ‘religion’ it has been said:

“The name embraces education, letters, ethics, and political philosophy. Its head was not a religious man, practised few religious rites, and taught nothing about religion. In its usual acceptation the term Confucianist means ‘a gentleman and a scholar’; he may worship only once a year, yet he belongs to the Church. Unlike its two sisters, it has no priesthood, and fundamentally is not a religion at all; yet with the many rites grafted on the original tree it becomes a religion, and the one most difficult to deal with. Considered as a Church, the classics are its scriptures, the schools its churches, the teachers its priests, ethics its theology, and the written character, so sacred, its symbol.”  3

Confucius not a God

It should be noted that Confucius himself is not a god, though he has been and is worshipped (66,000 animals used to be offered to him every year; probably the number is about the same now). Suggestions have been made to make him the God of China and Confucianism the religion of China, so that he and his religion would hold the same relative positions that Christ and Christianity do in the West. I was present at the lengthy debate which took place on this subject in the Chinese p. 103 Parliament in February 1917, but in spite of many long, learned, and eloquent speeches, chiefly by scholars of the old school, the motion was not carried. Nevertheless, the worship accorded to Confucius was and is (except by ‘new’ or ‘young’ China) of so extreme a nature that he may almost be described as the great unapotheosized god of China.  4 Some of his portraits even ascribe to him superhuman attributes. But in spite of all this the fact remains that Confucius has not been appointed a god and holds no exequatur entitling him to that rank.

If we inquire into the reason of this we find that, astonishing though it may seem, Confucius is classed by the Chinese not as a god (shên), but as a demon (kuei). A short historical statement will make the matter clear.

In the classical Li chi, Book of Ceremonial, we find the categorical assignment of the worship of certain objects to certain subjective beings: the emperor worshipped Heaven and earth, the feudal princes the mountains and rivers, the officials the hearth, and the literati their ancestors. Heaven, earth, mountains, rivers, and hearth were called shên (gods), and ancestors kuei (demons). This distinction is due to Heaven being regarded as the god and the people as demons—the upper is the god, the lower the evil spirit or demon. Though kuei were usually bad, the term in Chinese includes both good and evil spirits. In ancient times those who had by their meritorious virtue while in the world averted calamities from the people were posthumously worshipped and called gods, but those who were worshipped by their descendants only were called spirits or demons.

In the worship of Confucius by emperors of various p. 104 dynasties (details of which need not be given here) the highest titles conferred on him were Hsien Shêng, ‘Former or Ancestral Saint,’ and even Win Hsüan Wang, ‘Accomplished and Illustrious Prince,’ and others containing like epithets. When for his image or idol there was (in the eleventh year—A.D. 1307—of the reign-period Ta Tê of the Emperor Ch’êng Tsung of the Yüan dynasty) substituted the tablet now seen in the Confucian temples, these were the inscriptions engraved on it. In the inscriptions authoritatively placed on the tablets the word shên does not occur; in those cases where it does occur it has been placed there (as by the Taoists) illegally and without authority by too ardent devotees. Confucius may not be called a shên, since there is no record showing that the great ethical teacher was ever apotheosized, or that any order was given that the character shên was to be applied to him.

The God of Literature

In addition to the ancestors of whose worship it really consists, Confucianism has in its pantheon the specialized gods worshipped by the literati. Naturally the chief of these is Wên Ch’ang, the God of Literature. The account of him (which varies in several particulars in different Chinese works) relates that he was a man of the name of Chang Ya, who was born during the T’ang dynasty in the kingdom of Yüeh (modern Chêkiang), and went to live at Tzŭ T’ung in Ssŭch’uan, where his intelligence raised him to the position of President of the Board of Ceremonies. Another account refers to him as Chang Ya Tzŭ, the Soul or Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, and states that he held office in the Chin dynasty (A.D. 265–316), and was killed in a fight. Another again states that under the Sung dynasty (A.D. p. 105 960–1280), in the third year (A.D. 1000) of the reign-period Hsien P’ing of the Emperor Chên Tsung, he repressed the revolt of Wang Chün at Ch’êng Tu in Ssŭch’uan. General Lei Yu-chung caused to be shot into the besieged town arrows to which notices were attached inviting the inhabitants to surrender. Suddenly a man mounted a ladder, and pointing to the rebels cried in a loud voice: “The Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung has sent me to inform you that the town will fall into the hands of the enemy on the twentieth day of the ninth moon, and not a single person will escape death.” Attempts to strike down this prophet of evil were in vain, for he had already disappeared. The town was captured on the day indicated. The general, as a reward, caused the temple of Tzŭ T’ung’s Spirit to be repaired, and sacrifices offered to it.

The object of worship nowadays in the temples dedicated to Wên Ch’ang is Tzŭ T’ung Ti Chün, the God of Tzŭ T’ung. The convenient elasticity of dualism enabled Chang to have as many as seventeen reincarnations, which ranged over a period of some three thousand years.

Various emperors at various times bestowed upon Wên Ch’ang honorific titles, until ultimately, in the Yüan, or Mongol, dynasty, in the reign Yen Yu, in A.D. 1314, the title was conferred on him of Supporter of the Yüan Dynasty, Diffuser of Renovating Influences, Ssŭ-lu of Wên Ch’ang, God and Lord. He was thus apotheosized, and took his place among the gods of China. By steps few or many a man in China has often become a god.

Wên Ch’ang and the Great Bear

Thus we have the God of Literature, Wên Ch’ang Ti Chün, duly installed in the Chinese pantheon, and sacrifices were offered to him in the schools. p. 106

But scholars, especially those about to enter for the public competitive examinations, worshipped as the God of Literature, or as his palace or abode (Wên Ch’ang), the star K’uei in the Great Bear, or Dipper, or Bushel—the latter name derived from its resemblance in shape to the measure used by the Chinese and called tou. The term K’uei was more generally applied to the four stars forming the body or square part of the Dipper, the three forming the tail or handle being called Shao or Piao. How all this came about is another story.

A scholar, as famous for his literary skill as his facial deformities, had been admitted as first academician at the metropolitan examinations. It was the custom that the Emperor should give with his own hand a rose of gold to the fortunate candidate. This scholar, whose name was Chung K’uei, presented himself according to custom to receive the reward which by right was due to him. At the sight of his repulsive face the Emperor refused the golden rose. In despair the miserable rejected one went and threw himself into the sea. At the moment when he was being choked by the waters a mysterious fish or monster called ao raised him on its back and brought him to the surface. K’uei ascended to Heaven and became arbiter of the destinies of men of letters. His abode was said to be the star K’uei, a name given by the Chinese to the sixteen stars of the constellation or ‘mansion’ of Andromeda and Pisces. The scholars quite soon began to worship K’uei as the God of Literature, and to represent it on a column in the temples. Then sacrifices were offered to it. This star or constellation was regarded as the palace of the god. The legend gave rise to an expression frequently used in Chinese of one who comes out first in an examination, namely, tu chan ao p. 107 t’ou, “to stand alone on the sea-monster’s head.” It is especially to be noted that though the two K’ueis have the same sound they are represented by different characters, and that the two constellations are not the same, but are situated in widely different parts of the heavens.

How then did it come about that scholars worshipped the K’uei in the Great Bear as the abode of the God of Literature? (It may be remarked in passing that a literary people could not have chosen a more appropriate palace for this god, since the Great Bear, the ‘Chariot of Heaven,’ is regarded as the centre and governor of the whole universe.) The worship, we saw, was at first that of the star K’uei, the apotheosized ‘homely,’ successful, but rejected candidate. As time went on, there was a general demand for a sensible, concrete representation of this star-god: a simple character did not satisfy the popular taste. But it was no easy matter to comply with the demand. Eventually, guided doubtless by the community of pronunciation, they substituted for the star or group of stars K’uei (1),  5 venerated in ancient times, a new star or group of stars K’uei (2), forming the square part of the Bushel, Dipper, or Great Bear. But for this again no bodily image could be found, so the form of the written character itself was taken, and so drawn as to represent a kuei (3) (disembodied spirit, or ghost) with its foot raised, and bearing aloft a tou (4) (bushel-measure). The adoration was thus misplaced, for the constellation K’uei (2) was mistaken for K’uei (1), p. 108 the proper object of worship. It was due to this confusion by the scholars that the Northern Bushel came to be worshipped as the God of Literature.

Wên Ch’ang and Tzŭ T’ung

This worship had nothing whatever to do with the Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, but the Taoists have connected Chang Ya with the constellation in another way by saying that Shang Ti, the Supreme Ruler, entrusted Chang Ya’s son with the management of the palace of Wên Ch’ang. And scholars gradually acquired the habit of saying that they owed their success to the Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, which they falsely represented as being an incarnation of the star Wên Ch’ang. This is how Chang Ya came to have the honorific title of Wên Ch’ang, but, as a Chinese author points out, Chang belonged properly to Ssŭch’uan, and his worship should be confined to that province. The literati there venerated him as their master, and as a mark of affection and gratitude built a temple to him; but in doing so they had no intention of making him the God of Literature. “There being no real connexion between Chang Ya and K’uei, the worship should be stopped.” The device of combining the personality of the patron of literature enthroned among the stars with that of the deified mortal canonized as the Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung was essentially a Taoist trick. “The thaumaturgic reputation assigned to the Spirit of Chang Ya Tzŭ was confined for centuries to the valleys of Ssŭch’uan, until at some period antecedent to the reign Yen Yu, in A.D. 1314, a combination was arranged between the functions of the local god and those of the stellar patron of literature. Imperial sanction was obtained for this stroke of priestly cunning; and p. 109 notwithstanding protests continually repeated by orthodox sticklers for accuracy in the religious canon, the composite deity has maintained his claims intact, and an inseparable connexion between the God of Literature created by imperial patent and the spirit lodged among the stars of Ursa Major is fully recognized in the State ceremonial of the present day.” A temple dedicated to this divinity by the State exists in every city of China, besides others erected as private benefactions or speculations.

Wherever Wên Ch’ang is worshipped there will also be found a separate representation of K’uei Hsing, showing that while the official deity has been allowed to ‘borrow glory’ from the popular god, and even to assume his personality, the independent existence of the stellar spirit is nevertheless sedulously maintained. The place of the latter in the heavens above is invariably symbolized by the lodgment of his idol in an upper storey or tower, known as the K’uei Hsing Ko or K’uei Hsing Lou. Here students worship the patron of their profession with incense and prayers. Thus the ancient stellar divinity still largely monopolizes the popular idea of a guardian of literature and study, notwithstanding that the deified recluse of Tzŭ T’ung has been added in this capacity to the State pantheon for more than five hundred years.

Heaven-deaf and Earth-dumb

The popular representations of Wên Ch’ang depict the god himself and four other figures. The central and largest is the demure portrait of the god, clothed in blue and holding a sceptre in his left hand. Behind him stand two youthful attendants. They are the servant and groom who always accompany him on his journeys (on which he rides a white horse). Their names are p. 110 respectively Hsüan T’ung-tzŭ and Ti-mu, ‘Sombre Youth’ and ‘Earth-mother’; more commonly they are called T’ien-lung, ‘Deaf Celestial,‘ and Ti-ya, ‘Mute Terrestrial,’ or ‘Deaf as Heaven’ and ‘Mute as Earth.’ Thus they cannot divulge the secrets of their master’s administration as he distributes intellectual gifts, literary skill, etc. Their cosmogonical connexion has already been referred to in a previous chapter.

Image of K’uei Hsing

In front of Wên Ch’ang, on his left, stands K’uei Hsing. He is represented as of diminutive stature, with the visage of a demon, holding a writing-brush in his right hand and a tou in his left, one of his legs kicking up behind—the figure being obviously intended as an impersonation of the character k’uei (2).  6 He is regarded as the distributor of literary degrees, and was invoked above all in order to obtain success at the competitive examinations. His images and temples are found in all towns. In the temples dedicated to Wên Ch’ang there are always two secondary altars, one of which is consecrated to his worship.

Mr Redcoat

The other is dedicated to Chu I, ‘Mr Redcoat.’ He and K’uei Hsing are represented as the two inseparable companions of the God of Literature. The legend related of Chu I is as follows:

During the T’ang dynasty, in the reign-period Chien Chung (A.D. 780–4) of the Emperor Tê Tsung, the Princess T’ai Yin noticed that Lu Ch’i, a native of Hua Chou, had the bones of an Immortal, and wished to marry him.

Wên Ch’ang, K’uei Hsing, and Chu I.
Click to enlarge

Wên Ch’ang, K’uei Hsing, and Chu I.

p. 111

Ma P’o, her neighbour, introduced him one day into the Crystal Palace for an interview with his future wife. The Princess gave him the choice of three careers: to live in the Dragon Prince’s Palace, with the guarantee of immortal life, to enjoy immortality among the people on the earth, or to have the honour of becoming a minister of the Empire. Lu Ch’i first answered that he would like to live in the Crystal Palace. The young lady, overjoyed, said to him: “I am Princess T’ai Yin. I will at once inform Shang Ti, the Supreme Ruler.” A moment later the arrival of a celestial messenger was announced. Two officers bearing flags preceded him and conducted him to the foot of the flight of steps. He then presented himself as Chu I, the envoy of Shang Ti.

Addressing himself to Lu Ch’i, he asked: “Do you wish to live in the Crystal Palace?” The latter did not reply. T’ai Yin urged him to give his answer, but he persisted in keeping silent. The Princess in despair retired to her apartment, and brought out five pieces of precious cloth, which she presented to the divine envoy, begging him to have patience a little longer and wait for the answer. After some time, Chu I repeated his question. Then Lu Ch’i in a firm voice answered: “I have consecrated my life to the hard labour of study, and wish to attain to the dignity of minister on this earth.”

T’ai Yin ordered Ma P’o to conduct Lu Ch’i from the palace. From that day his face became transformed: he acquired the lips of a dragon, the head of a panther, the green face of an Immortal, etc. He took his degree, and was promoted to be Director of the Censorate. The Emperor, appreciating the good sense shown in his advice, appointed him a minister of the Empire.

From this legend it would seem that Chu I is the p. 112 purveyor of official posts; however, in practice, he is more generally regarded as the protector of weak candidates, as the God of Good Luck for those who present themselves at the examinations with a somewhat light equipment of literary knowledge. The special legend relating to this rôle is known everywhere in China. It is as follows:

Mr Redcoat nods his Head

An examiner, engaged in correcting the essays of the candidates, after a superficial scrutiny of one of the essays, put it on one side as manifestly inferior, being quite determined not to pass the candidate who had composed it. The essay, moved by some mysterious power, was replaced in front of his eyes, as if to invite him to examine it more attentively. At the same time a reverend old man, clothed in a red garment, suddenly appeared before him, and by a nod of his head gave him to understand that he should pass the essay. The examiner, surprised at the novelty of the incident, and fortified by the approval of his supernatural visitor, admitted the author of the essay to the literary degree.

Chu I, like K’uei Hsing, is invoked by the literati as a powerful protector and aid to success. When anyone with but a poor chance of passing presents himself at an examination, his friends encourage him by the popular saying: “Who knows but that Mr Redcoat will nod his head?”

Mr Golden Cuirass

Chu I is sometimes accompanied by another personage, named Chin Chia, ‘Mr Golden Cuirass.’ Like K’uei Hsing and Chu I he has charge of the interests of scholars, but differs from them in that he holds a flag, which he has p. 113 only to wave in front of a house for the family inhabiting it to be assured that among their descendants will be some who will win literary honours and be promoted to high offices under the State.

Though Chin Chia is the protector of scholars, he is also the redoubtable avenger of their evil actions: his flag is saluted as a good omen, but his sword is the terror of the wicked.

The God of War

Still another patron deity of literature is the God of War. “How,” it may be asked, “can so peaceful a people as the Chinese put so peaceful an occupation as literature under the patronage of so warlike a deity as the God of War?” But that question betrays ignorance of the character of the Chinese Kuan Ti. He is not a cruel tyrant delighting in battle and the slaying of enemies: he is the god who can avert war and protect the people from its horrors.

A youth, whose name was originally Chang-shêng, afterward changed to Shou-chang, and then to Yün-chang, who was born near Chieh Liang, in Ho Tung (now the town of Chieh Chou in Shansi), and was of an intractable nature, having exasperated his parents, was shut up in a room from which he escaped by breaking through the window. In one of the neighbouring houses he heard a young lady and an old man weeping and lamenting. Running to the foot of the wall of the compound, he inquired the reason of their grief. The old man replied that though his daughter was already engaged, the uncle of the local official, smitten by her beauty, wished to make her his concubine. His petitions to the official had only been rejected with curses. p. 114

Beside himself with rage, the youth seized a sword and went and killed both the official and his uncle. He escaped through the T’ung Kuan, the pass to Shensi. Having with difficulty avoided capture by the barrier officials, he knelt down at the side of a brook to wash his face; when lo! his appearance was completely transformed. His complexion had become reddish-grey, and he was absolutely unrecognizable. He then presented himself with assurance before the officers, who asked him his name. “My name is Kuan,” he replied. It was by that name that he was thereafter known.

The Meat-seller’s Challenge

One day he arrived at Chu-chou, a dependent sub-prefecture of Peking, in Chihli. There Chang Fei, a butcher, who had been selling his meat all the morning, at noon lowered what remained into a well, placed over the mouth of the well a stone weighing twenty-five pounds, and said with a sneer: “If anyone can lift that stone and take my meat, I will make him a present of it!” Kuan Yü, going up to the edge of the well, lifted the stone with the same ease as he would a tile, took the meat, and made off. Chang Fei pursued him, and eventually the two came to blows, but no one dared to separate them. Just then Liu Pei, a hawker of straw shoes, arrived, interposed, and put a stop to the fight. The community of ideas which they found they possessed soon gave rise to a firm friendship between the three men.

The Oath in the Peach-orchard

Another account represents Liu Pei and Chang Fei as having entered a village inn to drink wine, when a man of gigantic stature pushing a wheelbarrow stopped at p. 115 the door to rest. As he seated himself, he hailed the waiter, saying: “Bring me some wine quickly, because I have to hasten to reach the town to enlist in the army.”

Liu Pei looked at this man, nine feet in height, with a beard two feet long. His face was the colour of the fruit of the jujube-tree, and his lips carmine. Eyebrows like sleeping silkworms shaded his phoenix eyes, which were a scarlet red. Terrible indeed was his bearing.

“What is your name?” asked Liu Pei. “My family name is Kuan, my own name is Yü, my surname Yün Chang,” he replied. “I am from the Ho Tung country. For the last five or six years I have been wandering about the world as a fugitive, to escape from my pursuers, because I killed a powerful man of my country who was oppressing the poor people. I hear that they are collecting a body of troops to crush the brigands, and I should like to join the expedition.”

Chang Fêi, also named Chang I Tê, is described as eight feet in height, with round shining eyes in a panther’s head, and a pointed chin bristling with a tiger’s beard. His voice resembled the rumbling of thunder. His ardour was like that of a fiery steed. He was a native of Cho Chün, where he possessed some fertile farms, and was a butcher and wine-merchant.

Liu Pei, surnamed Hsüan Tê, otherwise Hsien Chu, was the third member of the group.

The three men went to Chang Fei’s farm, and on the morrow met together in his peach-orchard, and sealed their friendship with an oath. Having procured a black ox and a white horse, with the various accessories to a sacrifice, they immolated the victims, burnt the incense p. 116 of friendship, and after twice prostrating themselves took this oath:

“We three, Liu Pei, Kuan Yû, and Chang Fei, already united by mutual friendship, although belonging to different clans, now bind ourselves by the union of our hearts, and join our forces in order to help each other in times of danger.

“We wish to pay to the State our debt of loyal citizens and give peace to our black-haired compatriots. We do not inquire if we were born in the same year, the same month, or on the same day, but we desire only that the same year, the same month, and the same day may find us united in death. May Heaven our King and Earth our Queen see clearly our hearts! If any one of us violate justice or forget benefits, may Heaven and Man unite to punish him!”

The oath having been formally taken, Liu Pei was saluted as elder brother, Kuan Yü as the second, and Chang Fei as the youngest. Their sacrifice to Heaven and earth ended, they killed an ox and served a feast, to which the soldiers of the district were invited to the number of three hundred or more. They all drank copiously until they were intoxicated. Liu Pei enrolled the peasants; Chang Fei procured for them horses and arms; and then they set out to make war on the Yellow Turbans (Huang Chin Tsei). Kuan Yü proved himself worthy of the affection which Liu Pei showed him; brave and generous, he never turned aside from danger. His fidelity was shown especially on one occasion when, having been taken prisoner by Ts’ao Ts’ao, together with two of Liu Pei’s wives, and having been allotted a common sleeping-apartment with his fellow-captives, he preserved the ladies’ reputation and his own trustworthiness p. 117 by standing all night at the door of the room with a lighted lantern in his hand.

Into details of the various exploits of the three Brothers of the Peach-orchard we need not enter here. They are written in full in the book of the Story of the Three Kingdoms, a romance in which every Chinese who can read takes keen delight. Kuan Yü remained faithful to his oath, even though tempted with a marquisate by the great Ts’ao Ts’ao, but he was at length captured by Sun Ch’üan and put to death (A.D. 219). Long celebrated as the most renowned of China’s military heroes, he was ennobled in A.D. 1120 as Faithful and Loyal Duke. Eight years later he had conferred on him by letters patent the still more glorious title of Magnificent Prince and Pacificator. The Emperor Wên (A.D. 1330–3) of the Yüan dynasty added the appellation Warrior Prince and Civilizer, and, finally, the Emperor Wan Li of the Ming dynasty, in 1594, conferred on him the title of Faithful and Loyal Great Ti, Supporter of Heaven and Protector of the Kingdom. He thus became a god, a ti, and has ever since received worship as Kuan Ti or Wu Ti, the God of War. Temples (1600 State temples and thousands of smaller ones) erected in his honour are to be seen in all parts of the country. He is one of the most popular gods of China. During the last half-century of the Manchu Period his fame greatly increased. In 1856 he is said to have appeared in the heavens and successfully turned the tide of battle in favour of the Imperialists. His portrait hangs in every tent, but his worship is not confined to the officials and the army, for many trades and professions have elected him as a patron saint. The sword of the public executioner used to be kept within the precincts of his p. 118 temple, and after an execution the presiding magistrate would stop there to worship for fear the ghost of the criminal might follow him home. He knew that the spirit would not dare to enter Kuan Ti’s presence.

Thus the Chinese have no fewer than three gods of literature—perhaps not too many for so literary a people. A fourth, a Taoist god, will be mentioned later.

Buddhism in China

Buddhism and its mythology have formed an important part of Chinese thought for nearly two thousand years. The religion was brought to China about A.D. 65, ready-made in its Mahayanistic form, in consequence of a dream of the Emperor Ming Ti (A.D. 58–76) of the Eastern Han dynasty in or about the year 63; though some knowledge of Buddha and his doctrines existed as early as 217 B.C. As Buddha, the chief deity of Buddhism, was a man and became a god, the religion originated, like the others, in ancestor-worship. When a man dies, says this religion, his other self reappears in one form or another, “from a clod to a divinity.” The way for Buddhism in China was paved by Taoism, and Buddhism reciprocally affected Taoism by helpful development of its doctrines of sanctity and immortalization. Buddhism also, as it has been well put by Dr De Groot,  7 “contributed much to the ceremonial adornment of ancestor-worship. Its salvation work on behalf of the dead saved its place in Confucian China; for of Confucianism itself, piety and devotion towards parents and ancestors, and the promotion of their happiness, were the core, and, consequently, their worship with sacrifices and ceremonies was always a sacred duty.” p. 119 It was thus that it was possible for the gods of Buddhism to be introduced into China and to maintain their special characters and fulfil their special functions without being absorbed into or submerged by the existing native religions. The result was, as we have seen, in the end a partnership rather than a relation of master and servant; and I say ‘in the end’ because, contrary to popular belief, the Chinese have not been tolerant of foreign religious faiths, and at various times have persecuted Buddhism as relentlessly as they have other rivals to orthodox Confucianism.

Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood

At the head of the Buddhist gods in China we find the triad known as Buddha, the Law, and the Church, or Priesthood, which are personified as Shih-chia Fo (Shâkya), O-mi-t’o Fo (Amita), and Ju-lai Fo (Tathagata); otherwise Fo Pao, Fa Pao, and Sêng Pao (the San Pao, ‘Three Precious Ones’)—that is, Buddha, the prophet who came into the world to teach the Law, Dharma, the Law Everlasting, and Samgha, its mystical body, Priesthood, or Church. Dharma is an entity underived, containing the spiritual elements and material constituents of the universe. From it the other two evolve: Buddha (Shâkyamuni), the creative energy, Samgha, the totality of existence and of life. To the people these are three personal Buddhas, whom they worship without concerning themselves about their origin. To the priests they are simply the Buddha, past, present, or future. There are also several other of these groups or triads, ten or more, composed of different deities, or sometimes containing one or two of the triad already named. Shâkyamuni heads the list, having a place in at least six. p. 120

The legend of the Buddha belongs rather to Indian than to Chinese mythology, and is too long to be reproduced here.  8

The principal gods of Buddhism are Jan-têng Fo, the Light-lamp Buddha, Mi-lo Fo (Maitrêya), the expected Messiah of the Buddhists, O-mi-t’o Fo (Amitabha or Amita), the guide who conducts his devotees to the Western Paradise, Yüeh-shih Fo, the Master-physician Buddha, Ta-shih-chih P’u-sa (Mahastama), companion of Amitabha, P’i-lu Fo (Vairotchana), the highest of the Threefold Embodiments, Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, Ti-tsang Wang, the God of Hades, Wei-t’o (Vihârapâla), the Dêva protector of the Law of Buddha and Buddhist temples, the Four Diamond Kings of Heaven, and Bodhidharma, the first of the six Patriarchs of Eastern or Chinese Buddhism.

The Buddhist Triad
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The Buddhist Triad

Diamond Kings of Heaven

On the right and left sides of the entrance hall of Buddhist temples, two on each side, are the gigantic figures of the four great Ssŭ Ta Chin-kang or T’ien-wang, the Diamond Kings of Heaven, protectors or governors of the continents lying in the direction of the four cardinal points from Mount Sumêru, the centre of the world. They are four brothers named respectively Mo-li Ch’ing (Pure), or Tsêng Chang, Mo-li Hung (Vast), or Kuang Mu, Mo-li Hai (Sea), or To Wên, and Mo-li Shou (Age), or Ch’ih Kuo. The Chin kuang ming states that they bestow all kinds of happiness on those who honour the Three Treasures, Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood. p. 121 Kings and nations who neglect the Law lose their protection. They are described and represented as follows:

Mo-li Ch’ing, the eldest, is twenty-four feet in height, with a beard the hairs of which are like copper wire. He carries a magnificent jade ring and a spear, and always fights on foot. He has also a magic sword, ‘Blue Cloud,’ on the blade of which are engraved the characters Ti, Shui, Huo, Fêng (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind). When brandished, it causes a black wind, which produces tens of thousands of spears, which pierce the bodies of men and turn them to dust. The wind is followed by a fire, which fills the air with tens of thousands of golden fiery serpents. A thick smoke also rises out of the ground, which blinds and burns men, none being able to escape.

Mo-li Hung carries in his hand an umbrella, called the Umbrella of Chaos, formed of pearls possessed of spiritual properties. Opening this marvellous implement causes the heavens and earth to be covered with thick darkness, and turning it upside down produces violent storms of wind and thunder and universal earthquakes.

Mo-li Hai holds a four-stringed guitar, the twanging of which supernaturally affects the earth, water, fire, or wind. When it is played all the world listens, and the camps of the enemy take fire.

Mo-li Shou has two whips and a panther-skin bag, the home of a creature resembling a white rat, known as Hua-hu Tiao. When at large this creature assumes the form of a white winged elephant, which devours men. He sometimes has also a snake or other man-eating creature, always ready to obey his behests. p. 122

Legend of the Diamond Kings

The legend of the Four Diamond Kings given in the Fêng shên yen i is as follows: At the time of the consolidation of the Chou dynasty in the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C., Chiang Tzŭ-ya, chief counsellor to Wên Wang, and General Huang Fei-hu were defending the town and mountain of Hsi-ch’i. The supporters of the house of Shang appealed to the four genii Mo, who lived at Chia-mêng Kuan, praying them to come to their aid. They agreed, raised an army of 100,000 celestial soldiers, and traversing towns, fields, and mountains arrived in less than a day at the north gate of Hsi-ch’i, where Mo-li Ch’ing pitched his camp and entrenched his soldiers.

Hearing of this, Huang Fei-hu hastened to warn Chiang Tzŭ-ya of the danger which threatened him. “The four great generals who have just arrived at the north gate,” he said, “are marvellously powerful genii, experts in all the mysteries of magic and use of wonderful charms. It is much to be feared that we shall not be able to resist them.”

Many fierce battles ensued. At first these went in favour of the Chin-kang, thanks to their magical weapons and especially to Mo-li Shou’s Hua-hu Tiao, who terrorized the enemy by devouring their bravest warriors.

Hua-hu Tiao devours Yang Chien

Unfortunately for the Chin-kang, the brute attacked and swallowed Yang Chien, the nephew of Yü Huang. This genie, on entering the body of the monster, rent his heart asunder and cut him in two. As he could transform himself at will, he assumed the shape of Hua-hu Tiao, and went off to Mo-li Shou, who unsuspectingly put him back into his bag. p. 123

The Four Kings held a festival to celebrate their triumph, and having drunk copiously gave themselves over to sleep. During the night Yang Chien came out of the bag, with the intention of possessing himself of the three magical weapons of the Chin-kang. But he succeeded only in carrying off the umbrella of Mo-li Hung. In a subsequent engagement No-cha, the son of Vadjrâ-pani, the God of Thunder, broke the jade ring of Mo-li Ch’ing. Misfortune followed misfortune. The Chin-kang, deprived of their magical weapons, began to lose heart. To complete their discomfiture, Huang T’ien Hua brought to the attack a matchless magical weapon. This was a spike 7½ inches long, enclosed in a silk sheath, and called ‘Heart-piercer.’ It projected so strong a ray of light that eyes were blinded by it.

Huang T’ien Hua, hard pressed by Mo-li Ch’ing, drew the mysterious spike from its sheath, and hurled it at his adversary. It entered his neck, and with a deep groan the giant fell dead.

Mo-li Hung and Mo-li Hai hastened to avenge their brother, but ere they could come within striking distance of Huang Ti’en Hua his redoubtable spike reached their hearts, and they lay prone at his feet.

The one remaining hope for the sole survivor was in Hua-hu Tiao. Mo-li Shou, not knowing that the creature had been slain, put his hand into the bag to pull him out, whereupon Yang Chien, who had re-entered the bag, bit his hand off at the wrist, so that there remained nothing but a stump of bone.

In this moment of intense agony Mo-li Shou fell an easy prey to Huang T’ien Hua, the magical spike pierced his heart, and he fell bathed in his blood. Thus perished the last of the Chin-kang. p. 124

The Three Pure Ones

Turning to the gods of Taoism, we find that the triad or trinity, already noted as forming the head of that hierarchy, consists of three Supreme Gods, each in his own Heaven. These three Heavens, the San Ch’ing, ‘Three Pure Ones’ (this name being also applied to the sovereigns ruling in them), were formed from the three airs, which are subdivisions of the one primordial air.

The first Heaven is Yü Ch’ing. In it reigns the first member of the Taoist triad. He inhabits the Jade Mountain. The entrance to his palace is named the Golden Door. He is the source of all truth, as the sun is the source of all light.

Various authorities give his name differently—Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun, or Lo Ching Hsin, and call him T’ien Pao, ‘the Treasure of Heaven,’ Some state that the name of the ruler of this first Heaven is Yü Huang, and in the popular mind he it is who occupies this supreme position. The Three Pure Ones are above him in rank, but to him, the Pearly Emperor, is entrusted the superintendence of the world. He has all the power of Heaven and earth in his hands. He is the correlative of Heaven, or rather Heaven itself.

The second Heaven, Shang Ch’ing, is ruled by the second person of the triad, named Ling-pao T’ien-tsun, or Tao Chün. No information is given as to his origin. He is the custodian of the sacred books. He has existed from the beginning of the world. He calculates time, dividing it into different epochs. He occupies the upper pole of the world, and determines the movements and interaction, or regulates the relations of the yin and the yang, the two great principles of nature.

The Taoist Triad
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The Taoist Triad

In the third Heaven, T’ai Ch’ing, the Taoists place Lao p. 125 Tzŭ, the promulgator of the true doctrine drawn up by Ling-pao T’ien-tsun. He is alternatively called Shên Pao, ‘the Treasure of the Spirits,’ and T’ai-shang Lao-chûn, ‘the Most Eminent Aged Ruler.’ Under various assumed names he has appeared as the teacher of kings and emperors, the reformer of successive generations.

This three-storied Taoist Heaven, or three Heavens, is the result of the wish of the Taoists not to be out-rivalled by the Buddhists. For Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood they substitute the Tao, or Reason, the Classics, and the Priesthood.

As regards the organization of the Taoist Heavens, Yü Huang has on his register the name of eight hundred Taoist divinities and a multitude of Immortals. These are all divided into three categories: Saints (Shêng-jên), Heroes (Chên-jên), and Immortals (Hsien-jên), occupying the three Heavens respectively in that order.

The Three Causes

Connected with Taoism, but not exclusively associated with that religion, is the worship of the Three Causes, the deities presiding over three departments of physical nature, Heaven, earth, and water. They are known by various designations: San Kuan, ‘the Three Agents’; San Yüan, ‘the Three Origins’; San Kuan Ta Ti, ‘the Three Great Emperor Agents’; and T’ai Shang San Kuan, ‘the Three Supreme Agents.’ This worship has passed through four chief phases, as follows:

The first comprises Heaven, earth, and water, T’ien, Ti, Shui, the sources of happiness, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from evil respectively. Each of these is called King-emperor. Their names, written on labels and offered to Heaven (on a mountain), earth (by burial), and p. 126 water (by immersion), are supposed to cure sickness. This idea dates from the Han dynasty, being first noted about A.D. 172.

The second, San Yüan dating from A.D. 407 under the Wei dynasty, identified the Three Agents with three dates of which they were respectively made the patrons. The year was divided into three unequal parts: the first to the seventh moon; the seventh to the tenth; and the tenth to the twelfth. Of these, the fifteenth day of the first, seventh, and tenth moons respectively became the three principal dates of these periods. Thus the Agent of Heaven became the principal patron of the first division, honoured on the fifteenth day of the first moon, and so on.

The third phase, San Kuan, resulted from the first two being found too complicated for popular favour. The San Kuan were the three sons of a man, Ch’ên Tzŭ-ch’un, who was so handsome and intelligent that the three daughters of Lung Wang, the Dragon-king, fell in love with him and went to live with him. The eldest girl was the mother of the Superior Cause, the second of the Medium Cause, and the third of the Inferior Cause. All these were gifted with supernatural powers. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun canonized them as the Three Great Emperor Agents of Heaven, earth, and water, governors of all beings, devils or gods, in the three regions of the universe. As in the first phase, the T’ien Kuan confers happiness, the Ti Kuan grants remission of sins, and the Shui Kuan delivers from evil or misfortune.

The fourth phase consisted simply in the substitution by the priests for the abstract or time-principles of the three great sovereigns of ancient times, Yao, Shun, and Yü. The literati, proud of the apotheosis of their ancient p. 127 rulers, hastened to offer incense to them, and temples, San Yüan Kung, arose in very many parts of the Empire.

A variation of this phase is the canonization, with the title of San Yüan or Three Causes, of Wu-k’o San Chên Chün, ‘the Three True Sovereigns, Guests of the Kingdom of Wu.’ They were three Censors who lived in the reign of King Li (Li Wang, 878–841 B.C.) of the Chou dynasty. Leaving the service of the Chou on account of Li’s dissolute living, they went to live in Wu, and brought victory to that state in its war with the Ch’u State, then returned to their own country, and became pillars of the Chou State under Li’s successor. They appeared to protect the Emperor Chên Tsung when he was offering the Fêng-shan sacrifices on T’ai Shan in A.D. 1008, on which occasion they were canonized with the titles of Superior, Medium, and Inferior Causes, as before, conferring upon them the regencies of Heaven, earth, and water respectively.

Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun

Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun, or the First Cause, the Highest in Heaven, generally placed at the head of the Taoist triad, is said never to have existed but in the fertile imagination of the Lao Tzŭist sectarians. According to them Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun had neither origin nor master, but is himself the cause of all beings, which is why he is called the First Cause.

As first member of the triad, and sovereign ruler of the First Heaven, Yü Ch’ing, where reign the saints, he is raised in rank above all the other gods. The name assigned to him is Lo Ching Hsin. He was born before all beginnings; his substance is imperishable; it is formed essentially of uncreated air, air a se, invisible and without p. 128 perceptible limits. No one has been able to penetrate to the beginnings of his existence. The source of all truth, he at each renovation of the worlds—that is, at each new kalpa—gives out the mysterious doctrine which confers immortality. All who reach this knowledge attain by degrees to life eternal, become refined like the spirits, or instantly become Immortals, even while upon earth.

Originally, Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun was not a member of the Taoist triad. He resided above the Three Heavens, above the Three Pure Ones, surviving the destructions and renovations of the universe, as an immovable rock in the midst of a stormy sea. He set the stars in motion, and caused the planets to revolve. The chief of his secret police was Tsao Chün, the Kitchen-god, who rendered to him an account of the good and evil deeds of each family. His executive agent was Lei Tsu, the God of Thunder, and his subordinates. The seven stars of the North Pole were the palace of his ministers, whose offices were on the various sacred mountains. Nowadays, however, Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun is generally neglected for Yü Huang.

An Avatar of P’an Ku

According to the tradition of Chin Hung, the God of T’ai Shan of the fifth generation from P’an Ku, this being, then called Yüan-shih T’ien-wang, was an avatar of P’an Ku. It came about in this wise. In remote ages there lived on the mountains an old man, Yüan-shih T’ien-wang, who used to sit on a rock and preach to the multitude. He spoke of the highest antiquity as if from personal experience. When Chin Hung asked him where he lived, he just raised his hand toward Heaven, iridescent clouds enveloped his body, and he replied: “Whoso wishes to know where I dwell must p. 129 rise to impenetrable heights.” “But how,” said Chin Hung, “was he to be found in this immense emptiness?” Two genii, Ch’ih Ching-tzŭ and Huang Lao, then descended on the summit of T’ai Shan and said: “Let us go and visit this Yüan-shih. To do so, we must cross the boundaries of the universe and pass beyond the farthest stars.” Chin Hung begged them to give him their instructions, to which he listened attentively. They then ascended the highest of the sacred peaks, and thence mounted into the heavens, calling to him from the misty heights: “If you wish to know the origin of Yüan-shih, you must pass beyond the confines of Heaven and earth, because he lives beyond the limits of the worlds. You must ascend and ascend until you reach the sphere of nothingness and of being, in the plains of the luminous shadows.”

Having reached these ethereal heights, the two genii saw a bright light, and Hsüan-hsüan Shang-jên appeared before them. The two genii bowed to do him homage and to express their gratitude. “You cannot better show your gratitude,” he replied, “than by making my doctrine known among men. You desire,” he added, “to know the history of Yüan-shih. I will tell it you. When P’an Ku had completed his work in the primitive Chaos, his spirit left its mortal envelope and found itself tossed about in empty space without any fixed support. ‘I must,’ it said, ‘get reborn in visible form; until I can go through a new birth I shall remain empty and unsettled,’ His soul, carried on the wings of the wind, reached Fu-yü T’ai. There it saw a saintly lady named T’ai Yüan, forty years of age, still a virgin, and living alone on Mount Ts’u-o. Air and variegated clouds were the sole nourishment of her vital spirits. An hermaphrodite, p. 130 at once both the active and the passive principle, she daily scaled the highest peak of the mountain to gather there the flowery quintessence of the sun and the moon. P’an Ku, captivated by her virgin purity, took advantage of a moment when she was breathing to enter her mouth in the form of a ray of light. She was enceinte for twelve years, at the end of which period the fruit of her womb came out through her spinal column. From its first moment the child could walk and speak, and its body was surrounded by a five-coloured cloud. The newly-born took the name of Yüan-shih T’ien-wang, and his mother was generally known as T’ai-yüan Shêng-mu, ‘the Holy Mother of the First Cause.’”

Yü Huang

Yü Huang means ‘the Jade Emperor,’ or ‘the Pure August One,’ jade symbolizing purity. He is also known by the name Yü-huang Shang-ti, ‘the Pure August Emperor on High.’

The history of this deity, who later received many honorific titles and became the most popular god, a very Chinese Jupiter, seems to be somewhat as follows: The Emperor Ch’êng Tsung of the Sung dynasty having been obliged in A.D. 1005 to sign a disgraceful peace with the Tunguses or Kitans, the dynasty was in danger of losing the support of the nation. In order to hoodwink the people the Emperor constituted himself a seer, and announced with great pomp that he was in direct communication with the gods of Heaven. In doing this he was following the advice of his crafty and unreliable minister Wang Ch’in-jo, who had often tried to persuade him that the pretended revelations attributed to Fu Hsi, Yü Wang, and others were only pure inventions p. 131 to induce obedience. The Emperor, having studied his part well, assembled his ministers in the tenth moon of the year 1012, and made to them the following declaration: “In a dream I had a visit from an Immortal, who brought me a letter from Yü Huang, the purport of which was as follows: ‘I have already sent you by your ancestor Chao [T’ai Tsu] two celestial missives. Now I am going to send him in person to visit you.’” A little while after his ancestor T’ai Tsu, the founder of the dynasty, came according to Yü Huang’s promise, and Ch’êng Tsung hastened to inform his ministers of it. This is the origin of Yü Huang. He was born of a fraud, and came ready-made from the brain of an emperor.

The Cask of Pearls

Fearing to be admonished for the fraud by another of his ministers, the scholar Wang Tan, the Emperor resolved to put a golden gag in his mouth. So one day, having invited him to a banquet, he overwhelmed him with flattery and made him drunk with good wine. “I would like the members of your family also to taste this wine,” he added, “so I am making you a present of a cask of it.” When Wang Tan returned home, he found the cask filled with precious pearls. Out of gratitude to the Emperor he kept silent as to the fraud, and made no further opposition to his plans, but when on his death-bed he asked that his head be shaved like a priest’s and that he be clothed in priestly robes so that he might expiate his crime of feebleness before the Emperor.

K’ang Hsi, the great Emperor of the Ch’ing dynasty, who had already declared that if it is wrong to impute deceit to a man it is still more reprehensible to impute a fraud to Heaven, stigmatized him as follows: “Wang p. 132 Tan committed two faults: the first was in showing himself a vile flatterer of his Prince during his life; the second was in becoming a worshipper of Buddha at his death.”

The Legend of Yü Huang

So much for historical record. The legend of Yü Huang relates that in ancient times there existed a kingdom named Kuang Yen Miao Lo Kuo, whose king was Ching Tê, his queen being called Pao Yüeh. Though getting on in years, the latter had no son. The Taoist priests were summoned by edict to the palace to perform their rites. They recited prayers with the object of obtaining an heir to the throne. During the ensuing night the Queen had a vision. Lao Chün appeared to her, riding a dragon, and carrying a male child in his arms. He floated down through the air in her direction. The Queen begged him to give her the child as an heir to the throne. “I am quite willing,” he said. “Here it is.” She fell on her knees and thanked him. On waking she found herself enceinte. At the end of a year the Prince was born. From an early age he showed himself compassionate and generous to the poor. On the death of his father he ascended the throne, but after reigning only a few days abdicated in favour of his chief minister, and became a hermit at P’u-ming, in Shensi, and also on Mount Hsiu Yen, in Yünnan. Having attained to perfection, he passed the rest of his days in curing sickness and saving life; and it was in the exercise of these charitable deeds that he died. The emperors Ch’êng Tsung and Hui Tsung, of the Sung dynasty, loaded him with all the various titles associated with his name at the present day.

Both Buddhists and Taoists claim him as their own, p. 133 the former identifying him with Indra, in which case Yü Huang is a Buddhist deity incorporated into the Taoist pantheon. He has also been taken to be the subject of a ‘nature myth.’ The Emperor Ching Tê, his father, is the sun, the Queen Pao Yüeh the moon, and the marriage symbolizes the rebirth of the vivifying power which clothes nature with green plants and beautiful flowers.

T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu

In modern Taoism T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu is regarded as the first of the Patriarchs and one of the most powerful genii of the sect. His master was Hung-chün Lao-tsu. He wore a red robe embroidered with white cranes, and rode a k’uei niu, a monster resembling a buffalo, with one long horn like a unicorn. His palace, the Pi Yu Kung, was situated on Mount Tzŭ Chih Yai.

This genie took the part of Chou Wang and helped him to resist Wu Wang’s armies. First, he sent his disciple To-pao Tao-jên to Chieh-p’ai Kuan. He gave him four precious swords and the plan of a fort which he was to construct and to name Chu-hsien Chên, ‘the Citadel of all the Immortals.’

To-pao Tao-jên carried out his orders, but he had to fight a battle with Kuang Ch’êng-tzŭ, and the latter, armed with a celestial seal, struck his adversary so hard that he fell to the ground and had to take refuge in flight.

T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu came to the defence of his disciple and to restore the morale of his forces. Unfortunately, a posse of gods arrived to aid Wu Wang’s powerful general, Chiang Tzŭ-ya. The first who attacked T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu was Lao Tzŭ, who struck him several times with his stick. Then came Chun T’i, armed with his cane. The buffalo of T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu p. 134 stamped him under foot, and Chun T’i was thrown to the earth, and only just had time to rise quickly and mount into the air amid a great cloud of dust.

There could be no doubt that the fight was going against T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu; to complete his discomfiture Jan-têng Tao-jên cleft the air and fell upon him unexpectedly. With a violent blow of his ‘Fix-sea’ staff he cast him down and compelled him to give up the struggle.

T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu then prepared plans for a new fortified camp beyond T’ung Kuan, and tried to take the offensive again, but again Lao Tzŭ stopped him with a blow of his stick. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun wounded his shoulder with his precious stone Ju-i, and Chun-t’i Tao-jên waved his ‘Branch of the Seven Virtues.’ Immediately the magic sword of T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu was reduced to splinters, and he saved himself only by flight.

Hung-chün Lao-tsu, the master of these three genii, seeing his three beloved disciples in the mêlée, resolved to make peace between them. He assembled all three in a tent in Chiang Tzŭ-ya’s camp, made them kneel before him, then reproached T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu at length for having taken the part of the tyrant Chou, and recommended them in future to live in harmony. After finishing his speech, he produced three pills, and ordered each of the genii to swallow one. When they had done so, Hung-chün Lao-tsu said to them: “I have given you these pills to ensure an inviolable truce among you. Know that the first who entertains a thought of discord in his heart will find that the pill will explode in his stomach and cause his instant death.”

Hung-chün Lao-tsu then took T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu away with him on his cloud to Heaven. p. 135

Immortals, Heroes, Saints

An Immortal, according to Taoist lore, is a solitary man of the mountains. He appears to die, but does not. After ‘death’ his body retains all the qualities of the living. The body or corpse is for him only a means of transition, a phase of metamorphosis—a cocoon or chrysalis, the temporary abode of the butterfly.

To reach this state a hygienic regimen both of the body and mind must be observed. All luxury, greed, and ambition must be avoided. But negation is not enough. In the system of nourishment all the elements which strengthen the essence of the constituent yin and yang principles must be found by means of medicine, chemistry, gymnastic exercises, etc. When the maximum vital force has been acquired the means of preserving it and keeping it from the attacks of death and disease must be discovered; in a word, he must spiritualize himself—render himself completely independent of matter. All the experiments have for their object the storing in the pills of immortality the elements necessary for the development of the vital force and for the constitution of a new spiritual and super-humanized being. In this ascending perfection there are several grades:

(1) The Immortal (Hsien). The first stage consists in bringing about the birth of the superhuman in the ascetic’s person, which reaching perfection leaves the earthly body, like the grasshopper its sheath. This first stage attained, the Immortal travels at will throughout the universe, enjoys all the advantages of perfect health without dreading disease or death, eats and drinks copiously—nothing is wanting to complete his happiness.

(2) The Perfect Man, or Hero (Chên-jên). The second stage is a higher one. The whole body is spiritualized. p. 136 It has become so subtile, so spiritual, that it can fly in the air. Borne on the wings of the wind, seated on the clouds of Heaven, it travels from one world to another and fixes its habitation in the stars. It is freed from all laws of matter, but is, however, not completely changed into pure spirit.

(3) The Saint (Shêng-jên). The third stage is that of the superhuman beings or saints. They are those who have attained to extraordinary intelligence and virtue.

The God of the Immortals

Mu Kung or Tung Wang Kung, the God of the Immortals, was also called I Chün Ming and Yü Huang Chün, the Prince Yü Huang.

The primitive vapour congealed, remained inactive for a time, and then produced living beings, beginning with the formation of Mu Kung, the purest substance of the Eastern Air, and sovereign of the active male principle yang and of all the countries of the East. His palace is in the misty heavens, violet clouds form its dome, blue clouds its walls. Hsien T’ung, ‘the Immortal Youth,’ and Yü Nü, ‘the Jade Maiden,’ are his servants. He keeps the register of all the Immortals, male and female.

Hsi Wang Mu

Hsi Wang Mu was formed of the pure quintessence of the Western Air, in the legendary continent of Shên Chou. She is often called the Golden Mother of the Tortoise.

Her family name is variously given as Hou, Yang, and Ho. Her own name was Hui, and first name Wan-chin. She had nine sons and twenty-four daughters.

Hsi Wang Mu
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Hsi Wang Mu

As Mu Kung, formed of the Eastern Air, is the active p. 137 principle of the male air and sovereign of the Eastern Air, so Hsi Wang Mu, born of the Western Air, is the passive or female principle (yin) and sovereign of the Western Air. These two principles, co-operating, engender Heaven and earth and all the beings of the universe, and thus become the two principles of life and of the subsistence of all that exists. She is the head of the troop of genii dwelling on the K’un-lun Mountains (the Taoist equivalent of the Buddhist Sumêru), and from time to time holds intercourse with favoured imperial votaries.

The Feast of Peaches

Hsi Wang Mu’s palace is situated in the high mountains of the snowy K’un-lun. It is 1000 li (about 333 miles) in circuit; a rampart of massive gold surrounds its battlements of precious stones. Its right wing rises on the edge of the Kingfishers’ River. It is the usual abode of the Immortals, who are divided into seven special categories according to the colour of their garments—red, blue, black, violet, yellow, green, and ‘nature-colour.’ There is a marvellous fountain built of precious stones, where the periodical banquet of the Immortals is held. This feast is called P’an-t’ao Hui, ‘the Feast of Peaches.’ It takes place on the borders of the Yao Ch’ih, Lake of Gems, and is attended by both male and female Immortals. Besides several superfine meats, they are served with bears’ paws, monkeys’ lips, dragons’ liver, phoenix marrow, and peaches gathered in the orchard, endowed with the mystic virtue of conferring longevity on all who have the good luck to taste them. It was by these peaches that the date of the banquet was fixed. The tree put forth leaves once every three p. 138 thousand years, and it required three thousand years after that for the fruit to ripen. These were Hsi Wang Mu’s birthdays, when all the Immortals assembled for the great feast, “the occasion being more festive than solemn, for there was music on invisible instruments, and songs not from mortal tongues.”

The First Taoist Pope

Chang Tao-ling, the first Taoist pope, was born in A.D. 35, in the reign of the Emperor Kuang Wu Ti of the Han dynasty. His birthplace is variously given as the T’ien-mu Shan, ‘Eye of Heaven Mountain,’ in Lin-an Hsien, in Chekiang, and Fêng-yang Fu, in Anhui. He devoted himself wholly to study and meditation, declining all offers to enter the service of the State. He preferred to take up his abode in the mountains of Western China, where he persevered in the study of alchemy and in cultivating the virtues of purity and mental abstraction. From the hands of Lao Tzŭ he received supernaturally a mystic treatise, by following the instructions in which he was successful in his search for the elixir of life.

One day when he was engaged in experimenting with the ‘Dragon-tiger elixir’ a spiritual being appeared to him and said: “On Po-sung Mountain is a stone house in which are concealed the writings of the Three Emperors of antiquity and a canonical work. By obtaining these you may ascend to Heaven, if you undergo the course of discipline they prescribe.”

Chang Tao-ling
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Chang Tao-ling

Chang Tao-ling found these works, and by means of them obtained the power of flying, of hearing distant sounds, and of leaving his body. After going through a thousand days of discipline, and receiving instruction from a goddess, who taught him to walk about among p. 139 the stars, he proceeded to fight with the king of the demons, to divide mountains and seas, and to command the wind and thunder. All the demons fled before him. On account of the prodigious slaughter of demons by this hero the wind and thunder were reduced to subjection, and various divinities came with eager haste to acknowledge their faults. In nine years he gained the power to ascend to Heaven.

The Founder of Modern Taoism

Chang Tao-ling may rightly be considered as the true founder of modern Taoism. The recipes for the pills of immortality contained in the mysterious books, and the invention of talismans for the cure of all sorts of maladies, not only exalted him to the high position he has since occupied in the minds of his numerous disciples, but enabled them in turn to exploit successfully this new source of power and wealth. From that time the Taoist sect began to specialize in the art of healing. Protecting or curing talismans bearing the Master’s seal were purchased for enormous sums. It is thus seen that he was after all a deceiver of the people, and unbelievers or rival partisans of other sects have dubbed him a ‘rice-thief’—which perhaps he was.

He is generally represented as clothed in richly decorated garments, brandishing with his right hand his magic sword, holding in his left a cup containing the draught of immortality, and riding a tiger which in one paw grasps his magic seal and with the others tramples down the five venomous creatures: lizard, snake, spider, toad, and centipede. Pictures of him with these accessories are pasted up in houses on the fifth day of the fifth moon to forfend calamity and sickness. p. 140

The Peach-gathering

It is related of him that, not wishing to ascend to Heaven too soon, he partook of only half of the pill of immortality, dividing the other half among several of his admirers, and that he had at least two selves or personalities, one of which used to disport itself in a boat on a small lake in front of his house. The other self would receive his visitors, entertaining them with food and drink and instructive conversation. On one occasion this self said to them: “You are unable to quit the world altogether as I can, but by imitating my example in the matter of family relations you could procure a medicine which would prolong your lives by several centuries. I have given the crucible in which Huang Ti prepared the draught of immortality to my disciple Wang Ch’ang. Later on, a man will come from the East, who also will make use of it. He will arrive on the seventh day of the first moon.”

Exactly on that day there arrived from the East a man named Chao Shêng, who was the person indicated by Chang Tao-ling. He was recognized by a manifestation of himself he had caused to appear in advance of his coming. Chang then led all his disciples, to the number of three hundred, to the highest peak of the Yün-t’ai. Below them they saw a peach-tree growing near a pointed rock, stretching out its branches like arms above a fathomless abyss. It was a large tree, covered with ripe fruit. Chang said to his disciples: “I will communicate a spiritual formula to the one among you who will dare to gather the fruit of that tree.” They all leaned over to look, but each declared the feat to be impossible. Chao Shêng alone had the courage to rush out to the point of the rock and up the tree stretching p. 141 out into space. With firm foot he stood and gathered the peaches, placing them in the folds of his cloak, as many as it would hold, but when he wished to climb back up the precipitous slope, his hands slipped on the smooth rock, and all his attempts were in vain. Accordingly, he threw the peaches, three hundred and two in all, one by one up to Chang Tao-ling, who distributed them. Each disciple ate one, as also did Chang, who reserved the remaining one for Chao Shêng, whom he helped to climb up again. To do this Chang extended his arm to a length of thirty feet, all present marvelling at the miracle. After Chao had eaten his peach Chang stood on the edge of the precipice, and said with a laugh: “Chao Shêng was brave enough to climb out to that tree and his foot never tripped. I too will make the attempt. If I succeed I will have a big peach as a reward.” Having spoken thus, he leapt into space, and alighted in the branches of the peach-tree. Wang Ch’ang and Chao Shêng also jumped into the tree and stood one on each side of him. There Chang communicated to them the mysterious formula. Three days later they returned to their homes; then, having made final arrangements, they repaired once more to the mountain peak, whence, in the presence of the other disciples, who followed them with their eyes until they had completely disappeared from view, all three ascended to Heaven in broad daylight.

Chang Tao-ling’s Great Power

The name of Chang Tao-ling, the Heavenly Teacher, is a household word in China. He is on earth the Vicegerent of the Pearly Emperor in Heaven, and the Commander-in-Chief of the hosts of Taoism. He, the chief of the wizards, the ‘true [i.e. ideal] man,’ as he is called, p. 142 wields an immense spiritual power throughout the land. The present pope boasts of an unbroken line for three-score generations. His family obtained possession of the Dragon-tiger Mountain in Kiangsi about A.D. 1000. “This personage,” says a pre-Republican writer, “assumes a state which mimics the imperial. He confers buttons like an emperor. Priests come to him from various cities and temples to receive promotion, whom he invests with titles and presents with seals of office.”

Kings of Heaven

The Four Kings of Heaven, Ssŭ Ta T’ien-wang, reside on Mount Sumêru (Hsü-mi Shan), the centre of the universe. It is 3,360,000 li—that is, about a million miles—high.  9 Its eastern slope is of gold, its western of silver, its south-eastern of crystal, and its north-eastern of agate. The Four Kings appear to be the Taoist reflection of the four Chin-kang of Buddhism already noticed. Their names are Li, Ma, Chao, and Wên. They are represented as holding a pagoda, sword, two swords, and spiked club respectively. Their worship appears to be due to their auspicious appearance and aid on various critical occasions in the dynastic history of the T’ang and Sung Periods.

T’ai I

Temples are found in various parts dedicated to T’ai I, the Great One, or Great Unity. When Emperor Wu Ti (140–86 B.C.) of the Han dynasty was in search of the secret of immortality, and various suggestions had proved unsatisfactory, a Taoist priest, Miao Chi, told the Emperor that his want of success was due to his omission to sacrifice p. 143 to T’ai I, the first of the celestial spirits, quoting the classical precedent of antiquity found in the Book of History. The Emperor, believing his word, ordered the Grand Master of Sacrifices to re-establish this worship at the capital. He followed carefully the prescriptions of Miao Chi. This enraged the literati, who resolved to ruin him. One day, when the Emperor was about to drink one of his potions, one of the chief courtiers seized the cup and drank the contents himself. The Emperor was about to have him slain, when he said: “Your Majesty’s order is unnecessary; if the potion confers immortality, I cannot be killed; if, on the other hand, it does not, your Majesty should recompense me for disproving the pretensions of the Taoist priest.” The Emperor, however, was not convinced.

One account represents T’ai I as having lived in the time of Shên Nung, the Divine Husbandman, who visited him to consult with him on the subjects of diseases and fortune. He was Hsien Yüan’s medical preceptor. His medical knowledge was handed down to future generations. He was one of those who, with the Immortals, was invited to the great Peach Assembly of the Western Royal Mother.

As the spirit of the star T’ai I he resides in the Eastern Palace, listening for the cries of sufferers in order to save them. For this purpose he assumes numberless forms in various regions. With a boat of lotus-flowers of nine colours he ferries men over to the shore of salvation. Holding in his hand a willow-branch, he scatters from it the dew of the doctrine.

T’ai I is variously represented as the Ruler of the Five Celestial Sovereigns, Cosmic Matter before it congealed into concrete shapes, the Triune Spirit of Heaven, earth, p. 144 and T’ai I as three separate entities, an unknown Spirit, the Spirit of the Pole Star, etc., but practically the Taoists confine their T’ai I to T’ai-i Chên-jên, in which Perfect Man they personify the abstract philosophical notions.  10

Goddess of the North Star

Tou Mu, the Bushel Mother, or Goddess of the North Star, worshipped by both Buddhists and Taoists, is the Indian Maritchi, and was made a stellar divinity by the Taoists. She is said to have been the mother of the nine Jên Huang or Human Sovereigns of fabulous antiquity, who succeeded the lines of Celestial and Terrestrial Sovereigns. She occupies in the Taoist religion the same relative position as Kuan Yin, who may be said to be the heart of Buddhism. Having attained to a profound knowledge of celestial mysteries, she shone with heavenly light, could cross the seas, and pass from the sun to the moon. She also had a kind heart for the sufferings of humanity. The King of Chou Yü, in the north, married her on hearing of her many virtues. They had nine sons. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun came to earth to invite her, her husband, and nine sons to enjoy the delights of Heaven. He placed her in the palace Tou Shu, the Pivot of the Pole, because all the other stars revolve round it, and gave her the title of Queen of the Doctrine of Primitive Heaven. Her nine sons have their palaces in the neighbouring stars.

Tou Mu, Goddess of the North Star
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Tou Mu, Goddess of the North Star

Tou Mu wears the Buddhist crown, is seated on a lotus throne, has three eyes, eighteen arms, and holds various precious objects in her numerous hands, such as a bow, p. 145 spear, sword, flag, dragon’s head, pagoda, five chariots, sun’s disk, moon’s disk, etc. She has control of the books of life and death, and all who wish to prolong their days worship at her shrine. Her devotees abstain from animal food on the third and twenty-seventh day of every month.

Of her sons, two are the Northern and Southern Bushels; the latter, dressed in red, rules birth; the former, in white, rules death. “A young Esau once found them on the South Mountain, under a tree, playing chess, and by an offer of venison his lease of life was extended from nineteen to ninety-nine years.”

Snorter and Blower

At the time of the overthrow of the Shang and establishment of the Chou dynasty in 1122 B.C. there lived two marshals, Chêng Lung and Ch’ên Ch’i. These were Hêng and Ha, the Snorter and Blower respectively.

The former was the chief superintendent of supplies for the armies of the tyrant emperor Chou, the Nero of China. The latter was in charge of the victualling department of the same army.

From his master, Tu O, the celebrated Taoist magician of the K’un-lun Mountains, Hêng acquired a marvellous power. When he snorted, his nostrils, with a sound like that of a bell, emitted two white columns of light, which destroyed his enemies, body and soul. Thus through him the Chou gained numerous victories. But one day he was captured, bound, and taken to the general of Chou. His life was spared, and he was made general superintendent of army stores as well as generalissimo of five army corps. Later on he found himself face to face with the Blower. The latter had learnt from the magician p. 146 how to store in his chest a supply of yellow gas which, when he blew it out, annihilated anyone whom it struck. By this means he caused large gaps to be made in the ranks of the enemy.

Being opposed to each other, the one snorting out great streaks of white light, the other blowing streams of yellow gas, the combat continued until the Blower was wounded in the shoulder by No-cha, of the army of Chou, and pierced in the stomach with a spear by Huang Fei-hu, Yellow Flying Tiger.

The Snorter in turn was slain in this fight by Marshal Chin Ta-shêng, ‘Golden Big Pint,’ who was an ox-spirit and endowed with the mysterious power of producing in his entrails the celebrated niu huang, ox-yellow, or bezoar. Facing the Snorter, he spat in his face, with a noise like thunder, a piece of bezoar as large as a rice-bowl. It struck him on the nose and split his nostrils. He fell to the earth, and was immediately cut in two by a blow from his victor’s sword.

After the Chou dynasty had been definitely established Chiang Tzŭ-ya canonized the two marshals Hêng and Ha, and conferred on them the offices of guardians of the Buddhist temple gates, where their gigantic images may be seen.

Blue Dragon and White Tiger

The functions discharged by Hêng and Ha at the gates of Buddhist temples are in Taoist temples discharged by Blue Dragon and White Tiger.

The former, the Spirit of the Blue Dragon Star, was Têng Chiu-kung, one of the chief generals of the last emperor of the Yin dynasty. He had a son named Têng Hsiu, and a daughter named Ch’an-yü. p. 147

The army of Têng Chiu-kung was camped at San-shan Kuan, when he received orders to proceed to the battle then taking place at Hsi Ch’i. There, in standing up to No-cha and Huang Fei-hu, he had his left arm broken by the former’s magic bracelet, but, fortunately for him, his subordinate, T’u Hsing-sun, a renowned magician, gave him a remedy which quickly healed the fracture.

His daughter then came on the scene to avenge her father. She had a magic weapon, the Five-fire Stone, which she hurled full in the face of Yang Chien. But the Immortal was not wounded; on the other hand, his celestial dog jumped at Ch’an-yü and bit her neck, so that she was obliged to flee. T’u Hsing-sun, however, healed the wound.

After a banquet, Têng Chiu-kung promised his daughter in marriage to T’u Hsing-sun if he would gain him the victory at Hsi Ch’i. Chiang Tzŭ-ya then persuaded T’u’s magic master, Chü Liu-sun, to call his disciple over to his camp, where he asked him why he was fighting against the new dynasty. “Because,” he replied, “Chiu-kung has promised me his daughter in marriage as a reward of success.” Chiang Tzŭ-ya thereupon promised to obtain the bride, and sent a force to seize her. As a result of the fighting that ensued, Chiu-kung was beaten, and retreated in confusion, leaving Ch’an-yü in the hands of the victors. During the next few days the marriage was celebrated with great ceremony in the victor’s camp. According to custom, the bride returned for some days to her father’s house, and while there she earnestly exhorted Chiu-kung to submit. Following her advice, he went over to Chiang Tzŭ-ya’s party.

In the ensuing battles he fought valiantly on the side of his former enemy, and killed many famous warriors, p. 148 but he was eventually attacked by the Blower, from whose mouth a column of yellow gas struck him, throwing him from his steed. He was made prisoner, and executed by order of General Ch’iu Yin. Chiang Tzŭ-ya conferred on him the kingdom of the Blue Dragon Star.

The Spirit of the White Tiger Star is Yin Ch’êng-hsiu. His father, Yin P’o-pai, a high courtier of the tyrant Chou Wang, was sent to negotiate peace with Chiang Tzŭ-ya, but was seized and put to death by Marquis Chiang Wên-huan. His son, attempting to avenge his father’s murder, was pierced by a spear, and his head was cut off and carried in triumph to Chiang Tzŭ-ya.

As compensation he was, though somewhat tardily, canonized as the Spirit of the White Tiger Star.

Apotheosized Philosophers

The philosophers Lieh Tzŭ, Huai-nan Tzŭ, Chuang Tzŭ, Mo Tzŭ, etc., have also been apotheosized. Nothing very remarkable is related of them. Most of them had several reincarnations and possessed supernatural powers. The second, who was a king, when taken by the Eight Immortals to the genii’s Heaven forgot now and then to address them as superiors, and but for their intercession with Yü Ti, the Pearly Emperor, would have been reincarnated. In order to humiliate himself, he thereafter called himself Huai-nan Tzŭ, ‘the Sage of the South of the Huai.’ The third, Chuang Tzŭ, Chuang Shêng, or Chuang Chou, was a disciple of Lao Tzŭ. Chuang Tzŭ was in the habit of sleeping during the day, and at night would transform himself into a butterfly, which fluttered gaily over the flowers in the garden. On waking, he would still feel the sensation of flying in his shoulders. p. 149 On asking Lao Tzŭ the reason for this, he was told: “Formerly you were a white butterfly which, having partaken of the quintessence of flowers and of the yin and the yang, should have been immortalized; but one day you stole some peaches and flowers in Wang Mu Niang-niang’s garden. The guardian of the garden slew you, and that is how you came to be reincarnated.” At this time he was fifty years of age.

Fanning the Grave

One of the tales associated with him describes how he saw a young woman in mourning vigorously fanning a newly made grave. On his asking her the reason of this strange conduct, she replied: “I am doing this because my husband begged me to wait until the earth on his tomb was dry before I remarried!” Chuang Tzŭ offered to help her, and as soon as he waved the fan once the earth was dry. The young widow thanked him and departed.

On his return home, Chuang Shêng related this incident to his wife. She expressed astonishment at such conduct on the part of a wife. “There’s nothing to be surprised at,” rejoined the husband; “that’s how things go in this world.” Seeing that he was poking fun at her, she protested angrily. Some little time after this Chuang Shêng died. His wife, much grieved, buried him.

Husband and Wife

A few days later a young man named Ch’u Wang-sun arrived with the intention, as he said, of placing himself under the instruction of Chuang Shêng. When he heard that he was dead he went and performed prostrations before his tomb, and afterward took up his abode in an p. 150 empty room, saying that he wished to study. After half a month had elapsed, the widow asked an old servant who had accompanied Wang-sun if the young man was married. On his replying in the negative, she requested the old servant to propose a match between them. Wang-sun made some objections, saying that people would criticize their conduct. “Since my husband is dead, what can they say?” replied the widow. She then put off her mourning-garments and prepared for the wedding.

Wang-sun took her to the grave of her husband, and said to her: “The gentleman has returned to life!” She looked at Wang-sun and recognized the features of her husband. She was so overwhelmed with shame that she hanged herself. Chuang Shêng buried her in an empty tomb, and then began to sing.

He burnt his house, went away to P’u-shui, in Hupei, and occupied himself in fishing. From there he went on to Chung-t’iao Shan, where he met Fêng Hou and her teacher Hsüan Nü, the Mother of Heaven. In their company he visited the palaces of the stars. One day, when he was attending a banquet at the palace of Wang-mu, Shang Ti gave him as his kingdom the planet Jupiter, and assigned to him as his palace the ancient abode of Mao Mêng, the stellar god reincarnated during the Chou dynasty. He had not yet returned, and had left his palace empty. Shang Ti had cautioned him never to absent himself without his permission.

Canonized Generalissimos

A large number of military men also have been canonized as celestial generalissimos. A few will serve as examples of the rest. p. 151

The Three Musical Brothers

There were three brothers: T’ien Yüan-shuai, the eldest; T’ien Hung-i, the second; and T’ien Chih-piao, the youngest. They were all musicians of unsurpassed talent.

In the K’ai-yüan Period (A.D. 713–42) the Emperor Hsüan Tsung, of the T’ang dynasty, appointed them his music masters. At the sound of their wonderful flute the clouds in the sky stopped in their courses; the harmony of their songs caused the odoriferous la mei flower to open in winter. They excelled also in songs and dances.

The Emperor fell sick. He saw in a dream the three brothers accompanying their singing on a mandolin and violin. The harmony of their songs charmed his ear, and on waking he found himself well again. Out of gratitude for this benefit he conferred on each the title of marquis.

The Grand Master of the Taoists was trying to stay the ravages of a pestilence, but he could not conquer the devils which caused it. Under these circumstances he appealed to the three brothers and asked their advice as to what course to adopt. T’ien Yüan-shuai had a large boat built, called ‘Spirit-boat.’ He assembled in it a million spirits, and ordered them to beat drums. On hearing this tumult all the demons of the town came out to listen. T’ien Yüan-shuai, seizing the opportunity, captured them all and, with the help of the Grand Master, expelled them from the town.

Besides the canonization of the three T’ien brothers, all the members of their families received posthumous titles. p. 152

The Dragon-boat Festival

This is said to be the origin of the dragon-boats which are to be seen on all the waterways of China on the fifth day of the fifth moon.  11 The Festival of the Dragon-boats, held on that day, was instituted in memory of the statesman-poet Ch’ü Yüan (332–296 B.C.), who drowned himself in the Mi-lo River, an affluent of the Tung-t’ing Lake, after having been falsely accused by one of the petty princes of the State. The people, out of pity for the unfortunate courtier, sent out these boats in search of his body.

Chiang Tzŭ-ya

In the wars which resulted in the overthrow of the tyrant Chou Wang and his dynasty and the establishment of the great Chou dynasty, the most influential generalissimo was Chiang Tzŭ-ya. His family name was Chiang, and his own name Shang, but owing to his descent from one of the ministers of the ancient King Yao, whose heirs owned the fief of Lü, the family came to be called by that name, and he himself was known as Lü Shang. His honorific title was T’ai Kung Wang, ‘Hope of T’ai Kung,’ given him by Wên Wang, who recognized in the person of Chiang Tzŭ-ya the wise minister whom his father T’ai Kung had caused him to expect before his death.

The Battle of Mu Yeh

Chiang Tzŭ-ya was originally in the service of the tyrant Chou Wang, but transferred his services to the Chou cause, and by his wonderful skill enabled that house finally to gain the victory. The decisive battle p. 153 took place at Mu Yeh, situated to the south of Wei-hui Fu, in 1122 B.C. The soldiers of Yin, 700,000 in number, were defeated, and Chou, the tyrant, shut himself up in his magnificent palace, set it alight, and was burned alive with all his possessions. For this achievement Chiang Tzŭ-ya was granted by Wu Wang the title of Father and Counsellor, and was appointed Prince of Ch’i, with perpetual succession to his descendants.

A Legend of Chiang Tzŭ-ya

The Feng shên yen i contains many chapters describing in detail the various battles which resulted in the overthrow of the last tyrant of the Shang dynasty and the establishment of the illustrious Chou dynasty on the throne of China. This legend and the following one are epitomized from that work.

No-cha defeats Chang Kuei-fang

The redoubtable No-cha having, by means of his Heaven-and-earth Bracelet, vanquished Fêng Lin, a star-god and subordinate officer of Chang Kuei-fang, in spite of the black smoke-clouds which he blew out of his nostrils, the defeated warrior fled and sought the aid of his chief, who fought No-cha in some thirty to forty encounters without succeeding in dislodging him from his Wind-fire Wheel, which enabled him to move about rapidly and to perform prodigious feats, such as causing hosts of silver flying dragons like clouds of snow to descend upon his enemy. During one of these fights No-cha heard his name called three times, but paid no heed. Finally, with his Heaven-and-earth Bracelet he broke Chang Kuei-fang’s left arm, following this up by shooting out some dazzling rays of light which knocked him off his horse. p. 154

When he returned to the city to report his victory to Tzŭ-ya, the latter asked him if during the battle Kuei-fang had called his name. “Yes,” replied No-cha, “he called, but I took no heed of him.” “When Kuei-fang calls,” said Tzŭ-ya, “the hun and the p’o [anima and umbra] become separated, and so the body falls apart.” “But,” replied No-cha, “I had changed myself into a lotus-flower, which has neither hun nor p’o, so he could not succeed in getting me off my magic wheel.”

Tzŭ-ya goes to K’un-lun

Tzŭ-ya, however, still uncertain in mind about the finality of No-cha’s victories, went to consult Wu Wang (whose death had not yet taken place at this time). After the interview Tzŭ-ya informed Wu Wang of his wish to visit K’un-lun Mountain. Wu Wang warned him of the danger of leaving the kingdom with the enemy so near the capital; but Tzŭ-ya obtained his consent by saying he would be absent only three days at most. So he gave instructions regarding the defence to No-cha, and went off in his spirit chariot to K’un-lun. On his arrival at the Unicorn Precipice he was much enraptured with the beautiful scenery, the colours, flowers, trees, bridges, birds, deer, apes, blue lions, white elephants, etc., all of which seemed to make earth surpass Heaven in loveliness.

He receives the List of Immortals

From the Unicorn Precipice he went on to the Jade Palace of Abstraction. Here he was presented to Yüan-shih. From him he received the List of Promotions to Immortals, which Nan-chi Hsien-wêng, ‘Ancient Immortal of the South Pole,’ had brought, and was told to go and erect a Fêng Shên T’ai (Spirits’ Promotion Terrace) p. 155 on which to exhibit it. Yüan-shih also warned him that if anyone called him while he was on the way he was to be most careful not to answer. On reaching the Unicorn Precipice on his way back, he heard some one call: “Chiang Tzŭ-ya!” This happened three times without his paying any heed. Then the voice was heard to say: “Now that you are Prime Minister, how devoid of feeling and forgetful of bygone benefits you must be not to remember one who studied with you in the Jade Palace of Abstraction!” Tzŭ-ya could not but turn his head and look. He then saw that it was Shên Kung-pao. He said: “Brother, I did not know it was you who were calling me, and I did not heed you as Shih-tsun told me on no account to reply.” Shên Kung-pao said: “What is that you hold in your hand?” He told him it was the List of Promotions to Immortals. Shên Kung-pao then tried to entice Tzŭ-ya from his allegiance to Chou. Among Shên’s tactics was that of convincing Tzŭ-ya of the superiority of the magical arts at the disposal of the supporters of Chou Wang. “You,” he said, “can drain the sea, change the hills, and suchlike things, but what are those compared with my powers, who can take off my head, make it mount into space, travel 10,000,000 li, and return to my neck just as complete as before and able to speak? Burn your List of Promotions to Immortals and come with me.” Tzŭ-ya, thinking that a head which could travel 10,000,000 li and be the same as before was exceedingly rare, said: “Brother, you take your head off, and if in reality it can do as you say, rise into space and return and be as before, I shall be willing to burn the List of Promotions to Immortals and return with you to Chao Ko.” Shên Kung-pao said: “You will not go back on your word?” p. 156 Tzŭ-ya said: “When your elder brother has spoken his word is as unchangeable as Mount T’ai, How can there be any going back on my word?”

The Soaring Head

Shên Kung-pao then doffed his Taoist cap, seized his sword, with his left hand firmly grasped the blue thread binding his hair, and with his right cut off his head. His body did not fall down. He then took his head and threw it up into space. Tzŭ-ya gazed with upturned face as it continued to rise, and was sorely puzzled. But the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole had kept a watch on the proceedings. He said: “Tzŭ-ya is a loyal and honest man; it looks as if he has been deceived by this charlatan.” He ordered White Crane Youth to assume quickly the form of a crane and fetch Shên Kung-pao’s head.

The Ancient Immortal saves the Situation

Tzŭ-ya was still gazing upward when he felt a slap on his back and, turning round, saw that it was the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole. Tzŭ-ya quickly asked: “My elder brother, why have you returned?” Hsien-wêng said: “You are a fool. Shên Kung-pao is a man of unholy practices. These few small tricks of his you take as realities. But if the head does not return to the neck within an hour and three-quarters the blood will coagulate and he will die. Shih-tsun ordered you not to reply to anyone; why did you not hearken to his words? From the Jade Palace of Abstraction I saw you speaking together, and knew you had promised to burn the List of Promotions to Immortals. So I ordered White Crane Youth to bring me the head. After an hour and three-quarters Shên Kung-pao will be recompensed.”

Chiang Tzŭ-ya at K’un-lun
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Chiang Tzŭ-ya at K’un-lun

p. 157

Tzŭ-ya said: “My elder brother, since you know all you can pardon him. In the Taoist heart there is no place where mercy cannot be exercised. Remember the many years during which he has faithfully followed the Path.”

Eventually the Ancient Immortal was persuaded, but in the meantime Shên Kung-pao, finding that his head did not return, became very much troubled in mind. In an hour and three-quarters the blood would stop flowing and he would die. However, Tzŭ-ya having succeeded in his intercession with the Ancient Immortal, the latter signed to White Crane Youth, who was flying in space with the head in his beak, to let it drop. He did so, but when it reached the neck it was facing backward. Shên Kung-pao quickly put up his hand, took hold of an ear, and turned his head the right way round. He was then able to open his eyes, when he saw the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole. The latter arraigned him in a loud voice saying: “You as-good-as-dead charlatan, who by means of corrupt tricks try to deceive Tzŭ-ya and make him burn the List of Immortals and help Chou Wang against Chou, what do you mean by all this? You should be taken to the Jade Palace of Abstraction to be punished!”

Shên Kung-pao, ashamed, could not reply; mounting his tiger, he made off; but as he left he hurled back a threat that the Chou would yet have their white bones piled mountains high at Hsi Ch’i. Subsequently Tzŭ-ya, carefully preserving the precious List, after many adventures succeeded in building the Fêng Shên T’ai, and posted the List up on it. Having accomplished his mission, he returned in time to resist the capture of Hsi Ch’i by Chang Kuei-fang, whose troops were defeated with great slaughter. p. 158

Ch’iung Hsiao’s Magic Scissors

In another of the many conflicts between the two rival states Lao Tzŭ entered the battle, whereupon Ch’iung Hsiao, a goddess who fought for the house of Shang (Chou), hurled into the air her gold scaly-dragon scissors. As these slowly descended, opening and closing in a most ominous manner, Lao Tzŭ waved the sleeve of his jacket and they fell into the sea and became absolutely motionless. Many similar tricks were used by the various contestants. The Gold Bushel of Chaotic Origin succumbed to the Wind-fire Sphere, and so on. Ch’iung Hsiao resumed the attack with some magic two-edged swords, but was killed by a blow from White Crane Youth’s Three-precious Jade Sceptre, hurled at her by Lao Tzŭ’s orders. Pi Hsiao, her sister, attempted to avenge her death, but Yüan-shih, producing from his sleeve a magical box, threw it into the air and caught Pi Hsiao in it. When it was opened it was found that she had melted into blood and water.

Chiang Tzŭ-ya defeats Wên Chung

After this Lao Tzŭ rallied many of the skilful spirits to help Chiang Tzŭ-ya in his battle with Wên Chung, providing them with the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole’s Sand-blaster and an earth-conquering light which enabled them to travel a thousand li in a day. From the hot sand used the contest became known as the Red Sand Battle. Jan Têng, on P’êng-lai Mountain, in consultation with Tzŭ-ya, also arranged the plan of battle.

The Red Sand Battle

The fight began with a challenge from the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole to Chang Shao. The latter, p. 159 riding his deer, dashed into the fray, and aimed a terrific blow with his sword at Hsien-wêng’s head, but White Crane Youth warded it off with his Three-precious Jade Sceptre. Chang then produced a two-edged sword and renewed the attack, but, being disarmed, dismounted from his deer and threw several handfuls of hot sand at Hsien-wêng. The latter, however, easily fanned them away with his Five-fire Seven-feathers Fan, rendering them harmless. Chang then fetched a whole bushel of the hot sand and scattered it over the enemy, but Hsien-wêng counteracted the menace by merely waving his fan. White Crane Youth struck Chang Shao with his jade sceptre, knocking him off his horse, and then dispatched him with his two-edged sword.

After this battle Wu Wang was found to be already dead. Jan Têng on learning this ordered Lei Chên-tzŭ to take the corpse to Mount P’êng and wash it. He then dissolved a pill in water and poured the solution into Wu Wang’s mouth, whereupon he revived and was escorted back to his palace.

Further Fighting

Preparations were then made for resuming the attack on Wên Chung. While the latter was consulting with Ts’ai-yün Hsien-tzŭ and Han Chih-hsien, he heard the sound of the Chou guns and the thunder of their troops. Wên Chung, mounting his black unicorn, galloped like a whiff of smoke to meet Tzŭ-ya, but was stopped by blows from two silver hammers wielded by Huang T’ien-hua. Han Chih-hsien came to Wên’s aid, but was opposed by Pi Hsiang-yang. Ts’ai-yün Hsien-tzŭ dashed into the fray, but No-cha stepped on to his Wind-fire Wheel and opposed him. From all sides other Immortals joined in p. 160 the terrific battle, which was a turmoil of longbows and crossbows, iron armour and brass mail, striking whips and falling hammers, weapons cleaving mail and mail resisting weapons. In this fierce contest, while Tzŭ-ya was fighting Wên Chung, Han Chih-hsien released a black wind from his magic wind-bag, but he did not know that the Taoist Barge of Mercy (which transports departed souls to the land of bliss), sent by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, had on board the Stop-wind Pearl, by which the black storm was immediately quelled. Thereupon Tzŭ-ya quickly seized his Vanquish-spirits Whip and struck Han Chih-hsien in the middle of the skull, so that the brain-fluid gushed forth and he died. No-cha then slew Ts’ai-yün Hsien-tzŭ with a spear-thrust.

Thus the stern fight went on, until finally Tzŭ-ya, under cover of night, attacked Wên Chung’s troops simultaneously on all four sides. The noise of slaughter filled the air. Generals and rank and file, lanterns, torches, swords, spears, guns, and daggers were one confused mêlée; Heaven could scarcely be distinguished from earth, and corpses were piled mountains high.

Chiang Tzŭ-ya Defeats Wên Chung
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Chiang Tzŭ-ya Defeats Wên Chung

Tzŭ-ya, having broken through seven lines of the enemy’s ranks, forced his way into Wên Chung’s camp. The latter mounted his unicorn, and brandishing his magic whip dashed to meet him. Tzŭ-ya drew his sword and stopped his onrush, being aided by Lung Hsü-hu, who repeatedly cast a rain of hot stones on to the troops. In the midst of the fight Tzŭ-ya brought out his great magic whip, and in spite of Wên Chung’s efforts to avoid it succeeded in wounding him in the left arm. The Chou troops were fighting like dragons lashing their tails and pythons curling their bodies. To add to their p. 161 disasters, the Chou now saw flames rising behind the camp, and knew that their provisions were being burned by Yang Chien.

The Chou armies, with gongs beating and drums rolling, advanced for a final effort, the slaughter being so great that even the devils wept and the spirits wailed. Wên Chung was eventually driven back seventy li to Ch’i Hill. His troops could do nothing but sigh and stumble along. He made for Peach-blossom Range, but as he approached it he saw a yellow banner hoisted, and under it was Kuang Ch’êng-tzŭ. Being prevented from escaping in that direction he joined battle, but by use of red-hot sand, his two-edged sword, and his Turn-heaven Seal Kuang Ch’êng-tzŭ put him to flight. He then made off toward the west, followed by Têng Chung. His design was to make for Swallow Hill, which he reached after several days of weary marching. Here he saw another yellow banner flying, and Ch’ih Ching-tzŭ informed him that Jan Têng had forbidden him to stop at Swallow Hill or to go through the Five Passes. This led to another pitched battle, Wên Chung using his magic whip and Ch’ih his spiritual two-edged sword. After several bouts Ch’ih brought out his yin-yang mirror, by use of which irresistible weapon Wên was driven to Yellow Flower Hill and Blue Dragon Pass, and so on from battle to battle, until he was drawn up to Heaven from the top of Dead-dragon Mountain.

Thousand-li Eye and Favourable-wind Ear

Ch’ien-li Yen, ‘Thousand-li Eye,’ and Shun-fêng Êrh, ‘Favourable-wind Ear,’ were two brothers named Kao Ming and Kao Chio. On account of their martial bearing they found favour with the tyrant emperor Chou Wang, p. 162 who appointed them generals, and sent them to serve with Generalissimo Yüan Hung (who was a monkey which had taken human form) at Mêng-ching.

Kao Ming was very tall, with a blue face, flaming eyes, a large mouth, and prominent teeth like those of a rhinoceros.

Kao Chio had a greenish face and skin, two horns on his head, a red beard, and a large mouth with teeth shaped like swords.

One of their first encounters was with No-cha, who hurled at them his mystic bracelet, which struck Kao Chio on the head, but did not leave even a scratch. When, however, he seized his fire-globe the brothers thought it wiser to retreat.

Finding no means of conquering them, Yang Chien, Chiang Tzŭ-ya, and Li Ching took counsel together and decided to have recourse to Fu Hsi’s trigrams, and by smearing them with the blood of a fowl and a dog to destroy their spiritual power.

But the two brothers were fully informed of what was designed. Thousand-li Eye had seen and Favourable-wind Ear had heard everything, so that all their preparations proved unavailing.

Yang Chien then went to Chiang Tzŭ-ya and said to him: “These two brothers are powerful devils; I must take more effectual measures.” “Where will you go for aid?” asked Chiang Tzŭ-ya. “I cannot tell you, for they would hear,” replied Yang. He then left. Favourable-wind Ear heard this dialogue, and Thousand-li Eye saw him leave. “He did not say where he was going,” they said to each other, “but we fear him not.” Yang Chien went to Yü-ch’üan Shan, where lived Yü-ting Chên-jên, ‘Hero Jade-tripod.’ He told him about their two adversaries, and asked him how they were to conquer p. 163 them. “These two genii,” replied the Chên-jên, “are from Ch’i-p’an Shan, Chessboard Mountain. One is a spiritual peach-tree, the other a spiritual pomegranate-tree. Their roots cover an area of thirty square li of ground. On that mountain there is a temple dedicated to Huang-ti, in which are clay images of two devils called Ch’ien-li Yen and Shun-fêng Êrh. The peach-tree and pomegranate-tree, having become spiritual beings, have taken up their abode in these images. One has eyes which can see objects distinctly at a distance of a thousand li, the other ears that can hear sounds at a like distance. But beyond that distance they can neither see nor hear. Return and tell Chiang Tzŭ-ya to have the roots of those trees torn up and burned, and the images destroyed; then the two genii will be easily vanquished. In order that they may neither see nor hear you during your conversation with Chiang Tzŭ-ya, wave flags about the camp and order the soldiers to beat tom-toms and drums.”

How the Brothers were Defeated

Yang Chien returned to Chiang Tzŭ-ya. “What have you been doing?” asked the latter. Before replying Yang Chien went to the camp and ordered soldiers to wave large red flags and a thousand others to beat the tom-toms and drums. The air was so filled with the flags and the noise that nothing else could be either seen or heard. Under cover of this device Yang Chien then communicated to Chiang Tzŭ-ya the course advised by the Chên-jên.

Accordingly Li Ching at the head of three thousand soldiers proceeded to Ch’i-p’an Shan, pulled up and burned the roots of the two trees, and broke the images to p. 164 pieces. At the same time Lei Chên-tzŭ was ordered to attack the two genii.

Thousand-li Eye and Favourable-wind Ear could neither see nor hear: the flags effectually screened the horizon and the infernal noise of the drums and gongs deadened all other sound. They did not know how to stop them.

The following night Yüan Hung decided to take the camp of Chiang Tzŭ-ya by assault, and sent the brothers in advance. They were, however, themselves surprised by Wu Wang’s officers, who surrounded them. Chiang Tzŭ-ya then threw into the air his ‘devil-chaser’ whip, which fell on the two scouts and cleft their skulls in twain.

Celestial Ministries

The dualistic idea, already referred to, of the Otherworld being a replica of this one is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the celestial Ministries or official Bureaux or Boards, with their chiefs and staffs functioning over the spiritual hierarchies. The Nine Ministries up aloft doubtless had their origin in imitation of the Six, Eight, or Nine Ministries or Boards which at various periods of history have formed the executive part of the official hierarchy in China. But their names are different and their functions do not coincide.

Generally, the functions of the officers of the celestial Boards are to protect mankind from the evils represented in the title of the Board, as, for example, thunder, smallpox, fire, etc. In all cases the duties seem to be remedial. As the God of War was, as we saw, the god who protects people from the evils of war, so the vast hierarchy of these various divinities is conceived as functioning for the good of mankind. Being too numerous for inclusion p. 165 here, an account of them is given under various headings in some of the following chapters.

Protectors of the People

Besides the gods who hold definite official posts in these various Ministries, there are a very large number who are also protecting patrons of the people; and, though ex officio, in many cases quite as popular and powerful, if not more so. Among the most important are the following: Shê-chi, Gods of the Soil and Crops; Shên Nung, God of Agriculture; Hou-t’u, Earth-mother; Ch’êng-huang, City-god; T’u-ti, Local Gods; Tsao Chün, Kitchen-god; T’ien-hou and An-kung, Goddess and God of Sailors; Ts’an Nü, Goddess of Silkworms; Pa-ch’a, God of Grasshoppers; Fu Shên, Ts’ai Shên, and Shou Hsing, Gods of Happiness, Wealth, and Longevity; Mên Shên, Door-gods; and Shê-mo Wang, etc., the Gods of Serpents.

The Ch’êng-huang

Ch’êng-huang is the Celestial Mandarin or City-god. Every fortified city or town in China is surrounded by a wall, ch’êng, composed usually of two battlemented walls, the space between which is filled with earth. This earth is dug from the ground outside, making a ditch, or huang, running parallel with the ch’êng. The Ch’êng-huang is the spiritual official of the city or town. All the numerous Ch’êng-huang constitute a celestial Ministry of Justice, presided over by a Ch’êng-huang-in-chief.

The origin of the worship of the Ch’êng-huang dates back to the time of the great Emperor Yao (2357 B.C.), who instituted a sacrifice called Pa Cha in honour of eight spirits, of whom the seventh, Shui Yung, had the p. 166 meaning of, or corresponded to, the dyke and rampart known later as Ch’êng-huang. Since the Sung dynasty sacrifices have been offered to the Ch’êng-huang all over the country, though now and then some towns have adopted another or special god as their Ch’êng-huang, such as Chou Hsin, adopted as the Ch’êng-huang of Hangchou, the capital of Chekiang Province. Concerning Chou Hsin, who had a “face of ice and iron,” and was so much dreaded for his severity that old and young fled at his approach, it is related that once when he was trying a case a storm blew some leaves on to his table. In spite of diligent search the tree to which this kind of leaf belonged could not be found anywhere in the neighbourhood, but was eventually discovered in a Buddhist temple a long way off. The judge declared that the priests of this temple must be guilty of murder. By his order the tree was felled, and in its trunk was found the body of a woman who had been assassinated, and the priests were convicted of the murder.

The Kitchen-god

Tsao Chün is a Taoist invention, but is universally worshipped by all families in China—about sixty millions of pictures of him are regularly worshipped twice a month—at new and full moon. “His temple is a little niche in the brick cooking-range; his palace is often filled with smoke; and his Majesty sells for one farthing.” He is also called ‘the God of the Stove.’ The origin of his worship, according to the legend, is that a Taoist priest, Li Shao-chün by name, of the Ch’i State, obtained from the Kitchen-god the double favour of exemption from growing old and of being able to live without eating. He then went to the Emperor Hsiao Wu-ti (140–86 B.C.) p. 167 of the Han dynasty, and promised that credulous monarch that he should benefit by the powers of the god provided that he would consent to patronize and encourage his religion. It was by this means, he added, that the Emperor Huang Ti obtained his knowledge of alchemy, which enabled him to make gold.

The Kitchen-god
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The Kitchen-god

The Emperor asked the priest to bring him his divine patron, and one night the image of Tsao Chün appeared to him.

Deceived by this trick, dazzled by the ingots of gold which he too should obtain, and determined to risk everything for the pill of immortality which was among the benefits promised, the Emperor made a solemn sacrifice to the God of the Kitchen.

This was the first time that a sacrifice had been officially offered to this new deity.

Li Shao-chün gradually lost the confidence of the Emperor and, at his wits’ end, conceived the plan of writing some phrases on a piece of silk and then causing them to be swallowed by an ox. This done, he announced that a wonderful script would be found in the animal’s stomach. The ox being killed, the script was found there as predicted, but Li’s unlucky star decreed that the Emperor should recognize his handwriting, and he was forthwith put to death. Nevertheless, the worship of the Kitchen-god continued and increased, and exists in full vigour down to the present day.

This deity has power over the lives of the members of each family under his supervision, distributes riches and poverty at will, and makes an annual report to the Supreme Being on the conduct of the family during the year, for which purpose he is usually absent for from four to seven days. Some hold that he also makes p. 168 these reports once or twice or several times each month. Various ceremonies are performed on seeing him off to Heaven and welcoming him back. One of the former, as we saw, is to regale him with honey, so that only sweet words, if any, may be spoken by him while up aloft!

Ts’an Nü

In the kingdom of Shu (modern Ssŭch’uan), in the time of Kao Hsing Ti, a band of robbers kidnapped the father of Ts’an Nü. A whole year elapsed, and the father’s horse still remained in the stable as he had left it. The thought of not seeing her father again caused Ts’an Nü such grief that she would take no nourishment. Her mother did what she could to console her, and further promised her in marriage to anyone who would bring back her father. But no one was found who could do this. Hearing the offer, the horse stamped with impatience, and struggled so much that at length he broke the halter by which he was tied up. He then galloped away and disappeared. Several days later, his owner returned riding the horse. From that time the horse neighed incessantly, and refused all food. This caused the mother to make known to her husband the promise she had made concerning her daughter. “An oath made to men,” he replied, “does not hold good for a horse. Is a human being meant to live in marital relations with a horse?” Nevertheless, however good and abundant food they offered him, the horse would not eat. When he saw the young lady he plunged and kicked furiously. Losing his temper, the father discharged an arrow and killed him on the spot; then he skinned him and spread the skin on the ground outside the house to dry. As the young lady was passing the p. 169 spot the skin suddenly moved, rose up, enveloped her, and disappeared into space. Ten days later it was found at the foot of a mulberry-tree; Ts’an Nü changed into a silkworm, was eating the mulberry-leaves, and spinning for herself a silken garment.

The parents of course were in despair. But one day, while they were overwhelmed with sad thoughts, they saw on a cloud Ts’an Nü riding the horse and attended by several dozens of servants. She descended toward her parents, and said to them: “The Supreme Being, as a reward for my martyrdom in the cause of filial piety and my love of virtue, has conferred on me the dignity of Concubine of the Nine Palaces. Be reassured as to my fate, for in Heaven I shall live for ever.” Having said this she disappeared into space.

In the temples her image is to be seen covered with a horse’s skin. She is called Ma-t’ou Niang, ‘the Lady with the Horse’s Head,’ and is prayed to for the prosperity of mulberry-trees and silkworms. The worship continues even in modern times. The goddess is also represented as a stellar divinity, the star T’ien Ssŭ; as the first man who reared silkworms, in this character bearing the same name as the God of Agriculture, Pasture, and Fire; and as the wife of the Emperor Huang Ti.

The God of Happiness

The God of Happiness, Fu Shên, owes his origin to the predilection of the Emperor Wu Ti (A.D. 502–50) of the Liang dynasty for dwarfs as servants and comedians in his palace. The number levied from the Tao Chou district in Hunan became greater and greater, until it seriously prejudiced the ties of family relations. When Yang Ch’êng, alias Yang Hsi-chi, was Criminal Judge of p. 170 Tao Chou he represented to the Emperor that, according to law, the dwarfs were his subjects but not his slaves. Being touched by this remark, the Emperor ordered the levy to be stopped.

Overjoyed at their liberation from this hardship, the people of that district set up images of Yang and offered sacrifices to him. Everywhere he was venerated as the Spirit of Happiness. It was in this simple way that there came into being a god whose portraits and images abound everywhere throughout the country, and who is worshipped almost as universally as the God of Riches himself.

Another person who attained to the dignity of God of Happiness (known as Tsêng-fu Hsiang-kung, ‘the Young Gentleman who Increases Happiness’) was Li Kuei-tsu, the minister of Emperor Wên Ti of the Wei dynasty, the son of the famous Ts’ao Ts’ao, but in modern times the honour seems to have passed to Kuo Tzŭ-i. He was the saviour of the T’ang dynasty from the depredations of the Turfans in the reign of the Emperor Hsüan Tsung. He lived A.D. 697–781, was a native of Hua Chou, in Shensi, and one of the most illustrious of Chinese generals. He is very often represented in pictures clothed in blue official robes, leading his small son Kuo Ai to Court.

The God of Wealth

As with many other Chinese gods, the proto-being of the God of Wealth, Ts’ai Shên, has been ascribed to several persons. The original and best known until later times was Chao Kung-ming. The accounts of him differ also, but the following is the most popular.

The Gods of Happiness, Office, and Longevity
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The Gods of Happiness, Office, and Longevity

When Chiang Tzŭ-ya was fighting for Wu Wang of the Chou dynasty against the last of the Shang emperors, p. 171 Chao Kung-ming, then a hermit on Mount Ô-mei, took the part of the latter. He performed many wonderful feats. He could ride a black tiger and hurl pearls which burst like bombshells. But he was eventually overcome by the form of witchcraft known in Wales as Ciurp Creadh. Chiang Tzŭ-ya made a straw image of him, wrote his name on it, burned incense and worshipped before it for twenty days, and on the twenty-first shot arrows made of peach-wood into its eyes and heart. At that same moment Kung-ming, then in the enemy’s camp, felt ill and fainted, and uttering a cry gave up the ghost.

Later on Chiang Tzŭ-ya persuaded Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun to release from the Otherworld the spirits of the heroes who had died in battle, and when Chao Kung-ming was led into his presence he praised his bravery, deplored the circumstances of his death, and canonized him as President of the Ministry of Riches and Prosperity.

The God of Riches is universally worshipped in China; images and portraits of him are to be seen everywhere. Talismans, trees of which the branches are strings of cash, and the fruits ingots of gold, to be obtained merely by shaking them down, a magic inexhaustible casket full of gold and silver—these and other spiritual sources of wealth are associated with this much-adored deity. He himself is represented in the guise of a visitor accompanied by a crowd of attendants laden with all the treasures that the hearts of men, women, and children could desire.

The God of Longevity

The God of Longevity, Shou Hsing, was first a stellar deity, later on represented in human form. It was a constellation formed of the two star-groups Chio and K’ang, the first two on the list of twenty-eight p. 172 constellations. Hence, say the Chinese writers, because of this precedence, it was called the Star of Longevity. When it appears the nation enjoys peace, when it disappears there will be war. Ch’in Shih Huang-ti, the First Emperor, was the first to offer sacrifices to this star, the Old Man of the South Pole, at Shê Po, in 246 B.C. Since then the worship has been continued pretty regularly until modern times.

But desire for something more concrete, or at least more personal, than a star led to the god’s being represented as an old man. Connected with this is a long legend which turns on the point that after the father of Chao Yen had been told by the celebrated physiognomist Kuan Lo that his son would not live beyond the age of nineteen, the transposition from shih-chiu, nineteen, to chiu-shih, ninety, was made by one of two gamblers, who turned out to be the Spirit of the North Pole, who fixes the time of decease, as the Spirit of the South Pole does that of birth.

The deity is a domestic god, of happy mien, with a very high forehead, usually spoken of as Shou Hsing Lao T’ou Tzŭ, ‘Longevity Star Old-pate,’ and is represented as riding a stag, with a flying bat above his head. He holds in his hand a large peach, and attached to his long staff are a gourd and a scroll. The stag and the bat both indicate fu, happiness. The peach, gourd, and scroll are symbols of longevity.

The Door-gods

An old legend relates that in the earliest times there grew on Mount Tu Shuo, in the Eastern Sea, a peach-tree of fabulous size whose branches covered an area of several thousand square li. The lowest branches, which inclined p. 173 toward the north-east, formed the Door of the Devils (kuei), through which millions of them passed in and out. Two spirits, named Shên Shu (or Shu Yü) and Yü Lü, had been instructed to guard this passage. Those who had done wrong to mankind were immediately bound by them and given over to be devoured by tigers. When Huang Ti heard of this he had the portraits of the two spirits painted on peach-wood tablets and hung above the doors to keep off evil spirits. This led to the suspension of the small figures or plaques on the doors of the people generally. Gradually they were supplanted by paintings on paper pasted on the doors, showing the two spirits armed with bows, arrows, spears, etc., Shên Shu on the left, Yü Lü on the right.

The Money-tree
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The Money-tree

In later times, however, these Door-gods were supplanted in popular favour by two ministers of the Emperor T’ai Tsung of the T’ang dynasty, by name Ch’in Shu-pao and Hu Ching-tê. T’ai Tsung had fallen sick, and imagined that he heard demons rampaging in his bedroom. The ministers of State, on inquiring as to the nature of the malady, were informed by the physician that his Majesty’s pulse was feverish, that he seemed nervous and saw visions, and that his life was in danger.

The ministers were in great fear. The Empress summoned other physicians to a consultation, and after the sick Emperor had informed them that, though all was quiet during the daytime, he was sure he saw and heard demons during the night, Ch’in Shu-pao and Hu Ching-tê stated that they would sit up all night and watch outside his door.

Accordingly they posted themselves, fully armed, outside the palace gate all night, and the Emperor slept in peace. Next day the Emperor thanked them heartily, p. 174 and from that time his sickness diminished. The two ministers, however, continued their vigils until the Emperor informed them that he would no longer impose upon their readiness to sacrifice themselves. He ordered them to paint their portraits in full martial array and paste these on the palace doors to see if that would not have the same effect. For some nights all was peace; then the same commotion was heard at the back gates of the palace. The minister Wei Chêng offered to stand guard at the back gates in the same way that his colleagues had done at the front gates. The result was that in a few days the Emperor’s health was entirely restored.

Thus it is that Wei Chêng is often associated with the other two Door-gods, sometimes with them, sometimes in place of them. Pictures of these mên shên, elaborately coloured, and renewed at the New Year, are to be seen on almost every door in China.

The Door-gods, Civil and Military
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The Door-gods, Civil and Military

The Door-gods, Civil and Military
Click to enlarge

The Door-gods, Civil and Military

Chinese Polytheism

That the names of the gods of China are legion will be readily conceded when it is said that, besides those already described, those still to be mentioned, and many others to whom space will not permit us to refer, there are also gods, goddesses, patrons, etc., of wind, rain, snow, frost, rivers, tides, caves, trees, flowers, theatres, horses, oxen, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, pigs, scorpions, locusts, gold, tea, salt, compass, archery, bridges, lamps, gems, wells, carpenters, masons, barbers, tailors, jugglers, nets, wine, bean-curd, jade, paper-clothing, eye, ear, nose, tongue, teeth, heart, liver, throat, hands, feet, skin, architecture, rain-clothes, monkeys, lice, Punch and Judy, fire-crackers, cruelty, revenge, manure, fornication, shadows, corners, p. 175 gamblers, oculists, smallpox, liver complaint, stomach-ache, measles, luck, womb, midwives, hasteners of child-birth, brigands, butchers, furnishers, centipedes, frogs, stones, beds, candle-merchants, fishermen, millers, wig-merchants, incense-merchants, spectacle-makers, cobblers, harness-makers, seedsmen, innkeepers, basket-makers, chemists, painters, perfumers, jewellers, brush-makers, dyers, fortune-tellers, strolling singers, brothels, varnishers, combs, etc., etc. There is a god of the light of the eye as well as of the eye itself, of smallpox-marks as well as of smallpox, of ‘benign’ measles as well as of measles. After reading a full list of the gods of China, those who insist that the religion of China was or is a monotheism may be disposed to revise their belief.


175:1 See the present writer’s China of the Chinese, chapter viii.

175:2 See Du Bose, pp. 282, 286, 361, 409, 410, and Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, xxxiv, 110–111.

175:3 Du Bose, p. 38.

175:4 He is sometimes represented as a reincarnation of Wên Chung; see 198.

175:5 It is necessary to reproduce the written characters concerned with these stars, namely: .

175:6 See footnote, p. 107.

175:7 Religion, p. 177.

175:8 See Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists, by Sister Nivedita and Ananda Coomaraswamy.

175:9 The native accounts differ on this point. Cf. p. 16.

175:10 For further details concerning T’ai I see Babylonian and Oriental Record, vi, 145–150.

175:11 Cf. Chapter I.

Next: Chapter V. Myths of the Stars