Episode 7: Ghost Of The Mountain

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We talked about Lord of the River 河伯 recently and today we are going to talk about the ShanGui 山鬼 Ghost of the Mountain. Shanmeans mountains and Guimeans ghosts. There are a lot of versions of ShanGui recorded in books. We are going to talk about two main versions.

The first one is mentioned in the book ChuCi楚辞, an anthology of Chinese poetry from around 220 BC, the Chapter JiuGe九歌, which means Nine Songs. There is a poem about the Ghost of the mountain, who is a goddess in Mountain Wu巫山, a mountain in Southern China. Later Mountain Wu is used as a general name for mountains in literature like the word Yellow River 黄河. She is a young and beautiful lady wearing flowers riding a red leopard drawn carriage with flags made of osmanthus branches with a cat following her. A sterotyle description of a goddess living in the nature. The poem is about once she had a date with her lover. However, she waited and waited in the mountains alone for so long, he didn’t come in the end. The poem described the excitement, disappointment and complex feelings of a girl in love. You know we talked about sacrifice people to the Lord of River as his wife. This custom influenced how writers and poets compose love stories between human and gods or ghosts. Maybe it is the most romantic way for us to get a direction connection with the nature.


Another version of the Ghost of the Mountain is totally the opposite. He is a ugly, greedy, suspicious yet not very smart creature. In the book TaiPingYuLan太平御览, it says in AnGuo安国county, there was a ghost of the mountain , looking like a human while with only one leg which was backward. The height of him was around one chi. Chi is a unit of length in Chia, which is around 24 cm or 9 inches. He liked to eat salt and stole the salt from carpenters who work in the forests in mountains all the time. Salt was valuable in the ancient time probably could be compared with caviar today. He didn’t really afraid of human and liked to trick people. People liked to prank on the mountain ghost cause he was greedy while not very smart. He also liked to get crabs from rivers. When carpenters were taking naps, he would cook crabs on the bonfire and ate them. Some carpenters wanted to trick him and put hot stones around bonfire then they pretended falling asleep and waited for the show. After a while, the mountain ghost showed up and stepped on the hot rock. The ghost screamed and ran away. Another story from the book YiZhiYiZhi夷坚乙志, it says people from YiXing宜兴are humorous. There was a mountain ghost sneaked into a house and wanted to scare people for fun. He put his hairy leg from the ceiling window. The person who lived in the house didn’t get scared. Instead he joked about it said, “wow, if you have a lot of abilities, why don’t you put another leg down.” Remember the mountain ghost only has one leg? The ghost didn’t know what to say and left with shame. So next time if you see a mountain ghost don’t be afraid and just joke about them and ask about their other leg.


河伯 Lord of the River

山鬼 ShanGui / Ghost of the Mountain

楚辞 ChuCi

九歌 JiuGe/ Nine Songs.

巫山Mountain Wu

黄河Yellow River



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