Episode 121: Yakshini

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Today we will talk about Yakshini in Chinese mythology and you may learn a vulgar curse word for a female in Chinese.

Yakshini is not a Chinese word and is not originated from China. In sanskrit it is the female counterpart of the male Yaksha in Hindu, Buddhist mythology. Yasha are a class of nature spirits usually benevolent but sometimes mischievous related to water, forests and wilderness.


Yakshinis the female version of Yaksha are often depicted as beautiful and voluptuous. Like Yaksha, they are usually benevolent and there are also yakshinis with malevolent characteristics.


Influenced by Buddhism, in Chinese, Yasha is known as YeCha 夜叉 and Yakshini is known as MuYeCha 母夜叉. Mu means female in Chinese. But MuYeCha in Chinese is a vulgar word to describe a female with strong personalities.


The word was first used in the book Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh 水浒传, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature from the Ming dynasty 明朝, around the 13th century. The story itself is set in the Song dynasty 宋朝, from the year 960 ~ 1279. It tells how a group of 108 outlaws gather at Mount Liang 梁山 to form a rebel army but eventually granted amnesty by the government.

The 108 outlaws all have a nickname. Among these 108 outlaws , there are only four females. One of them is called Sun ErNiang 孙二娘 and her nickname is Yakshini. You can tell how fierce she is by the nickname. She has a vicious look on her face and strong arms and legs although she dresses fairly revealing and wears heavy makeup.


Before joining the rebel army, Sun ErNiang and her husband ZhangQing 张青 owns a tavern at a place called Cross Slope 十字坡 where they target travelers and serve them steam buns made of human meat and poisonous wine. The victims would get robbed, killed and be used as fillings for more steamed buns. The tavern is mostly run by Sun ErNiang. We mentioned a little about his story in our Episode 18 Delicatessen. We will talk more story from the book Water Margin in the future.



水浒传 Water Margin/ Outlaws of the Marsh

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