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Episode 49: Remote Nations Of The World 1

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How many countries are there in the world? Country is an informal word for what political scientists use the words “sovereign state”, which means a place with borders and independent government. In that sense, there are 195 countries. So 195, not including other regions on the earth don’t fit in the definition. How much do we know about the other part of the world? People like to talk about the exotic traditions from a place far away even today.

From this episode, we will use several episodes to talk about those remote nations of the world in Chinese mythology like Gulliver’s travel. Most of those kingdom or nations are from the book Classic of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC we mentioned so many times.

In the book Classic of Mountains and Seas, it says there is a nation called JieXiongGuo 结胸国 in the southwest. Jie means lumps. Xiong means chest. Because the people there all have a lump on their chest kind of look like a huge Adam’s apple on the chest as noted in the book TuZan 图赞. The picture of people from this nation were depicted by imagination which reminded me of roster’s chest.

结胸国

The second nation is called GuanXiongGuo 贯胸国, another nation with people having interesting chests. Guan means throughout. It says in the book Classic of Mountains and Seas, GuanXiongGuo is in the east and people there have a hole throughout their chest. You know it is normal right like a piercing in the chest. In the book HuaiNanZi 淮南子from Han Dynasty 汉朝, it also mentions the hole on the chest is throughout the body. In the book YiYuZhi 异域志from Yuan Dynasty 元朝, it says, the people in the upper class would be carried by the lower class people by a pole through their body hole. The idea is like a stretcher except there is no canvas in the middle needed. Pretty convenient right?

贯胸国

Since the records about this nation is beyond imagination, there are a lot of historians throughout the history discussing about it. In the book BoWuZhi 博物志 from Jin Dynasty 晋朝, the author made up a story to explain the origin of this nation. It say, during the time Yu the Great 大禹 assembled many gods to discuss how to stop the Great Flood, only FangFeng Shi 防风 氏was late. FangFeng Shi is a gaint deity in Chinese mythology. Yu the Great was very angry and killed FangFeng Shi. After the flood, two dragons arrived from the sky. Yu the Great sent his assistant to visit the regions where flooded. When he passed the region ruled by FangFeng Shi, two of FangFeng Shi old generals planned to revenge. Just as they were about to shoot the assistant, heavy winds started the blow and then storms fell. The two dragons flew into the sky. The two generals were scared to death and committed to suicide by stabbing themselves into the hearts using a dagger. Yu the Great found out eventually and replaced the daggers in the chest with an immortal plant. So they are the ancestors of the people from ChuanXiongGuo.

Some historians have the assumption that maybe the clothing those people wearing with some part near the chests looked like they had a hole in their body. There are some regions in the world like southeast Asia today have the religious practice that they would pierce some parts of the body like face, belly, hand, tongue with a long sharp iron pole. But anyways, this is a myth story and I would like to think them as people having a hole throughout their chest and being carried by a pole through the hole.

Mentioned:

山海经 Classic of Mountains and Seas

图赞 TuZan

淮南子 HuaiNanZi

异域志 YiYuZhi

博物志 BoWuZhi

大禹 Yu the Great

防风 氏 FangFeng Shi

Episode 48: Killer Or Protector Of Children?

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In the nature, protecting and feeding the younger generation is the natural instinct of most animals and human beings. It seems normal if you see a lion mom feeding her cub with a baby antelope. What about if you see a lion mom feeding her cub with another lion cub from another lion mom? I guess it is called cannibalism in that case.

Today we are talking about a goddess and demon called GuiZiMuShen 鬼子母神in Chinese or Kishimojin in Japanese. Originally from Buddhism in India, the goddess Hariti had hundreds of children whom she loved. In order to feed all of them, she killed the children of others. Those bereaved moms who lost their children pleaded to the Buddha for help. The Buddha stole the youngest kid of Hariti and hid under his bowl. Searching everywhere for her youngest kid desperately, Hariti herself approached to the Buddha for help. The Buddha explained to her that now she understood the pain of loosing her child and asked her if she could imagine the suffering of other parents whose children were killed and devoured. Hariti finally realized her sins and vowed to protect all children and became the protector of children and women in childbirth from a children killer.

鬼子母神2

There are many temples of GuiZiMuShen in Asia especially in Japan. People go there for blessings for their children and women with children as well.

鬼子母神

Mentioned:

鬼子母神 GuiZiMuShen

Kishimojin

Hariti

Ep 47: Eight Immortals 5 – HeXiangu

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Today we are going to talk about the only female in the Eight Immortals 八仙. Her name is HeXiangu 何仙姑. Of course among the eight, she represents the female.

HeXiangu is depicted holding a lotus flower which can improve people’s health. Lotus flower is loved by Chinese people and represent virtue of gentlemen. In an article by a Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi 周敦颐from Song Dynasty 宋朝, it says, 予独爱莲 之出淤泥而不染, which means “for me I only love lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.” In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus also represents purity. To both Hindus and Buddhists, lotus is a sacred flower where many deities are depicted as seated on. Lotus is the symbol of immortality.

何仙姑2

There are many versions of who HeXiangu was before she became an immortal and how she became an immortal. In the book ChaXiangShiXuChao茶香室续钞from Qing Dynasty 清朝, it says, HeXiangu, the daughter of He Tai 何泰 from the county Zengcheng 增城县in Guangzhou 广州. During the ruling of Empress Wu 武则 天in Tang Dynasty 唐朝, she was around 14~15 years old. One night, she had a dream that an immortal taught her to eat mica, yes you didn’t hear it wrong, the mineral mica in order to fly. After that, she could fly from the top of a mountain to another. The Empress Wu heard about it to invite her to the palace, she disappeared on the way. It is like the story of Zhangguolao 张果老, another immortal from the eight, that he never wanted to meet the emperors to tell them the key of immortality. During the year of Emperor Zhongzong 唐中宗, she became a real immortal.

何仙姑

In the book DongXuanBiLu 东轩笔录from Song Dynasty 宋朝,it says, the girl from family He from the place YongZhou 永州, met an immortal who gave her a peach when she was a kid. After that, she never needed to eat and was insightful about the fortunes. The neighborhood regarded her as a goddess. We mentioned in our previous episodes that peaches represent immortality in Chinese mythology.

In Chinese medicine and Taoism, it seems like if you eat certain things you could get special power or ability. You are what you eat. Maybe the idea is that what you eat really goes into and absorbed by the body.

There are some temples worshiping HeXiangu in the city Guangzhou 广州市 today and on the 7th day of the third month , the birthday of HeXiangu and the 8th day on the eighth month, the day HeXiangu became an immortal, the believers would have a huge worship event in the temples.

Mentioned:

何仙姑 HeXiangu

周敦颐 Zhou Dunyi

茶香室续钞 ChaXiangShiXuChao

武则 天Empress Wu

张果老 Zhangguolao

唐中宗 Emperor Zhongzong of Tang

东轩笔录 DongXuanBiLu

Episode 46: Isle Of Dogs

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Eric and I watched the movie Isle of Dogs recently and dogs have been domesticated by human for thousands of years. Today we are going to talk about an important mythical dog-headed king called Panhu 盘瓠 in Chinese mythology.

This story is widely known in the south China and some minority ethic groups including Miao苗, Yao 瑶 and She 畲 groups. They consider PanHu as their ancestors and totem. The name Panhu sounded like the the name of god Pangu 盘古 who created the universe we talked in the past. Some people say the name Pangu was originally from the name Panhu.

So who is this dog-head king. There are a lot of variations of the story. The earliest record can be found in the books from Jin Dynasty 晋朝 ShanHaiJingZhu山海经 注and In Search of the Sacred 搜神记. It says during the time of the Emperor Ku 帝喾, who is one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors 三皇五帝 of Chinese mythology, an old lady in the palace had tinnitus, ringing the the ears. With the help of a doctor, a bug was found in the ear. The old lady put the bug in a gourd as a pet. Weird thing happened, after not too long, the bug became a five-colored god. The Emperor Ku named the dog “Panhu”.

盘瓠

The kingdom had constant conflicts with the kingdom in the west and they had a genious General Wu who won a lot of battles. Emperor Ku gave out the words that whoever got the head of this general from the other kingdom could get tons of gold and the marriage with the princess as rewards. Guess what happened? The five-colored dog Panhu brought back the head of General Wu in his mouth.

Emperor Ku faced a real dilemma here and asked his chancellors for advises. The chancellors all strongly suggested that, “Pangu is a beast. How could we reward him with money and the marriage with the princess?” While the princess heard all about it, she met with his dad and said, “my dearest father, you have made the promise of giving the marriage of me to the hero. Panhu got the head of General Wu and saved the kingdom. This is the destiny not to say it is a dog who accomplished it. As an emperor, you should always keep your promises. Don’t worry about me. If you broke the promise , the kingdom would be in disasters. ” Clearly the princess was such a lady with political vision and was willing to sacrifice her marriage for the kingdom. Confirmed by his daughter, Emperor Ku married her with Pangu the dog.

盘瓠2

Some version of the story says the dog started talking after bringing back the head and told the emperor that he could transform into human if being under a gold bell for 7 days . However, the princess was worried about him on the sixth day and opened the bell. Pangu already had a human body except the head. Slightly more reasonable.

The couple moved to the mountain in the south where there were no human and lived a cave. The Emperor Ku missed his daughter and sent people to visit her, however, nobody could get to the cave because every time they wanted to go there were storms. After 3 years, the couple had 6 boys and 6 girls. When Pangu the dog king died, their children married to each other. They used tree bark as materials for clothing and dyed with five-colored plants, so they could look like their dad. All their clothes have tails on them.

After the princess passed away, the Emperor Ku visited his grand kids. They dressed colorful and didn’t speak very clearly. When they were eating and drinking, they liked to squat like dogs. The Emperor named them “Manyi 蛮夷” and the mountain they lived as “Guangze 广泽”. These people they looked dumb and uncultivated however very intelligent. They were satisfied with their traditions and homeland.

Mentioned:

盘瓠 Panhu

山海经 注 ShanHaiJingZhu

搜神记 In Search of the Sacred

帝喾 Emperor Ku

三皇五帝 Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors

蛮夷 Manyi

Episode 45: The Pier Of An Envious Wife

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Among the seven sins in western culture, envy is one of them. Today we are going to talk about a story of a envious wife.

In the book YouYangZaZu 酉阳杂 俎 from Tang Dynasty 唐朝, it says, there is a place called DuFuJin 妒妇 津in the place LinQing 临清. Du 妒 means envy. Fu 妇means women. Jin 津means piers. So this place is called envious women pier. The reason for it is that in Jin Dynasty 晋朝, a man named LiuBoyu 刘伯玉 had a envious wife whose last name was Duan Mingguang 段明光. The man liked to read the article LuoShenFu 洛神赋, which is a famous literature by CaoZhi 曹植 from the year 223 about the beautiful goddess LuoShen洛神. The goddess LuoShen dawned in the Lake Luo and became the goddess of the lake. The article was mainly about the author’s fantasy for the goddess. This husband Liu Boyu didn’t know much about women I think. He always read the article in front of his wife and said, “ if I could marry a woman like the goddess LuoShen, I would have no regrets in life.”

I mean his wife was already a envious person and not to say he said something like this. The wife Mingguang replied, “you prefer the goddess of the Lake Luo’s beauty over me. If I died, I could be the goddess of lake as well.” Guess what will she do? That night she jumped into a lake and committed suicide.

妒妇津

Seven days after the wife’s death, she showed up in her husband’s dream and told him, “you wanted a goddess and now I am a goddess.” The man suddenly woke up from the dream. After that he had never been across lakes or rivers for his whole life. That’s what a jealous woman would do to her husband.

Later people called the place where the wife suicide “The Pier of An Envious Woman”. Whenever there were women requesting to cross the lake, the boatmen would ask them to mess up their make up and clothing just in case the envious wife, who was the goddess of the lake got jealous and tip over the boats. The envious goddess actually didn’t envy not good-looking women even they dress up. However, in case being considered as ugly, every women especially the not good-looking ones tried to mess up their make up and dresses before they got on the boats.

Mentioned:

妒妇 津 DuNvJin

酉阳杂 俎 YouYangZaZu

曹植 CaoZhi

洛神赋 LuoShenFu

洛神 goddess Luo