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



Episode 1: Wonder Woman

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Who created us human beings? Maybe nobody created us and we are just the processes of the universe. In the Bible, Adam is the first human being and creates Eve. Why did men come before women? Because we are living in a patriarchal society. However, in Chinese mythology, Nvwa 女娲, who is a female, created the mankind. which makes more sense biologically. Nv means female in Chinese.


Nvwa 女娲 is the mother goddess of Chinese mythology. When we talk about goddess, what is the image in your mind? In the prehistorical time, goddess were fertility figures and in Greek mythology goddess are always those strong and beautiful women. I don’t know how pretty Nvwa was but she had a snake body. In the book ChuCi 楚辞, from around 220 BC, the Chapter TianWen天问, which means Heavenly Questions, it says she has a human head with a snake body and created 70 things a day. This is a typical image in the later Chinese literature for a pretty lady maybe because how females move is like how snakes move.

The reason she decided to create mankind is that one day she walked along the Yellow River and she saw her reflection and felt lonely and she thought “Hmm, I need somebody else looks like me in this world”. If horses had god, the god would look like horses. She tried to create human based on herself however I don’t know why we don’t have snake bodies. One version of the myth says on the day she created mankind, other gods came to help. Some helped her with the creation of Yin and Yang, some helped with ears and eyes, and some helped with arms and hands. The other well-known version of the story, which can be found in the book Four Great books of Song, from 960- 1279 AD, is that she used yellow clay to make people maybe the color of clay is like Asian’s skin color. Myths is a reflection of history. It seems people at that time already knew how to use clay to make things. She started with hands like the lady makes monsters out of clay in Power Rangers. It was a hard work even for a goddess to hand make clay people. So she decided to dip a rope in the mud and to swing the rope. As soon each mud drops landed on the ground, it became a person. People now still joke about good looking or smart people are made by hand and the others are made by mud drops. I don’t like this part of the story cause nobody wants to be a mud drop. The Bible says we are made of dust. However, people are equal even everyone is made of dust.

After the creation, she prayed to gods to be the goddess of marital affairs and created the marriage system. I guess she was tired of making more human by herself. Instead she let people get married and give birth to new generations. Nvwa herself married to her brother Fuxi 伏羲, one of the Three Sovereigns, which is a group of rulers or deities dated from 2852 BC to 2070 BC. There are paintings from the ancient time of Nvwa and Fuxi and they both have snake bodies. Actually people think Nvwa has the body of snake because it was what Fuxi looks like. And since they are siblings and later a couple, people drew them together with similar bodies.



Another story about Nvwa is recorded in HuaiNanZi 淮南子, a book from before 139 BC. It says long long time ago when the four pillars were broken, the nine provinces were in taters, the sky could not cover the land, the land could not hold up the sky, fires could not be extinguished, floods would not recede. It was a totally catastrophe. Beasts ate innocent people, birds snatched the elderly and the weak. Nvwa smelted a five-colored stone to patch the sky. She cut off the legs of a tortoise as the four pillars, killed the black dragon and piled up cinders of reeds to stop the floods. And people’s lives were saved and the world was tranquil. So the purpose of her patching the sky was to deal with the floods, which is mentioned in a lot of myths including in Bible. In the ancient time, when people didn’t know much about how to protect themselves with natural disasters they wished to have a goddess to save them and world. Nvwa is one of the them with the hope.

Terms mentioned:

女娲 Nvwa

伏羲 Fuxi

楚辞 ChuCi


太平御览 TaiPingYuLan

Power Rangers