Episode 218: Patrolling Gods

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Today we will talk about two gods in Chinese folklore that literally paroling like policemen called RiYeYouShen 日夜游神, patrolling god of day and night. By the name, you probably already guessed one god is the RiYouShen 日游神, patrol god of the day and the other god is YeYouShen 夜游神, patrol god of the night. They are also gods in Taoism. They are worshiped in some temples.

Like the name, their job is just wondering around and watch people’s behaviors. In Ep.77, we have talked about in Chinese folklore it says, after death, we would enter the ghost gate 鬼门关 which we mentioned in our episode 12. The road after we enter the underworld is called HuangQuan Road 黄泉路. There is a river called 奈河 NaiHe River at the end of the HuangQuan Road. There is a bridge over the river called NaiHe Bridge 奈何桥. In the book XuanShiZhi 宣室志 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 around the year 853, it says the source of Naihe River 奈河 is from the underworld. If you look closely, the water is actually blood and smells so stincky. The Naihe Bridge was slipery and was watched by the Patrol Gods of Day and Night.





So I guess these two gods not only watch us when we are alive but also the after life. The folklore of RiYeYouShen originated from the southern China.

Let’s talk about the Patrol God of the Day first. Zaju 杂剧 is a form of Chinese opera from the Yuan dynasty, between the year 1271 ~ 1368. In the zaju TaoHuaNv 桃花女, it mentions if you encounter the Patrol God of day, even you won’t die you would get hurt. In the book YuLiBaoChao 玉历宝钞 from the Qing dynasty around the 17th century, it says the Patrol God of the Day dresses like the official in jails holding a wooden board says “day patrolling ”. His long hair is not tied up. The word “日游神” Patrol God of the Day sometimes refers to the kind of people who are good like making connections to get the benefits like money and power.

What about the Patrol God of the Night? He was probably from the Gods of Night, like Nott in Norse mythology. In the book Classic of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC, it says there were 16 gods whose arms are connected that watch the night. They have small faces and bare arms. In another book HuaiNanZi 淮南子 from before the year 139 BC during the Western Han dynasty 西汉, it says there are two gods whose arms are connected that watch the night and they yell while they are patrolling. In the more recent history, Patrol God of the Night don’t show up as a group but in one and not yelling but being mysterious.




In the book QuanXiangGuJinXiaoShuo 全像古今小说 from the Ming dynasty 明朝, around the 16th century, it says there was a scholar called SiMa Mao 司马貌 from the place named YiZhou 益州 that he was talented while never got a good ranking in the Imperial Examination. So he didn’t have a position in the government. He was already in his 50s, and he complained about his fate. One day after getting drunk, he wrote a poem in which he said talented and righteous people are complaining about their fate while the evil people are holding the power. If I were the King of Hell, I would correct everything. (We have talked about the King of Hell in Ep. 12, please check the episode. )He then read it out for a few times and burned the paper. This was saw by the Patrol God of the Night and told the Jade Emperor 玉帝. (We talked about Jade Emperor in Ep 141, please check the episode. ) The Jade Emperor was so raged that how can a person say something rude. However suggested by other god, he actually let SiMa Mao take the job of King of Hell for half of a day. SiMa Mao didn’t disappoint him and made great judgments. Jade Emperor approved his ability and agreed to let him reincarnate to SiMa Yi 司马懿in the next life. SiMa Yi was a famous Chinese military general, politician between the year 179 ~ 251 during the Three Kingdoms period 三国时期. His political ambitions was fulfilled thanks to the Patrol God of the Night.

Although the folklore is from the southern China, in the book DiJingJingWuLue 帝京景物略 from the Ming dynasty 明朝 around the 17th century, it says in Beijing in northern China, you shouldn’t leave dirty water in the yard at night in case the Patrol God of the Night use the dirty water to the horse. Then it would be a huge offense.

In the book from the year 1892 during the Qing dynasty 清朝 , it says Patrol God of the Night is giant and a person met in around the corner later died at home. The word “夜游神” Patrol God of the night sometimes refers to people who like to wonder around at nights.

There is a song by a Chinese indie rock band called JiuLianZhenRen 九连真人that sang in their dialect from the southern China. They have a song called YeYouShen and the song is about in their small town, at one night a young man joined a fight to help his friend and killed a person. Those young men were called YeYouShen by their mom.



宣室志 XuanShiZhi


山海经 Classic of Mountains and Seas

淮南子 HuaiNanZi

全像古今小说 QuanXiangGuJinXiaoShuo

帝京景物略 DiJingJingWuLue

醉茶志怪 ZuiChaZhiGuai

Episode 214: Wish Regret

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There is a saying in English called be careful what you wish for. I really like it and think it has some eastern philosophy in it. It is hard to tell a thing is good or bad. When you gain something, you might sacrifice something else even you can’t tell from the moment.

Today we will tell a story of be careful what you wish for especially when you in a temple. The story is from the book In Search of the Sacred 搜神记from the Jin dynasty 晋代 around the year 350.

In the book, it says during the reign of Emperor Cheng of Jin 晋成帝, between the year 335 ~ 342, three young men from the powerful families visited JiangShan temple 蒋山庙, where the statue of Jiang Ziwen 蒋子文 is worshiped. Jiang Ziwen was an official from the Easter Han dynasty 东汉 and the worshiping him after his death was popular before the 6th century. We will talk more about him in the future.




There are a few statues of women in the temple , beautifully made. These three rich young men were a little bit drunk and pointed the statues making comments like they are their maids and math themselves with the women.

That night, three of them all had a dream that Jiang Ziwen sent people to inform them saying, “my children are pretty ugly (this is a humble and polite way to speak in Chinese culture), but I am flattered you don’t mind and requested the match. The marriage date is chosen. We will welcome you at XX date for the ceremony. ” Waking up, the three young men felt weird and asked each other and found out they had the exact same dream. They freaked out and prepared sacrifice to beg for forgiveness in the temple.




After they went back, they had another dream. Jiang Ziwen came to them and said, “sir you already came to us and asked for the match. I don’t want to ruin the marriages and the date is settled. How can you regret?” Not too long, three young men all died.



搜神记 In Search of the Sacred

Episode 208: Tai Sui – Part 2

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Why the slang talks about remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui? It is related another belief of Chinese folklore from Tang dynasty 唐朝, around the 9th century, which interestingly is about a lump of meat creature called also called Tai Sui 太岁 from underground. How can this auspicious star god ended up showing up from underground. It is probably related with the ancient Chinese idea that the sky or heaven, human and earth are connect. 天垂象, 地涌兆, literally means the sky or heaven and the earth show us omens. The star in the sky must shows in other form on earth.

This Tai Sui from underground is a lump of meat like creature with thousands of eyes or in some versions it has no eyes or nose. In the book Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang 酉阳杂 俎from the Tang dynasty 唐朝, it says, in the place called Lai Zhou, which is in the province ShanDong 山东 today, there was a peasant named Wang Feng 王丰 didn’t believe the ritual and tradition of avoiding the position of Tai Sui, and dug a hole at the Tai Sui location. He found a huge lump of meat as big as a dou 斗, a tool to get water in ancient China, which can hole 10 liters. The lump squirmed like alive. He got scared and filled the hole while the lump still squirmed out of the hole. He ran away. The lump kept growing overnight and filled the whole yard. Wang Feng’s brothers and maids all died in the next few days except one woman.




In the book XuYiJianZhi 续夷坚志 from the Jin dynasty 金朝, between the year 1115 ~ 1234, it says, the meat lump from the ground is called Tai Sui. The person who sees it would have bad luck and it shouldn’t be dug out.

I think this belief is not hard to understand. In Taoism, the earth is respected as the mother earth and in many culture as well. This Tai Sui underground story in a way protects the use of earth.




Actually this meat lump is based on a real thing in life. In Chinese, it is called RouLinZhi 肉灵芝, meaning meaty LinZhi mushrooms. The existence, function of it is still in debate in biology. It is a lump of slime molds. It could be classified as fungi or not is not confirmed. In some ancient Chinese medical books including Compendium of Materia Medica 本草纲目, a Chinese herbology book from the year 1578, it says, eating RouLinZhi will let your body lighter and live longer. But since we still don’t know much about it, some scientists don’t recommend consuming it.



酉阳杂俎 Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang

续夷坚志 XuYiJianZhi

本草纲目 Compendium of Materia Medica


Episode 207: Tai Sui – Part 1

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In Chinese folklore, people always talk about TaiSui 太岁. There are slangs like “犯太岁” meaning “offend Tai Sui” or “太岁头上动土”literally means remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui, which also means offend Tai Sui. What is Tai Sui? Tai 太 means too much, or most senior. Sui 岁 means age or year. It sounds like some old person that is at a high position and easily get annoyed.




In the book Classic of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC , it says, what the earth carries contains everything in Liu He 六合. Within the Four Seas 四海, it is brightened by the Sun and Moon, orbited by the stars and clouds, recorded by the four seasons, and verified by Tai Sui. Liu He is the six directions including upside, downside, east, west, south, north. The Four Seas were four bodies of water that metaphorically made up the boundaries of ancient China. They both refers to the world.

In this context, Tai Sui refers to a non-existent star directly opposite the planet Jupiter during its roughly 12-year orbital cycle in Chinese folklore and Taoism, Chinese astrology. This is related with Sexagenary cycle or GanZhi 干支, a cycle of 60 terms, used for reckoning time in China, which we will talk more in the future.




In the book Lun Heng 论衡, a Chinese classic text from the Eastern Han dynasty, between the year 25~ 220, it mentions “the god of Tai Sui”. It probably during the Song dynasty 宋朝, as earlier as the 10th century that Tai Sui was anthropomorphized. In the book XieJiBianFangShu 协纪辨方书 from the year 1739, it says, Tai Sui, in the form of the Emperor, leads other gods in the center position. The position of Tai Sui is the most auspicious and not should be interfered or used by normal people. So Tai Sui is the god of protection instead of some demons. We respect Tai Sui that we try not to interfere with and should face the back of the location of TaiSui, instead of face directly towards to location of Tai Sui. Later, there is misunderstanding in folklore that since we try to avoid Tai Sui, it should be something evil and scary which leads to the slang we mentioned at the beginning of this episode.




In different parts of China, there are various traditions to worship Tai Sui. In some folklore, during a year for example this coming new year is the year of the rat, people who were born on the year of rat and the year of the opposite of rat which is horse are offending Tai Sui. To show the respect, around the Lunar New year, there are praying ceremonies held. For the past decades, there are Chinese people wearing more red during the year for good luck.




Do you remember the slang we talked at the beginning “太岁头上动土” literally means remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui. Why does it mentions about remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui? We will answer the question in the next episode.



山海经 Classic of Mountains and Seas

论衡 Lun Heng

协纪辨方书 XieJiBianFangShu

Episode 125: Lord Guan

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Today we will talk about Lord Guan 关公. He is probably the most respectful and most widely worshiped deified historical figure. We mentioned him in our episode 25 god of wealth and is is regarded as a military god of wealth.


Lord Guan’s name is Guan Yu 关羽 and his courtesy name is Guan YunChang 关云长. He died in the year 220. He was a general working for the warlord Liu Bei 刘备 during the late Eastern Han dynasty 东汉 of China. He shared a brotherly relationship with Liu Bei and is remembered for his loyalty . He is also undefeatable in wars and is regarded as the God of Wars 武圣.


He was deified after his death as early as the around the year 600 and through centuries of story telling especially in the 14th century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It is set in the turbulent years at the end of the Han dynasty 汉朝 around the year 169 AD the the year 280. The book is based on the history but also mythical about the plots and battles of three kingdoms. Liu Bei, we just mentioned, whom Guan Yu working with is the leader of one of the three kingdoms.


In the book Records of the Three Kingdoms 三国志, a historical text about the history of the Three Kingdoms, it mentions Guan Yu has a peerless beard. The image of Guan Yu we see most today is a red-faced warrior with a long, lush beard. In the book of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it says “XuanDe 玄德 took a look at the man, who stood at a height of nine chi, around 2 meters and a two chi long beard, around half a meter. His face was of the color of a date, with lips that were red and plump, his eyes were like those of a crimson phoenix and his eyebrows resembled reclining silkworms. He had a dignified air and looked quite majestic.”


His red face influenced the Peking opera that people with red face in the operas represent loyal characteristics. Guan Yu is usually depicted wearing a green robe holding his weapon called Green Dragon Crescent Blade 青龙偃月刀.

Guan Yu is respected for his deeds and moral qualities and not only in China but in the whole East Asia, he is one of most popular paradigms of loyalty and righteousness and is worshiped in Chinese folklore, Chinese Buddhism and Taoism.



三国演义 Romance of the Three Kingdoms

三国志 Records of the Three Kingdoms