Episode 196: Ostrich

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In Chinese ostrich is called TuoNiao 鸵鸟. I am always curious about the name because Tuo 驼 means camels and Niao means birds. I though maybe ostrich kind of look like camels. But I am not convinced.

 

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Until I saw a mythical animal recorded in the book TaiPingYuLan 太平御览, a book complied from the year 977 to 983 during the Song dynasty 宋朝. In the book, it says during the reign of Emperor GaoZong of Tang 唐高宗 around the year 650, the Kingdom of Tocharians 吐火罗gifted the emperor a big bird. Tocharians were Indo-European people who inhabited in the area of Xinjiang, the west-northern China today in ancient times. XinJiang is in the northeastern of Afghanistan today if you don’t know. The big bird was more than 2 meters tall and its feet looked like the feet of camel. I guess this is where the name is from. I checked the pictures of the feet of ostriches and camels and they do look alike. The bird has wings and can fly. They can run 300 miles per day and eats bronze and iron. Some people call it TuoNiao. The emperor considered his father Emperor TaiZong of Tang cared about the people from far away, he let people carved the bird in his cemetery.

 

 

Although this description is a little bit off the fact, it is pretty obvious it is about ostrich. Another earlier record about ostrich is from the book Book of the Later Han 后汉书covering the history from the year 25 to 220 compiled around the year 400. In the book, it also mentioned the bird has camel feet. It is amazing to see the trading in the ancient time since ostriches only live in Africa.

 

Mentioned:

太平御览 TaiPingYuLan

后汉书 Book of the Later Han

Episode 169: Jinhua Cats

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In most cultures, people see cats as a mysterious animals. We love cats and sometimes are afraid of them cause they are so unpredictable. There are many stories in Chinese mythology and today we will talk about one kind of cats called Jinhua Cats 金华猫.

 

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Jinhua is a place in China. In the book MaoYuan 猫苑, a book about cats from the Qing dynasties 清朝, around 19th century. It says, after a Jinhua cat has been kept in the house for three years, every midnight, the cat would jump on the roof of the house and open its mouth towards the moon. So the cat can obtain the essence of the moon.

 

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Day after day, the cat can become a spirit. It would go back to the deep mountains and valleys. It stays in during the day and when the sun set, it would come out to seduce people. It transforms to a handsome man if it meets a woman and to a beautiful woman if it meets a man. Sometimes, the cat would sneak into some people’s houses. The first thing the cat does is to pee into the water bottle. If people drink the water, the cat would be invisible to them. Moreover, the people who drank the water would be sick. Once this happened, the family of the person covered a green clothes on the him at night and after a while, some cat hair showed on the clothes. The family then found a hunter to help. The hunter came with a few dogs to catch the cat in the house. After the cat was caught, the hunter pealed the cat’s skin and cooked its meat. The patience soon recovered after having the cat meat. However this doesn’t work if the cat’s gender is the same with the patience.

 

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In the book YiJianZhi 夷坚志from the Southern Song dynasty 南宋, around the 12th century, it says in the place called LinAn 临安, there was a girl was haunted by some evil spirit. She met a young and handsome man. Whatever the man asks for she would do for him. The young man could sing and speak like a normal person however nobody else could see him except the girl. In the end, an old man figured it was the cat spirit and also is known as the Jinhua cat and killed it.

 

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Mentioned:

猫苑 MaoYuan

夷坚志 YiJianZhi

Episode 161: Chinese Gargoyle

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Today we will talk about about Chinese gargoyle that have been sitting on the top of roofs for hundreds and thousands of years.

The name for those Chinese gargoyle is called roof charms 檐兽. It is interesting that in both European architecture and Chinese architecture, they are both an important part. Gargoyle or originally from the French gargouille is designed to convey water from a ruff to prevent rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between. Similarly, Chinese gargoyle, usually made of Chinese glazed roof tile, is to protect wooden pillars and metal nails from water. Due to the structure of the ancient Chinese architecture, there are different Chinese gargoyle on different parts of the roof. There are WenShou 吻兽, DunShou 蹲兽, ChuiShou 垂兽, QiangShou 戗兽 , TaoShou 套兽 and XianRenZouShou 仙人走兽.

Actually we have talked about WenShou or WangShou 望兽in Ep 89 in our podcast, the ninth son of the dragon is called ChiWen 鸱吻. If you are interested, please check that episode.

Today we will mainly talked about XianRenZouShou 仙人走兽 placed on the ridge line of official buildings of the Chinese empire. A row of figures made of glazed ceramic form an outward marching procession along the ridges. There are usually an odd number of them. The more figures there are the more important the building is. There is one exception though that the Hall of Supreme Harmony 太和殿 in the Forbidden City 紫禁城 in Beijing has 10 figures, which is an even number and also the largest number.The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the location where the emperors of the Ming 明朝 and Qing 清朝 dynasties hosted their enthronement and wedding ceremonies.

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What are those figures?

At the head of the procession is a man riding a phoenix or a chicken which was based on Kalaviṅka in Sanskrit and 迦陵頻迦 in Chinese, an immortal creature with a human head and a bird’s torso with long flowing tail in Buddhism. There are different versions of the stories of the man, we will talk about it in our future episode.

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The first mythical beast on in the procession is dragon, which represents royalty and the emperor. Some version say it is ChiWen, the ninth son of the dragon we just mentioned. ChiWen looks like a hybrid of a fish and a dragon.

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The second mythical beast is Chinese phoenix represents noble people or more accurately noble men in the ancient times. It is a symbol of high virtue and grace. We have talked about Chinese phoenix in our Ep. 100. Please check it out.

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The third mythical beast is the lion, the king of all beasts that represents bravery and protector in temples.

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The fourth mythical beast is the heavenly horse that chasing after wind and the sun which represents the pride and exploration of new horizon.

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The fifth mythical beast is the sea horse that represents loyalty, bravery and wisdom.

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The sixth is Suan Ni 狻猊 , the fifth son of the dragon that we have talked about in our Ep. 89, a mythical creature that is quite and likes to sit down and can be found on the bases or at the feet of a Buddhist idols or a Buddhist incense burner. SuanNi looks like a hybrid of a lion and a dragon. It represents good omen.

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The seventh is Xia Yu 狎鱼, a mythical creature in the sea that it can summon wind and storm. Since many buildings were made of wood, Xia Yu can prevent fire with water.

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The eighth is Xie Zhi 獬豸, Chinese unicorn. A super wise mythical animal that understands people, which represents the law and justice.

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The ninth is Dou Niu 斗牛,a mythical creature similar to dragon but without horns. Similar to Xia Yu, it can control water. Since the name Niu means null, the figure looks like a hybrid of dragon and ox.

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The last one is called Hang Shen 行什 , which pronounced like “ranked tenth” in Chinese. It looks like a monkey person with wings and holding a mental pole. Some people say he is the God of Thunder. We have talked about God of Thunder in Chinese mythology in our episode 109. There are different images of God of Thunder throughout the history and a monkey person is one of them, which a good blessing that protect the architecture from lightning.

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Episode 159: Four Perils 2 – Qiong Qi

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Today we will talk about one of the “Four Perils” in Chinese mythology- QiongQi 穷奇. There are two different theories about “Four Perils” and we are talking about the version recorded in the book Zuo Zhuan 左传, an ancient Chinese narrative history that is a commentary on the ancient Chinese chronicle Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋 from the 4th century BC. We have talked about TaoTie 饕餮, the other one of the “four evil creatures”, if you are interested in it please check episode 132.

Some people may heard about it if you watched a really popular Chinese fantasy romantic TV series from last year called Ashes of Love 香蜜沉沉烬如霜. There is an evil mythological creatures called Qiong Qi which is based on the mythological creature in Chines mythology.

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In the book Classics of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC, in the Chapter XiCiSiJing 西次四经, it says on the Mountain Gui 邽山,there lived a kind of beast called Qiong Qi looking like an ox with spikes like hedgehog and it eats people.

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However, in other Chapter HaiNeiBeiJing 海内北经 in the same book, it says Qiong Qi looks like a tiger with wings. It usually eats people from the head.

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In the book ShenYiJing 神异经 from the Han dynasty 汉代 around the year 200 BC, it gives a more detailed description based on the Chapter HaiNeiBeijing of the book Classics of Mountains and Seas. It says, Qiong Qi is a tiger-like flying beast that eats people. It knows human’s languages. When people are having an arguments, he would eat the righteous person. If it knows a person is honest and trust worthy, he would bite the person’s nose off. If it knows a person is evil, he would hunt food for the person.

Some ancient historians noted this part that, Qiong Qi lookes like an ox with a long fox tail. Its sound was similar to dogs.

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Mentioned:

左传 Zuo Zhuan

春秋 Spring and Autumn Annals

山海经 Classics of Mountains and Seas

神异经 ShenYiJing

Episode 152: LuoSha Bird

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We have talked about Guhuo Bird 姑获鸟 ,a kind of evil bird in Chinese mythology in our episode 27. Today we will talk about another evil bird in Chinese mythology called LuoSha Bird 罗刹鸟.

The word LuoSha 罗刹 comes from the word Rakshasa, which is rākṣasa in Sanskrit word. It is a mythological being in Hindu mythology and later was incorporated into Buddhism. Rakshasas are mostly ugly, fierce-looking creatures that eat people.

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In Chinese mythology, there is a kind of evil bird called LuoSha Bird that eat people’s eyes. It is said they were formed by the energy of corpse, which was probably based on the origin of Rakshasa that they are believed to have been created from the breath of Brahma, the creator god when he was asleep in Hindu mythology. Both LuoSha bird and Rakshasa were filled with blood lust when they were created. LuoSha Bird in Chinese mythology looks like a grey crane with white beak and claws. It is also believed that LuoSha Bird can transform into beautiful women to hunt for the food, which was probably based on Hindu mythology as well that there are female Rakshasas and they can be in human form.

 

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There are many stories about the bird and today we will talk one story. In the book What The Master Would Not Discuss 子不语, a collection of supernatural stories compiled by Yuan Mei 袁枚 during the Qing dynasty 清朝 published in 1788, it says during the reign of Emperor YongZheng 雍正, between the year 1722 ~ 1735, in the capital a royal family was having a wedding. The bride’s family was also prestigious, while living outside the gate of ShaHe 沙河. After the bride got on the litter, a kind of vehicle carried by people, they started head to the groom’s family. On the way, they passed a cemetery, a weird wind came from the tombs and stayed around the litter for a while. People couldn’t open their eyes because sand and dirt were blown in the air. After a while, the wind stopped and they kept walking until they arrived.

They put down the litter in the middle of the hallway, and the maids served the bride to walk out of the litter. Surprisingly, there was another bride walking out of the litter and stood next to the the bride. People were amazed to see the two brides wearing the exact same clothes and accessories and couldn’t tell any differences. They looked the faces underneath the veil, they were exactly the same as well. Nobody could explain the reason.

The groom was happy because he could marry two women now. The wedding ceremony went on as usual. At night, the groom couldn’t wait to spend the first night with two wives looking the same. Suddenly, people heard a scream from the newly married room. At first, they thought maybe the two brides were jealous of each other and were fighting and later they knocked on the door, however, nobody answered. The families worried and broke in, there was blood everywhere. The groom was lying on the floor and one bride was lying on the bed. The second bride disappeared.

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People lit up more candles and looked around, a huge bird standing on the ceiling. Everyone tried to find some tools to hit the bird while the bird escaped from the door. Some of the people checked the groom and the bride, both of their eyes were gone. Luckily the couple survived in the end.

 

Mentioned:

子不语What The Master Would Not Discuss