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

Episode 136: Nine-tailed Fox Spirits

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Today we will talk about the beautiful and mysterious nine-tailed fox spirits 九尾狐. There are numerous fox spirits 狐狸精 in Chinese mythology and the nine-tailed fox spirits is the most known. What’s the impression of the nine-tailed fox spirit in your mind? We will finally talk about how the concept of the nine-tailed fox spirits evolved through the history.

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The earliest text about nine-tailed fox spirits is from the book Classics of Mountains and Seas 山海经from the 4th century BC. The book actually mentioned the nine-tailed fox spirits in a few chapters. For example, in the chapter NanShanJing 南山经, it says, “There is a kind of beast living on the Land of QingQiu 青丘. The beast resembles a fox with nine tails. It makes a sound like a baby and eats men. Whoever eats the beast will be protected against poison. “ It is believed that the nine-tailed fox spirits lived in the place called QingQiu, which means Green Hills and although it eats human, human eat it can get protected. The historian GuoPu 郭璞 from the Jin dynasty 晋朝 noted the book that, “the nine-tailed fox spirit is an auspicious omen that appeared during times of peace. ”

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In the book Master Lv’s Spring and Autumn Annals 吕氏春秋, an Chinese classic text complied around 239 BC, there is a story about Yu the Great, who was a legendary ruler in ancient China around the Great flood time around the year 2000BC. The story says once Yu the Great passed the place TuShan 涂山 and said, “there should be an omen of me getting married.” Then there he heard the song from a local girl who claimed to be a white nine-tailed fox and was interested in having a family with Yu the Great. Later they got married and had the son Qi 启. In this story, nine-tailed fox not only represents fertility but also royalty.

During the Han dynasty especially the Eastern Han dynasty, which is between the year 25 ~220, the idea of heavenly prophecy was popular especially in the politics. Nine-tailed tails was symbolize as a beneficial god and even more emphasized as an auspicious omen that appeared during times of peace with the wise king. From the stone carvings during the Han dynasty, we could find the image of nine-tailed foxes on the side of Queen Mother of the West 西王母. We have talked about Queen Mother of the West in Ep74, please check it out if you want to know about her. In the stone carvings, the Queen Mother of the West is always in the center with a dragon and a tiger on her two sides and a toad underneath. A nine-tailed fox is in the corner. Sometimes the fox has six, seven or eight tails. So far it seems the nine-tailed fox is still a holy spirit.

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Since Tang dynasty 唐朝 between the year 618~ 907, the holy royal fox spirit started become more popular among the normal people. They are not just for the king but they started to appear in folklore. People started to worship fox spirits in villages. The famous poet from the Tang dynasty Bai Juyi 白居易 wrote an article in which he compared Daji 妲己 and Baosi 褒姒 with fox spirits. Daji is from around the 1000 BC. Baosi is from around 700 BC. They were both the consort and concubine of two kings and their stories are both known as the classic examples of how a beauty causes the downfall of a dynasty in Chinese culture. We will talk about their stories in our future episodes. But clearly here, they are considered as the negative influences on the kings and the fox spirits started to change.

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In the Song dynasty 宋朝 between the year 960 ~ 1279, nine-tailed foxes were almost totally became the evil spirits that seduce people based on the article we just talked about. This is when Japanese and Korean heard about the fox spirits and became Kitsune in Japanese mythology and Kumiho in Korean mythology. In English the word Huli jing 狐狸精 from Chinese in just used as fox spirits.

One of most known mythical story of nine-tailed fox is from the book Investiture of the Gods 封神演义from the Ming dynasty 明朝 in the 16th century. The story confirmed that Daji is an evil nine-tailed fox spirit in a beautiful woman’s form. The king Shangzhou 商纣 王didn’t do anything wrong but was just seduced and haunted by her.

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At last, during Qing dynasty 清朝, the last dynasty in ancient China, the book Strange Stories from the a Chinese Studio 聊斋志异 published in 1740 emerged and it contains many stories about fox spirits and they all have different characteristics like human. And there are male fox spirits, old fox spirits and kid fox spirits in the book. They can be malevolent and can be lovely. Most the female fox spirits in the book are smart, brave and would sacrifice for the loved ones.

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Until today, people still love the stories of fox spirits and the image is a fox spirit becomes more complicated and interesting. Like the word Huli Jing 狐狸精 in modern Chinese has been a negative word to refer to a woman who is good at flirting with men and interfere other people’s relationships. However, today maybe some women probably wouldn’t offended being called as a Huli Jing. Women can be whoever they want to be if they choose to be. Good at flirting and being extremely attractive is not so bad, right? Because we know the downfall of a dynasty is not caused by a woman and if the man is seduced, he should be responsible for it.

 

Mentioned:

山海经 Classics of Mountains and Seas

吕氏春秋 Master Lv’s Spring and Autumn Annals

封神演义 Investiture of the Gods

聊斋志异 Strange Stories from the a Chinese Studio