A Brief Guide to Chinese Mythology
China is an ancient civilization with a rich history and culture. Throughout the years, China has been dominated by three major religions—Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. These religions have played a role in shaping not only Chinese traditions but also their mythology.
However, China is also a large landmass which was occupied by many different people. So instead of a single solid pantheon, Chinese mythology instead contains many overlapping stories, creatures, and gods.
The Chinese Creation Story
In the beginning, there were ten suns. Each sun took turns being pulled on a chariot by a sun goddess. One day, all ten suns decided to journey together. Although they had fun, this brought destruction to the Earth. Feeling sorry for humans, their father Dijun reprimanded them. But the children didn’t listen. Dijun then called a great archer, Yi, to frighten the suns.
Soon, Yi realized that nothing managed to make the suns behave. One by one, he shot the arrows to the sky and killed them. After he finished shooting them, only one sun remained.
The Yin and Yang
The concept of duality is represented in Chinese belief as the Yin and Yang. Yin is the “shady side” while Yang is the “sunny side.” Yin and Yang comes primarily from Taoist culture.
Another popular story in Chinese tradition involves the Yin and Yang. Pan Gu is the son of Yin and Yang who came into being during chaos. As he grew, he caused the light parts of the chaos to lift and become heaven and the heavy parts to sink and become earth. Soon, the heaven and earth became fixed in place, and Pan Gu lay down and died. His body became the many different elements found on Earth.
The Chinese Pantheon
Yu Hang-ti – The Jade Emperor, and the highest of all Chinese deities. Many gods report back to him.
Cheng-Huang – God of moats and walls. Every village and town had its own Cheng-Huang, often in the form of an important person who died and was promoted to godhood.
Chu Jung – God of fire and punisher of lawbreakers in heaven.
Kuan Ti – God of war who protects people from injustice and evil spirits. He is often portrayed with a red face and green garb. He is an actual historical figure: a general from the Han dynasty.
Kwan Yin – Goddess of mercy and compassion, she is often portrayed wearing white and seated on a lotus. She was granted immortality by Buddha.
Lei Kun – God of thunder and had the head of a bird, wings, claws, and blue skin. Lei Kun makes thunder with his hammer and punishes criminals who get away with their crimes.
Tsao-Wang – God of the hearth and present in every home. A paper image of him and his wife is burned with incense to them daily.
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