Chinese mythology

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chang'e flies to the moon

The Chinese mythology ranges in oral tradition until the time of the Shang Dynasty (about 1700 BC.. - . 1100 BC. ) Back, but is written only in the classical period of China , at the time of Confucius before. Only fragments of literary versions, which were edited by later scholars of the Eastern Zhou dynasty ( 722 BC - 221 BC ), bear witness to the legendary prehistoric times of archaic Chinese mythology, the mythical Xia dynasty and the Shang dynasty . These rationalized and historicized the texts. Since the scholars used the myths to illustrate their works, in order to express their own points of view, the old myths were in some cases greatly changed and are often available in different versions. The Chinese myths that exist today appear as collections of archaic statements in connection with philosophical, political, literary and historical works. Since the authors of these works often adapted the myths to their intentions, a multitude of different versions of a myth appear in Chinese literature .


The earliest layers of mythical tradition can be found in texts such as the Shanhaijing (classic from the mountains and seas c. 300 BC - c. 100), the Chuci (chants from Chu) and the Shenyijing (book of spirits and miracles) .

The origins of Chinese mythology are associated with shamanism and ancestral cult . In addition, numerous myths that point to the beginnings of Chinese culture have been handed down from Daoism . In the literature of China , too, there was a rich fund of motifs and topoi that were taken up again and again. The Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi z. B. processed many old myths in his work, which were also taken up again and again in later literature, and Liezi is also regarded as a fund for older myths. The texts of Confucian philosophers mostly refer only marginally to mythical events, but the Shujing (Book of Documents) contains myths about the origins of government, wise rulers and political power, and the book by the philosopher Mengzi contains two versions of the myth of the great flood. Even Buddhist myths such. B. About the Bodhisattva Guanyin or myths about monks can be found in Chinese mythology.

Many mythical subjects and motifs can also be found in the rich folk tales , legends and fairy tales . A popular and typically Chinese figure is z. B. the dragon and another the dangerous fox fairy , a vixen who often transforms into a beautiful woman gifted with magical powers. Mythical animals such as phoenix ( Fenghuang ) and unicorn ( Qilin ) are also known. The legends about immortals are also a typical Chinese phenomenon . B. various legends about the eight immortals have been collected.

Creation myths

What is striking about the traditional Chinese mythology is that only fragments of cosmogonies can be found, which represent a central element in the mythologies of other cultures. There is also a tendency to portray the mythical figures as historical, so that many myths about the culture bringers can be found in Chinese mythology. The world creation myths that have been handed down act e.g. B. from the goddess Nu Gua or the primitive man Pan Gu . Myths about the primordial matter in the form of an amorphous vapor, a world ice or the concept of a primeval formlessness Hun Dun can be found in the traditional mythology. In contrast to myths from other cultures, the world creation myths from China show neither an omnipotent creator nor such a divine will. Many of these myths exist in different versions, e.g. B. the myth of the separation of heaven and earth. In the earliest version, the sky god Zhuan Xu orders his two grandchildren Chong and Li to forever support the sky and to push the earth down so that the cosmos does not return to chaos.

In traditional mythology, a later version became the orthodox creation myth: the primordial matter had the shape of a hen's egg and divided into heaven and earth after 18,000 years. The yang rose and became heaven and the yin fell down and became earth. The demigod Pan Gu was born between heaven and earth. After nine metamorphoses , he became as divine and wise as heaven and earth. After 18,000 years these three then formed the trinity of heaven, earth and man, from which the three rulers later emerged.

The wise

The oldest of the culture bringers are the three sublime ones (San Huang) Fu Xi , Nu Gua and Shennong , who are considered to be the founders of the culture. They are followed by the original Chinese emperors, of whom Huangdi , the Yellow Emperor, is considered the most important. Huangdi was also one of the supreme deities in Daoism . Some Daoist deities such as Xiwangmu can also be traced back to the Shang period.

A figure that is mentioned in many works is Yi the archer, who shot 9 of the 10 "ominous suns" with his arrows. His wife was the mother of the 10 moons (see Chang'e ). She stole from him the elixir of immortality that Xiwangmu, the "Queen Mother of the West" and goddess of immortality, had entrusted to him, and fled to the moon, where she stayed. Another central myth is that of Emperor Yu the Great , the mythical founder of the Xia Dynasty, who defeated the Great Flood. This hero myth is similar to the myths of the Flood and is also told in other versions. Other heroes of Chinese mythology are the agricultural gods Hou Ji and Shun .

The menace

In addition to the wise rulers and heroes , Chinese mythology also shows an abundance of monsters and mischief-makers who threaten the world order and bring about war, drought and chaos. B. the figure of the antihero and deceiver Gun.

Chinese mythology nine-tailed fox

Other prominent motifs of Chinese mythology are the miraculous birth, divine miracles, heavenly punishments and metamorphoses, as well as motifs of divine war and the golden age . In the myth of the origin of the Shang z. B. tells how the god of heaven ordered a heavenly bird to go down on earth and give birth to the Shang. A second version of the myth of the divine origin of the Shang tells how a girl saw a bird lay an egg and ate it. The girl then became pregnant and gave birth to the founder of the Shang. In the myth of the origin of the Zhou dynasty, a girl stepped on the foot of a god and became pregnant. She gave birth to the boy Hou Ji (Prince Millet), who could propagate millet and beans, and later taught people to grow millet.

The goddesses

In Chinese mythology, with a few exceptions, goddesses do not play as big a role as the male figures, among other things because in the Middle Ages the classical texts were reworked, the role of women was subordinate and some goddesses disappeared completely from the records. For example, the ancient sky and calendar deities are Xi He ( Chinese  羲 和 , Pinyin xīhé ), the sun goddess and Chang'e ( 嫦娥 , cháng'é ), the moon goddess, female, but later became two male officials named Xi by the Confucians and He reinterpreted, who were responsible for the course of the year. In the earlier versions, Xi He was a goddess who gave birth to ten suns for each day of the week, washed them from heaven after returning home, and dried them on the Eastern World Tree. In another version, Xi He appeared as the driver of the sun chariot . Many river and mountain goddesses appear in the oldest mythical texts, and the goddesses mentioned in the classical texts often have a more mythically significant role than the male figures.

Important deities and mythical beings

Wen Chang, Chinese god of literature, engraved in ivory, c. 1550–1644, Ming Dynasty .
  • Deities with Buddhist names
  • Cang Jie : had four eyes
  • Chang'e : moon goddess
  • Chi You : (蚩尤) tyrant who fought against the later Yellow Emperor (黃帝 / 黄帝 Huáng Dì)
  • Da Yu : founder of the Xia Dynasty , famous for introducing flood protection measures and for his upright moral attitude
  • Daoji : (道 濟 禪師dào jì chán shī ), commonly known as Ji Gong (濟 公Jìgōng ): folk hero known for his wild and eccentric behavior; kept his passionate nature
  • Eight immortals
  • Erlang Shen : had a third eye in the middle of the forehead that could see the truth
  • Fangfeng : Giant who helped fight the flood, executed by Yu the great
  • Feng Meng : student of Hou Yi and his alleged murderer
  • Four emperors (四 御, Sì yù ): Heavenly kings of the Daoist religion
    • Yu Di (玉帝) or 玉皇 Yu Huang (Jade Emperor)
    • Zhongtian Ziwei Beiji Dadi 中天 紫微 北極 大帝 (abbreviated: 紫微 大帝 Zǐ Wēi Dàdì or 北極 大帝 Beiji Dadi)
    • (Gouchen Shanggong) Tianhuang Dadi (勾 陳 上 宮) 天皇 大帝 (Gouchén Shànggōng) Tiānhuáng Dàdì, Great Heavenly Emperor of the Supreme Palace of the Pole Star
    • Houtu (Huang Diqi) 后土 (皇 地 祇) Emperor of the Earth or 地 母 Tumu "Mother Earth"
    • Nanji Changsheng Dadi 南極 長生 大帝 Great Emperor of the Longevity of the South Pole (if the Jade Emperor is not regarded as one of the four emperors but as their head)
  • Gao Yao
  • Gonggong : water god / sea monster similar to a snake or a dragon
  • Guan Yu : God of brotherhoods, martial power and war
  • Nüba (女 魃 Nǚbá) or (Han) Ba ((旱) 魃 Hànbá) goddess of dryness, daughter of the Yellow Emperor
  • Hou Yi : archer god; married to Chang'e , the moon goddess
  • Hong Sheng : (洪 聖 Hóng shèng)
  • Jum sum : (枕 神 Pinyin: Zhěn Shén) God of sleep and dreams
  • Kua Fu : (夸父 kuāfù) Giant who wanted to catch the sun
  • Kui Xing : (魁星 kuí xīng) God of trials and ally of the Scriptures God, Wen Chang
  • Lei Gong : God of thunder
  • Long Mu : (龍 母 lóng mǔ) also 'Lung Mo': Chinese woman who was idolized after raising five baby dragons
  • Ao Guang : Dragon Emperor of the Eastern Sea
  • Mazu : (媽祖 Māzǔ) goddess of the sea
  • Meng Po : (孟婆 Mèng Pó) responsible for the fact that born again souls forget their previous lives
  • Nezha : (哪吒 Nézha) Daoist protective deity
  • Sun Wukong (also: Monkey King): (孫悟空 Sūn Wùkōng)
  • Tan Gong : ( Chinese  譚 公 , Pinyin Tán Gōng , Cantonese  Tam Kung ) or ( Chinese  譚 大仙 , Pinyin Tán dàxiān , Cantonese  Tam Tai Sin ): Sea deity with the ability to predict the weather (worshiped in Hong Kong and Macao)
  • Qixi shepherd boy and weaver girl
  • Great Emperors of China (three exalted and five emperors): Collection of legendary rulers
  • Three pure : Daoist Trinity
    • Daode Tianzun : (道德 天尊 Dàodé Tiānzūn) official title of Taiqing (太清 Tàiqīng)
      commonly known as Taishang Laojun (太上老君 Tàishàng Lǎojūn), Daode Zhizun (道德 至尊 Dàodé Zhìzīn) or Daojiao Zhìǔizu (道教 z之àu) u. a.
    • Lingbao Tianzun : (靈寶 天尊 Língbǎo Tiānzūn) official title of Shangqing (上清 Shàngqīng)
    • Yuanshi Tianzun : (元始 天尊 Yúanshǐ Tiānzūn) official title of Yuqing (玉清 Yùqīng)
  • City god
  • Tudigong : earth god, god of a locality, more often also in personam god of wealth and merit
  • Tu Er Shen : managed love and sex between homosexuals
  • Wenchang Wang : God of culture and literature
  • Wong Tai Sin : possessed healing powers
  • Wu Gang : mowed real laurel without ceasing on the moon, which always grew back
  • Xiwangmu : Queen Mother of the West
  • Xiang River Goddess (Xiangfei)
    • É huáng (娥 皇)
    • Nǚ yīng (女 英).
  • Xihe : Goddess of the Sun
  • Xingtian : headless giant who was beheaded by the Yellow Emperor as punishment for challenging him; the face is on his torso as he has no head
  • Yuqiang : descendant of Huangdi, god of the North Sea and the wind
  • Zao Jun : kitchen god
  • Zhao Gongming (also: Cai Shen): God of wealth / prosperity
  • Zhong Kui : Defeated spirits and evil beings / demons
  • Zhu Rong : god of fire
Spirit of the well, from Myths and Legends of China , 1922 by ETC Werner
Zoomorphic guardian spirits of Day and Night, Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) Chinese paintings on ceramic tile
  • Yifan Zhang: cat goddess who led a legion of cats to uphold righteousness before the Shang era; Descendant of Huangdi

Myths in Art

In Chinese art , mythical subjects were also often depicted. The earliest evidence is found in graves, where e.g. B. the tree of life and the paradise of the Queen Mother of the West or the Flood myth were depicted. Many pictorial representations from the tombs of the Han period are, however, barely or insufficiently interpreted by science. In poetry, the myth of two star lovers, which was further developed from a mythical fragment in the Shi Jing (Book of Songs) , was often processed, and ancient war heroes or mythical animals such as the intelligent monkey (cf. Xiyouji ) appeared in novels .

The minority peoples in China still tell their own myths today.

see also: Chinese symbols


Individual evidence

  1. XI-HE, also known as HSI-HE, HSI-HO ,
  2. a b 甘晶莹: 中秋节 Mid-Autumn Festival. (No longer available online.) September 8, 2008, archived from the original on September 13, 2008 ; accessed on September 19, 2009 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Compare Xihe , Houyi , Chang'e , Three-legged bird , Mid-Autumn Festival , engl. Wikipedia @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Godchecker entry on Meng Po (English)