Mythological World in Chinese Mythology and Folklore

Mythological World in Chinese Mythology and Folklore
deity and divine creatures in heaven in Chinese Mythology
 

Divine Creatures and Great Deity In Heaven

 

In Ancient Chinese Astrology, the sky was divided into four parts, namely east, west, north, and south. Each section contains seven bright stars, which look like images of four mythical creatures.

These four divine creatures also are named the Four Symbols, which represent each section of the sky and control the four seasons, respectively. 

Qing Long  or Cyan Dragon

Qing Long is considered one of the most powerful mythical creatures in Chinese mythology.

 

It guards in the east of the sky and is the representative of the left, spring, and wood. 

Cyan Dragon is the representative of power, strength, and integrity. Therefore, humans respected it as the guardian of their land. 

Qing Long the Cyan Dragon in Mythology in China

Bai Hu  or White Tiger


Bai Hu lies and is in charge of the west of the sky, and is the representative of right, autumn, and metal. 

The White Tiger is the symbol of loyalty, power, bravery, and justice, and is respected as the God of War in ancient China.

 

So, the white tiger had been widely used in the military, such as the army flag and seal.

Bai Hu the White Tiger in Chinese Mythology

Zhu Que or Vermilion Bird

Zhu Que guards in the south of the sky and is the representative of the front, summer, and fire. 

Vermilion Bird, which looks like a huge red bird, is believed as a mythical creature that can lead people’s souls to heaven after they die.

Zhu Que the Red Bird in Chinese Mythology

Xuan Wu or Black Tortoise

Xuan Wu lies in the north of the sky and is the representative of the back, winter, and water. 

Black Tortoise, the mythical creature that looks like a turtle entwined with a snake, was widely used in divination as a messenger, which could take questions to celestial or ancestors in another world, and then bring back the answer.

Xuan Wu the Black Turtle-Snake in Chinese Mythology
 
Ying Long the Yellow Dragon in Mythology in China

Ying Long or Yellow Dragon

In the middle of the sky lies Ying Long, which is the representative of the earth from the Five Element Theory, and is believed superior to other mythical creatures. 

Ying Long or Yellow Dragon was in charge of wind and rain, and had assisted Yellow Emperor (about 2717 BC — 2599 BC) in intense battles, and helped Yu the Great (about 2123 BC — 2025 BC) in defeating the huge floods. 

Unlike other Chinese Dragons, Ying Long has two wings, which later evolved into colorful clouds in handicraft masterpieces. 

Images of the Ying Long dragon had been strictly and exclusively used by Chinese Emperors in history. 

Chinese god

Chinese God Hao Tian Shang Di

 

Hao Tian Shang Di is the most supreme god in the Chinese Han culture that rules everything in the universe. 

 

Hao Tian Shang Di is the representative of heaven, or the anthropomorphized Hao Tian lives in upper heaven. 

 

From Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC) to the last feudal empire Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912), Hao Tian Shang Di had been worshipped by emperors in grand imperial sacrificial ceremonies. 

Memorial Tablet of Huangtian Shangdi or Haotian Shangdi on Main Hall of Temple of Heaven

Memorial Tablet of  Hao Tian Enshrined on Main Hall of the Temple of Heaven, Where Emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 — 1912) Held Grand Sacrificial Ceremonies to Worship the Heaven.  

 
kunlun mountains in Chinese Mythology

The Sacred Kunlun Mountains On West

 

In China, there are two different Kunlun Mountains.

 

The Legendary Kunlun Mountains

The Legendary Mount Kunlun is respected as the most supreme and sacred mountain in Chinese Mythology and Taoism Religion.

 

It is believed the ancestor of all mountains, and the center of the world.

 

Located in northwest China, the Legend Mount Kunlun is huge and steep and has a huge pillar leading a path to heaven. 

 

It is surrounded by four gates, nine paths, and a river named Ruo Shui, and has five magic cities and twelve fabulous buildings scattering.

Outside those gates and the river is the Mountain of Fire, which could burn everything unwelcome into ashes.

On Mount Kunlun, there are countless valuable flowers and plants, mythical animals, as well as treasures, and beautiful natural sceneries. 

Mysterious Mount Kunlun

Kunlun is regarded as the origin of Chinese culture, where many influential kings used to live and hold sacrifice rites. 

The Taiji, Bagua, Traditional Chinese Calendar, and ancient customs and etiquettes, were all invented there by King Fu Xi

In addition, it's the place where deity Nu Wa created human beings and patched the broken sky.

Nv Wa fulfilling broken sky using five colored stones

Xi Wangmu — Deity of Kunlun Mountains

Xi Wangmu is a powerful goddess living in Yaochi of Mount Kunlun, a magic lake surrounded by lots of beautiful flowers and special plants.

She is in charge of all female deities and controls all of the elixirs of life in the world. 

Many times, she had sent mythical animals, deities, or even herself, to come to the secular world and help humans defeat destructive disasters.

Some exceptional emperors in the history of China who had achieved outstanding accomplishments also had met or were rewarded by Xi Wangmu.  

 
Xi Wangmu from Mount Kunlun and Ji Man the King Mu of Zhou

Xi Wangmu Meeting King Mu of Zhou (? — about 922 BC)

San Qing — Messenger of Xi Wangmu

San Qing is a type of mythical bird that delivers messages for the Goddess Xi Wangmu and accompanies her wherever she goes.

According to historical documents, Emperor Wu of Han (156 BC — 87 BC) once saw a San Qing bird, and then was told that the great deity from Mount Kunlun will be visiting soon.

So he started preparing for her arrival. 

Sometime later, Xi Wangmu came, rewarded the emperor with seven magical peaches, and promised the prosperity of the Han Empire and the success of his military activities.

Afterward, the emperor built a fantastic building on Mount Tai, which is the place for her to live when she came into the secular world. 

San Qing the messenger bird for Chinese Godness Xi Wangmu in Mythology in China

Lu Wu or Kaiming Shou — Guard of Kunlun Mountains

Lu Wu or Kaiming Shou is the guard and open-minded administrator of the Kunlun Mountains, who is in charge of the plants, animals, and climates.

Lu Wu has a human head, a tiger’s body with nine tails, and was as big as 99 normal tigers; in other versions, Lu Wu has nine human heads. 

He had helped Yu the Great, the founder of the Xia Dynasty (about 2070 BC — 1600 BC), defeat monsters and fight against the huge flood.

Lu Wu the God of Kunlun Mountains

Bai Ze — Smartest Mythical Creature

Bai Ze is an extremely knowledgeable animal that can speak the human language.

 

It has beautiful white fur and looks like a goat with one horn and two wings. 

Usually, Bai Ze only lives in Mount Kunlun, and only shows up in the secular world when the society is at peace and prosperity.

Therefore, it is representative of luck, safety, and happiness in Chinese culture. 

Bai Ze has knowledge with respect to 11520 types of supernatural beings, and the means to defeat those evil ones.

Once, Bai Ze came into the secular world and passed on that information to the Yellow Emperor (about 2717 BC — 2599 BC), who then edited that knowledge into a book and disseminated it to all civilians. 

Mythical Creature Bai Ze

Mythical Creature Bai Ze, Picture from Atpom. 

The Prototype of the Legendary Mount Kunlun

Based on the description of mythology and the activity territory of ancient Chinese people, the Xicheng Mountain, which was apotheosized in Chinese culture afterward, is believed as the prototype of the mysterious Mount Kunlun.

Xicheng Mountain is located in Shanxi province, where the earliest Chinese ancestors lived and built the fundamental mold of Chinese culture, where Yu the Great fought against the huge flood, and great King Tang of Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC) held big ceremonies to pray for rain.

Today, the inhabitants here still could recognize the four gates and nine paths of this mountain, exactly the same as how the legendary Mount Kunlun is described.

Prototype of Mountain of Fire outside Mount Xicheng of Mythology in China

Red Mountain Outside the Mount Xicheng, the Prototype of Mountain of Fire outside the Mount Kunlun.  

The Geographical Kunlun Mountains

Geological Kunlun Mountains are located in the northwest of China, extraordinarily tremendous, magnificent, and mysterious; in Taoism Religion, this is the most sacred place.

With an average of 5500 to 6000 meters (about 3.42 to 3.73 miles) altitude, around 500,000 square kilometers (about 193,051 square miles) area, most of the Kunlun Mountains are covered by snow.

Till now, only a very small part of Kunlun Mountain is open to tourists, while most of it is still shrouded in mystery. 

Kunlun Mountains covered by snow
mythical islands in Chinese Mythology
 

Three Mystical Islands On East

Penglai, Fangzhang, and Yingzhou are three grand islands or mountains floating in the sea in the east of China. 

In those mythical mountains, all palaces are made of jade, silver, and gold, all animals and plants are pure white as clouds, and some powerful deities are living there. 

The supreme deity Dong Wanggong there is in charge of all male deities

Therefore, Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 BC — 210 BC) and Emperor Wu of Han (156 BC — 87 BC), two of the greatest monarchs in Chinese history, all visited there in search of immortals. 

After Qin Shi Huang commanded to build three islands in a big lake in his palace to simulate these three mythical mountains in the east, the Three Islands in One Lake layout had been followed by most emperors of China in their Imperial Palaces.

Penglai Island Painted by Artist Qiu Ying (about 1497 — 1552)

Penglai Island Painted by Artist Qiu Ying (about 1498 — 1552) — Poly Art Museum

holy mountains in Chinese Mythology
 

Holy Mountains From Mythology and Folklore

Mythological Mountains from Legend

In the ancient mythological geology masterpiece the Classic of Mountains and Seas, hundreds of holy and mysterious mountains are recorded, and some famous ones are important places in Chinese mythology and folklore.

  • Qingqiu Mountain: With jade on the southern side and cyan mineral pigment on the north, Qingqiu is the hometown of the Nine-Tailed Fox or Jiu Wei Hu

  • Fajiu Mountain: Covered by trees and rocks, this is the place where the vengeance Jingwei stays. 

  • Mount Buzhou: Buzhou locates northwest of the Kunlun Mountains, in an extremely cold area, and used to be the pillar that supports heaven, which later got crashed by Gong Gong.

  • Changliu Mountain: Beasts here all have colorful tails, birds all have colorful heads, and jade from Changliu is radiant. On top of the mountain lives the deity Shaohao. 

Mystical Mountains from Chinese Legend

Mystical Mountains from Chinese Legend, Picture from Yigerende Xiuxing.

Geological Mountains with Mystical Power

Besides those from legends and books, there are some mountains in the real world that had been endowed with mystical power and meanings. 

Mount Tai the Connection of Heaven and Acheron

Mount Tai in Shandong Province has been believed as the place that connected the worlds of celestial, human, and ghosts.

At the foot of Mount Tai, there is the entrance to the underworld, where all the ghosts would go through. On the top, however, is a path to heaven. 

Hence, accomplished emperors would hold the grandest Fengshan Ceremony there, which made Mount Tai the holiest mountain with significant mythological and political meaning in Chinese culture.

Mount Tai in Shandong Province

Ancient Stairs and Buildings on Mount Tai of Shandong Province. 

Great Mountains with Mystical Meanings

Since the late Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD), Taoism Religion appeared and Buddhism was introduced. Meanwhile, local mythology and folklores kept thriving. 

Gradually, most magnificent mountains, rivers, and lakes have their own deities, from both religions and local legends, guarding those places and protecting local inhabitants. 

Taoists and Buddhists have been practicing in those quiet, fancy places for thousands of years, during which they built many spectacular temples, pagodas, and grottoes. 

Ancient Taoist Religion Temples on Wudang Mountains.

Ancient Taoist Religion Temples on Wudang Mountains.

heroes and legends in central plain
 

Great Heroes and Legends on Central Plain

The Central Plain of ancient China was the place where many deities, creatures, and people lived and fought.

 

Together they survived and built some strong clans, formed ancient Chinese culture, and left some legendary stories. 

 

Click to Read Chinese Creation Myth and Legends

Mythical animals in Chinese mythology
 

Mythical Creatures in Chinese Folklore and Mythology

In this mythological world lives many mythical creatures. Some are documented in The Classic of Mountains and Seas, some from other mythology books and local folklores. 

 

They had been used in divination, worship, or other mysterious rites, and images of some lucky ones are widely applied in clothes, decoration, and architecture, most of which are still quite popular nowadays.

 

Meanwhile, this fabulous mythological world and those creatures are important elements of today's Xianxia Culture

 

Click to Read More About Mythical Creatures from Chinese Mythology

Mythical half-human-half-snake Bai Xi