Myths and Legends of China

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The parents of course were in despair. But one day, while they were overwhelmed with sad thoughts, they saw on a cloud Ts’an Nü riding the horse and attended by several dozens of servants. She descended toward her parents, and said to them: “The Supreme Being, as a reward for my martyrdom in the cause of filial piety and my love of virtue, has conferred on me the dignity of Concubine of the Nine Palaces. Be reassured as to my fate, for in Heaven I shall live for ever.” Having said this she disappeared into space.

In the temples her image is to be seen covered with a horse’s skin. She is called Ma-t’ou Niang, ‘the Lady with the Horse’s Head,’ and is prayed to for the prosperity of mulberry-trees and silkworms. The worship continues even in modern times. The goddess is also represented as a stellar divinity, the star T’ien Ssŭ; as the first man who reared silkworms, in this character bearing the same name as the God of Agriculture, Pasture, and Fire; and as the wife of the Emperor Huang Ti.

The God of Happiness

The God of Happiness, Fu Shên, owes his origin to the predilection of the Emperor Wu Ti (A.D. 502–50) of the Liang dynasty for dwarfs as servants and comedians in his palace. The number levied from the Tao Chou district in Hunan became greater and greater, until it seriously prejudiced the ties of family relations. When Yang Ch’êng, alias Yang Hsi-chi, was Criminal Judge of Page 170Tao Chou he represented to the Emperor that, according to law, the dwarfs were his subjects but not his slaves. Being touched by this remark, the Emperor ordered the levy to be stopped.

Overjoyed at their liberation from this hardship, the people of that district set up images of Yang and offered sacrifices to him. Everywhere he was venerated as the Spirit of Happiness. It was in this simple way that there came into being a god whose portraits and images abound everywhere throughout the country, and who is worshipped almost as universally as the God of Riches himself.

Another person who attained to the dignity of God of Happiness (known as Tsêng-fu Hsiang-kung, ‘the Young Gentleman who Increases Happiness’) was Li Kuei-tsu, the minister of Emperor Wên Ti of the Wei dynasty, the son of the famous Ts’ao Ts’ao, but in modern times the honour seems to have passed to Kuo Tzŭ-i. He was the saviour of the T’ang dynasty from the depredations of the Turfans in the reign of the Emperor Hsüan Tsung. He lived A.D. 697–781, was a native of Hua Chou, in Shensi, and one of the most illustrious of Chinese generals. He is very often represented in pictures clothed in blue official robes, leading his small son Kuo Ai to Court.

The God of Wealth

As with many other Chinese gods, the proto-being of the God of Wealth, Ts’ai Shên, has been ascribed to several persons. The original and best known until later times was Chao Kung-ming. The accounts of him differ also, but the following is the most popular.