Myths and Legends of China
Shooting the Heavenly Dog
In the family sleeping-apartments in Chinese houses hang pictures of Chang Hsien, a white-faced, long-bearded man with a little boy by his side, and in his hand a bow and arrow, with which he is shooting the Heavenly Page 178Dog. The dog is the Dog-star, and if the ‘fate’ of the family is under this star there will be no son, or the child will be short-lived. Chang Hsien is the patron of child-bearing women, and was worshipped under the Sung dynasty by women desirous of offspring. The introduction of this name into the Chinese pantheon is due to an incident in the history of Hua-jui Fu-jên, a name given to Lady Fei, concubine of Mêng Ch’ang, the last ruler of the Later Shu State, A.D. 935–964. When she was brought from Shu to grace the harem of the founder of the Sung dynasty, in A.D. 960, she is said to have preserved secretly the portrait of her former lord, the Prince of Shu, whose memory she passionately cherished. Jealously questioned by her new consort respecting her devotion to this picture, she declared it to be the representation of Chang Hsien, the divine being worshipped by women desirous of offspring. Opinions differ as to the origin of the worship. One account says that the Emperor Jên Tsung, of the Sung dynasty, saw in a dream a beautiful young man with white skin and black hair, carrying a bow in his hand. He said to the Emperor: “The star T’ien Kou, Heavenly Dog, in the heavens is hiding the sun and moon, and on earth devouring small children. It is only my presence which keeps him at bay.”
On waking, the Emperor at once ordered the young man’s portrait to be painted and exhibited, and from that time childless families would write the name Chang Hsien on tablets and worship them.
Another account describes Chang Hsien as the spirit of the star Chang. In the popular representations Chang Hsien is seen in the form of a distinguished personage drawing a bow. The spirit of the star Chang Page 179is supposed to preside over the kitchen of Heaven and to arrange the banquets given by the gods.
The worship of the sun is part of the State religion, and the officials make their offerings to the sun-tablet. The moon also is worshipped. At the harvest moon, the full moon of the eighth month, the Chinese bow before the heavenly luminary, and each family burns incense as an offering. Thus “100,000 classes all receive the blessings of the icy-wheel in the Milky Way along the heavenly street, a mirror always bright.” In Chinese illustrations we see the moon-palace of Ch’ang O, who stole the pill of immortality and flew to the moon, the fragrant tree which one of the genii tried to cut down, and a hare pestling medicine in a mortar. This refers to the following legend.