Myths and Legends of China

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The same night a similar tragedy took place in the palace of the Empress and the two chief imperial concubines.

T’ai-po Chin-hsing, however, informed Yü Huang what had happened, and, touched with compassion, he sent three Immortals with pills and talismans which cured the Empress and the ladies of the palace.

The Graduates Canonized

Li Shih-min, having also recovered his health, summoned the five deceased graduates and expressed his regret for the unfortunate issue of his design against the T’ien-shih. He proceeded: “To the south of the capital is the temple San-i Ko. I will change its name to Hsiang Shan Wu Yüeh Shên, ‘Fragrant Hill of the Five Mountain Spirits.’ On the twenty-eighth day of the ninth moon betake yourselves to that temple to receive the seals of your canonization.” He conferred upon them the title of Ti, ‘Emperor.’

The Ministry of Medicine

The celestial Ministry of Medicine is composed of three main divisions comprising: (1) the Ancestral Gods of the Chinese race; (2) the King of Remedies, Yao Wang; and (3) the Specialists. There is a separate Ministry of Smallpox. This latter controls and cures smallpox, and the establishment of a separate celestial Ministry is Page 247significant of the prevalence and importance of the affliction. The ravages of smallpox in China, indeed, have been terrific: so much so, that, until recent years, it was considered as natural and inevitable for a child to have smallpox as for it to cut its teeth. One of the ceremonial questions addressed by a visitor to the parent of a child was always Ch’u la hua’rh mei yu? “Has he had the smallpox?” and a child who escaped the scourge was often, if not as a rule, regarded with disfavour and, curiously enough, as a weakling. Probably the train of thought in the Chinese mind was that, as it is the fittest who survive, those who have successfully passed through the process of “putting out the flowers” have proved their fitness in the struggle for existence. Nowadays vaccination is general, and the number of pockmarked faces seen is much smaller than it used to be—in fact, the pockmarked are now the exception. But, as far as I have been able to ascertain, the Ministry of Smallpox has not been abolished, and possibly its members, like those of some more mundane ministries, continue to draw large salaries for doing little or no work.

The Medicine-gods

The chief gods of medicine are the mythical kings P’an Ku, Fu Hsi, Shên Nung, and Huang Ti. The first two, being by different writers regarded as the first progenitor or creator of the Chinese people, are alternatives, so that Fu Hsi, Shên Nung, and Huang Ti may be said to be a sort of ancestral triad of medicine-gods, superior to the actual God or King of Medicine, Yao Wang. Of P’an Ku we have spoken sufficiently in Chapter III, and with regard to Fu Hsi, also called T’ien Huang Shih, ‘the Celestial Emperor,’ the mythical sovereign and Page 248supposed inventor of cooking, musical instruments, the calendar, hunting, fishing, etc., the chief interest for our present purpose centres in his discovery of the pa kua, or Eight Trigrams. It is on the strength of these trigrams that Fu Hsi is regarded as the chief god of medicine, since it is by their mystical power that the Chinese physicians influence the minds and maladies of their patients. He is represented as holding in front of him a disk on which the signs are painted.

The Ministry of Exorcism

The Ministry of Exorcism is a Taoist invention and is composed of seven chief ministers, whose duty is to expel evil spirits from dwellings and generally to counteract the annoyances of infernal demons. The two gods usually referred to in the popular legends are P’an Kuan and Chung K’uei. The first is really the Guardian of the Living and the Dead in the Otherworld, Fêng-tu P’an Kuan (Fêng-tu or Fêng-tu Ch’êng being the region beyond the tomb). He was originally a scholar named Ts’ui Chio, who became Magistrate of Tz’ŭ Chou, and later Minister of Ceremonies. After his death he was appointed to the spiritual post above mentioned. His best-known achievement is his prolongation of the life of the Emperor T’ai Tsung of the T’ang dynasty by twenty years by changing i, ‘one,’ into