Myths and Legends of China

Page: 68

1 See the present writer’s China of the Chinese, chapter viii.

2 See Du Bose, pp. 282, 286, 361, 409, 410, and Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, xxxiv, 110–111.

3 Du Bose, p. 38.


5 It is necessary to reproduce the written characters concerned with these stars, namely:

6 See footnote, p. 107.

7 Religion, p. 177.

8 See Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists, by Sister Nivedita and Ananda Coomaraswamy.

9 The native accounts differ on this point. Cf. p. 16.

10 For further details concerning T’ai I see Babylonian and Oriental Record, vi, 145–150.

11 Cf. Chapter I.

Chapter V

Myths of the Stars

Astrological Superstitions

According to Chinese ideas, the sun, moon, and planets influence sublunary events, especially the life and death of human beings, and changes in their colour menace approaching calamities. Alterations in the appearance of the sun announce misfortunes to the State or its head, as revolts, famines, or the death of the emperor; when the moon waxes red, or turns pale, men should be in awe of the unlucky times thus fore-omened.

The sun is symbolized by the figure of a raven in a circle, and the moon by a hare on its hind-legs pounding rice in a mortar, or by a three-legged toad. The last refers to the legend of Ch’ang Ô, detailed later. The moon is a special object of worship in autumn, and moon-cakes dedicated to it are sold at this season. All the stars are ranged into constellations, and an emperor is installed over them, who resides at the North Pole; five monarchs also live in the five stars in Leo, where is a palace called Wu Ti Tso, or ‘Throne of the Five Emperors.’ In this celestial government there are also an heir-apparent, empresses, sons and daughters, and tribunals, and the constellations receive the names of men, animals, and other terrestrial objects. The Great Bear, or Dipper, is worshipped as the residence of the Fates, where the duration of life and other events relating to mankind are measured and meted out. Fears are excited by unusual phenomena among the heavenly bodies.

Both the sun and the moon are worshipped by the Page 177Government in appropriate temples on the east and west sides of Peking.

Various Star-gods

Some of the star-gods, such as the God of Literature, the Goddess of the North Star, the Gods of Happiness, Longevity, etc., are noticed in other parts of this work. The cycle-gods are also star-gods. There are sixty years in a cycle, and over each of these presides a special star-deity. The one worshipped is the one which gave light on the birthday of the worshipper, and therefore the latter burns candles before that particular image on each succeeding anniversary. These cycle-gods are represented by most grotesque images: “white, black, yellow, and red; ferocious gods with vindictive eyeballs popping out, and gentle faces as expressive as a lump of putty; some looking like men and some like women.” In one temple one of the sixty was in the form of a hog, and another in that of a goose. “Here is an image with arms protruding out of his eye-sockets, and eyes in the palms of his hands, looking downward to see the secret things within the earth. See that rabbit, Minerva-like, jumping from the divine head; again a mud-rat emerges from his occipital hiding-place, and lo! a snake comes coiling from the brain of another god—so the long line serves as models for an artist who desires to study the fantastic.”