Myths and Legends of China

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The charm worked, and Ling Chên-tzŭ opened the cage. The bird of golden plumage had a sonorous voice and majestic bearing. “This bird,” he said, “lays eggs which hatch out nestlings with red combs, who answer him every morning when he starts crowing. He is usually called the cock of heaven, and the cocks down here which crow morning and evening are descendants of the celestial cock.”

Shên I visits the Moon

Shên I, riding on the celestial bird, traversed the air and reached the disk of the sun just at mid-day. He found himself carried into the centre of an immense horizon, as large as the earth, and did not perceive the rotatory movement of the sun. He then enjoyed complete happiness without care or trouble. The thought of the happy hours passed with his wife Hêng O, however, came back to memory, and, borne on a ray of sunlight, he flew to the moon. He saw the cinnamon-trees and the frozen-looking horizon. Going to a secluded spot, he found Hêng O there all alone. On seeing him she was Page 188about to run away, but Shên I took her hand and reassured her. “I am now living in the solar palace,” he said; “do not let the past annoy you.” Shên I cut down some cinnamon-trees, used them for pillars, shaped some precious stones, and so built a palace, which he named Kuang-han Kung, ‘Palace of Great Cold.’ From that time forth, on the fifteenth day of every moon, he went to visit her in her palace. That is the conjunction of the yang and yin, male and female principles, which causes the great brilliancy of the moon at that epoch.

Shên I, on returning to his solar kingdom, built a wonderful palace, which he called the Palace of the Lonely Park.

From that time the sun and moon each had their ruling sovereign. This régime dates from the forty-ninth year (2309 B.C.) of Yao’s reign.

When the old Emperor was informed that Shên I and his wife had both gone up to Heaven he was much grieved to lose the man who had rendered him such valuable service, and bestowed upon him the posthumous title of Tsung Pu, ‘Governor of Countries.’ In the representations of this god and goddess the former is shown holding the sun, the latter the moon. The Chinese add the sequel that Hêng O became changed into a toad, whose outline is traceable on the moon’s surface.


The star-deities are adored by parents on behalf of their children; they control courtship and marriage, bring prosperity or adversity in business, send pestilence and war, regulate rainfall and drought, and command angels and demons; so every event in life is determined Page 189by the ‘star-ruler’ who at that time from the shining firmament manages the destinies of men and nations. The worship is performed in the native homes either by astrologers engaged for that purpose or by Taoist priests. In times of sickness, ten paper star-gods are arranged, five good on one side and five bad on the other; a feast is placed before them, and it is supposed that when the bad have eaten enough they will take their flight to the south-west; the propitiation of the good star-gods is in the hope that they will expel the evil stars, and happiness thus be obtained.