Myths and Legends of China

Page: 80

A. Gruenwedel, in his Guide to the Lamaist Collection of Prince Uchtomsky, p. 161, states that the Chino-Japanese God of Thunder, Lei Kung, has the shape of the Indian divine bird Garuda. Are we to suppose, then, that the Chinese Lei Kung is of Indian origin? In modern pictures the God of Thunder is depicted with a cock’s head and claws, carrying in one hand the hammer, in the other the chisel. We learn, however, from Wang Ch’ung’s Lun Hêng that in the first century B.C., when Buddhism was not yet introduced into China, the ‘Thunderer’ was represented as a strong man, not as a bird, with one hand dragging a cluster of drums, and with the other brandishing a hammer. Thus Lei Kung existed already in China when the latter received her first knowledge of India. Yet his modern image may well owe its wings to the Indian rain-god Vajrapani, who in one form appears with Garuda wings.

Lei Kung P’u-sa, the avatar of Lei Kung (whose existence as the Spirit of Thunder is denied by at least one Chinese writer), has made various appearances on the earth. One of these is described below.

Lei Kung in the Tree

A certain Yeh Ch’ien-chao of Hsin Chou, when a youth, used to climb the mountain Chien-ch’ang Shan for the purpose of cutting firewood and collecting medicinal Page 201herbs. One day when he had taken refuge under a tree during a rain-storm there was a loud clap of thunder, and he saw a winged being, with a blue face, large mouth, and bird’s claws, caught in a cleft of the tree. This being addressed Yeh, saying: “I am Lei Kung. In splitting this tree I got caught in it; if you will free me I will reward you handsomely.” The woodcutter opened the cleft wider by driving in some stones as wedges, and liberated the prisoner. “Return to this spot to-morrow,” said the latter, “and I will reward you.” The next day the woodcutter kept the appointment, and received from Lei Kung a book. “If you consult this work,” he explained, “you will be able at will to bring thunder or rain, cure sickness, or assuage sorrow. We are five brothers, of whom I am the youngest. When you want to bring rain call one or other of my brothers; but call me only in case of pressing necessity, because I have a bad character; but I will come if it is really necessary.” Having said these words, he disappeared.

Yeh Ch’ien-chao, by means of the prescriptions contained in the mysterious book, could cure illnesses as easily as the sun dissipates the morning mist. One day, when he was intoxicated and had gone to bed in the temple of Chi-chou Ssŭ, the magistrate wished to arrest and punish him. But when he reached the steps of the yamên, Ch’ien-chao called Lei Kung to his aid. A terrible clap of thunder immediately resounded throughout the district. The magistrate, nearly dead with fright, at once dismissed the case without punishing the culprit. The four brothers never failed to come to his aid.

By the use of his power Ch’ien-chao saved many regions from famine by bringing timely rain. Page 202

The Mysterious Bottle

Another legend relates that an old woman living in Kiangsi had her arm broken through being struck by lightning, when a voice from above was heard saying: “I have made a mistake.” A bottle fell out of space, and the voice again said: “Apply the contents and you will be healed at once.” This being done, the old woman’s arm was promptly mended. The villagers, regarding the contents of the bottle as divine medicine, wished to take it away and hide it for future use, but several of them together could not lift it from the ground. Suddenly, however, it rose up and disappeared into space. Other persons in Kiangsi were also struck, and the same voice was heard to say: ” Apply some grubs to the throat and they will recover.“After this had been done the victims returned to consciousness none the worse for their experience.