Chinese Monsters IV: Mythological Creatures

Having explored in the first three articles of this mini-series, deadly demons, friendly fiends, gorgeous ghouls and saucy spooks in Chinese supernatural lore, I come to the mythical monsters.

Mythical Monsters

九头鸟, Jiu Tou Niao

A nine-headed bird, an inauspicious being in ethnic Han myths. It was said to have had ten heads originally, but one was cut off by a hunter on the orders of Zhou Gongdan politician and thinker of Western Zhou (10 8th centuries BCE). Blood gushing from its headless neck, the Jiu Tou Niao is believed to suck out the spirit energy of children. In the old days, during the time the bird was believed to appear, lights were extinguished very early and dogs sent out. The Jiu Tou Niao is well documented in texts of the Tang and Song (960-1279) dynasties.

毕方, Bi Fang

Named after its distinctive cry, this giant crane-like bird is believed to cause, or be the harbinger of fires. It was first documented in the Shan Hai Jing, a work dated around 3rd century BCE to 1st century CE, on the creatures, peoples, customs and geography of various regions of China. Some versions say that Bi Fang stole fire from the heavens and gifted it to humans.

鸓, Lei

A bird shaped like a magpie with two heads and four claws, believed to have the ability of put out fires. Venerated in households in some regions of China, the Lei is both male and female. At the sight of a fire, it would flap its giant, magnificent wings, and the flames would be extinguished.

蜚, Fei

A plague monster with the body of bull, a snake’s tail, and a third eye on its head. It lives on the Taishan Mountains and has been documented in Shan Hai Jing. Where the Fei appears, rivers and marshes dry up, grass and trees wither, and plagues spread. Considering the similarity of the Fei’s appearance to Pantyhose Taro in the manga Ranma1/2, I wonder if someone from China had drowned in Níuhèmànmáorénnìquán?

肥遗鸟, Fei Yi Niao

A bird the size of a quail, with yellow fur and a red beak. Its flesh can cure plagues and parasites.

鳖幽灵, Bie You Ling

This is just one of the many kinds of turtle spirits in Chinese mythology. She is a temptress with a beautiful upper body and the lower body of a turtle. It’s a mystery whether she’s friendly or malevolent, as those who glimpsed her true form have tended to run away.

白泽, Bai Ze

A very wise creature that could speak the language of humans and understand the secrets of all things and every being. It is said that the legendary emperor Huang Di caught it on his travels, and implored it to record the shapes and forms of all existing demons and ghosts. Bai Ze drew and wrote about everything it had found on a scroll called the Bai Ze Tu. This is how people came to recognize and keep themselves safe from different ghosts and demons. Who wouldn’t love a large, fluffy and very clever white cat!

I hope you have enjoyed this collection of Chinese monsters. Any compilation of Chinese ghosts and demons would not be complete without China’s ultimate monster, the Jiangshi 僵尸. Originating in rural tales of the strange, Jiangshi have become horror and pop culture favourite in China and elsewhere in Asia. To read more about this see the articles below.

Over the last two or three decades, Halloween has become increasingly popular in China, alongside the revival of traditional festivities such as Ghost Month. Celebrations for Halloween in China at the same time as the rest of the world, but the costume choices would not necessarily be entirely of Western monsters. So you might see girls dressed up as sexy spider demons dancing with Dracula at the school horror disco. I hope this has provided you with an interesting, enjoyable read and some more innovative costume ideas for your Halloween parties.


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