The Chinese Imperial Ceramic Artwork Found In Indonesia ( Continius )






Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA

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(1)   The Indonesian Ocean Shipwreck Treasure Report

Indonesian Ocean Shipwreck Traesures


Ceribon Shipwreck Treasures

 Liao Bigger Vase and many unmotif cups and bowls

ceribon shipwreck coins

Ceribon shipwreck gold treasures 


 Posted Image

Late  Ming Duck symbol motif ewer, Chrysanthenum Bowl and unmotif ginger jars


Late Qing chrysnathenum plate,bowl,cover box also  Wanli grasshopper motif plate

Liao  Lotus flower pattern  plate


Ceribon shipwreck Liao Fish  moulded ewer pottery


ceribon shipwreck Liao  moulded Lotus flower motif bowl

Ceribon shipwreck Liao dynasti unmotif bowl


Ceribon shipwreck liao moulded chrysanthemum motif plate


 Teksing porcelains

Late qing fungus longevity motif  bowl

late ming chysanthenum geometric motif cup

The reseacher Dr Iwan Note

The Indonesian Ocean Shipwreck ceramic many found from era before Sung Dynasti  because the Yuan and Ming Ban to export their artwork to Indonesia due to the political situation at that era ( read Driwan CD-ROM  the Majapahit history collections) without Chinese symbolic Motif, except some from Wanli dynasti , late ming dan late qing  with symbolic motif.

The Indonesia report of Shipwreck not told the Chinese symbolic motif, they only told the problem to sold, and the price they get.

The reasecher hope all Indonesia Archeologist will read this studies report from South China Shipwreck  at the before chapter  and in the next chapter to ge the informations of the Chinese imperial ceramic artwork symbolic motif whicn tell everybody why they produced the artwork ceramic and relation with the Indonesian Tionghoa ethic tradition and religious.

After that they can write the most best informations to all Indonesian  and iinternational ethnic and thay will understand and can make more good relation with the Tionghoa ethnic  and living together with peace and get the propesrity, wealthy ,healthy and longevity life together.


The Chinese Imperial Artwork Found In Indonesia ( continiu )






Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA

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Motif symbolic type and meaning

Type dan Arti Motif Simbolik

.Types and meaning of symbolic motifs discussed in the following section below only in English language

Tipe dan Arti motif simbolik dibahas dalam sub bab berikut dibawah ini hanya dalam bahasa Inggris

From This report   found the design mand meanng of motif siymbolic  of ceramic artwork which found  in shipwreck excavation in southeast asia which some can found in Indonesia, the info will compare with the artwork found in Indonesia

Motif symbolic type and meaning

Type dan Arti Motif Simbolik





There is a thing confusedly formed,
Born before heaven and earth,
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change
Goes round and does not weary,
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I know not its name
So I style it “the way.”
Man models himself on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.

Ada hal yang terbentuk scara membingungkan,
Lahir sebelum langit dan bumi,
Diam dan batal
Ini berdiri sendiri dan tidak berubah
Berputar   dan tidak lelah,
Hal ini mampu menjadi ibu dari dunia.
Aku tidak tahu namanya
Jadi saya menggyakan  itu “jalan.”
Manusia  memeragakan dirinya di bumi,
Esurga diatas bumi bumi ,
jalan menuju Surga ,
Dan Jalan diatas  yang secara alami


Marshall Wen The focus of Taoism is the individual in nature rather than the individual in society. It holds that the goal of life for each individual is to find one’s own personal adjustment to the rhythm of the natural (and supernatural) world, to follow the Way (dao) of the universe. In many ways the opposite of rigid Confucian moralism, Taoism served many of its adherents as a complement to their ordered daily lives. A scholar on duty as an official would usually follow Confucian teachings but at leisure or in retirement might seek harmony with nature as a Taoist recluse.

Taoists stress the importance of harmonizing with nature by balancing yin and yang, and developing chi through meditation and disengagement. The human body is regarded as a source of chi-derived energy, which some people have the power to concentrate and congeal into an essence. Chi (also spelled ch’i or qi) is variously known as the “breath of heaven,” “mystical breath,” the “breath of nature” and the “quality of spirit”

In classic Taoist cosmology, matter and energy are thought to be governed by five basic movements. The strength and influence of these movements wax and wane over the course of a year; with wood peaking during spring, fire during summer, metal in autumn and water in winter. The remaining movement, earth, asserts its presence most powerfully during the periods before the start of each season.

Taoists advocate a life of simplicity, and encourage their followers to perform good deeds not bad ones, and seek inner peace through the cultivation of optimism, passivity, and inner calm. “The simple, natural life is the ideal one, the wise person seeks to conform to the slow gentle rhythm of the universe.”

Going with the flow rather and accepting things as they happen rather than pursuing power and wealth are important concepts in Taoism. Unlike the Confucians, who emphasize ritual, rigidity and surrender to authority, Taoists emphasize naturalness, personnel freedom and happiness. Taoists believe that sickness is often caused by sin and bad deeds that disrupt the healthy flow of chi. Taoism morality is based on the Three Treasures of Taoism: 1) be charitable; 2) be thrifty; 3) do not push ahead of others.

Confucian and Taoism basically contradict and are in conflict with one another. Confucianism, emphasizes achievement and propriety while Taoism stresses unseen strengths in being humble and in some cases, being perceived as average.

Good Websites and Sources: Religious Tolerance ; Stanford Education ; ; Taoist Texts Chinese Text Project ; Taoism ; Chad Hansen’s Chinese Philisophy ; Taoism Virtual Library ; Links in this Website: TAOISM ; ORGANIZED TAOISM


Taoist Texts

The Taoist canon is huge. Even in its reduced form it contains 1,120 volumes. The most important Taoist text is Tao De Jing (“The Way and Its Power”), a 5000-character synopsis of Taoist beliefs reportedly written by Lao-tzu shortly before he died. This short book was the inspiration for a primarily philosophical form of Taoism. Two other important Tao texts are the Tao The King (a series of wise sayings) and the Writings of Chuang Tzu (a discourse written by the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu), which appeared a few centuries after Lao-tze’s reported death. These two texts are more mystical and religious in nature.

Chuang Tzu voiced ideas that later were made fashionable in the West by philosophers like Descartes and Sartre. In the forth century B.C., he wrote: “Once I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering here and there; in all ways a butterfly. I enjoyed my freedom as a butterfly, not knowing that I was Chou. Suddenly I awoke and was surprised to be myself again. Now, how can I tell whether I was man who dreamt that he was a butterfly, or whether I am a butterfly who dreams that he is a man?…This is called the interfusion of things.”

The oldest version of the Taoist canon, the Laozi, and a group of early Confucian texts, were found in a 2300-year-old tomb in Guodian, Jingmen, Hubei Province. Copied onto chop-stick-like bamboo slips in the 4th century B.C., these manuscripts have been described as China’s Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of the texts were found by archaeologists after graverobbers were discovered looting the tomb. Others were found in antique shops around Hollywood Road in Hong Kong.

Concepts of Tao and Tê

Tao and tê are central concepts of Taoism. Tao (meaning “The Way”) has been described as “the divine way of the universe” and the “unproduced producer of all that is.” Tê is the power of Tao and the power to bring Tao into realization. It incorporates the belief that human interference is damaging.

Tao is invisible, unnameable, impalpable, unknowable and imitable. Taoists believe that nothing exists before something, inaction exists before action and rest exists before motion. Thus nothingness is the fundamental state and qualities inherent to this state include tranquility, silence and humility and associations with femanine yin rather than masculine yang. Motion and change are important concepts, because from the state of inaction every kind of action is possible, and is why the term “Way” (Tao) is used.

The famous Taoist philosopher Liu Ling said, “I take the whole universe as my house and my own room as my clothing…Tao invariably does nothing, yet there is nothing Tao can not be perceived with the five senses, thoughts or imagination and it can not be expressed in words. It can only perceived though mystical insight. Tao is the power behind nature and the force that creates order.” Taoists encourage people to organize their lives around Tao so they are in harmony with nature, heaven and the universe.

Tê is sort of like virtue viewed as a kind of force behind nothingness that provides a basis for nothing to exist thus unifies things that do exist. The notion of tê has been expressed in three different ways: 1) a philosophical “power” reached though reflection and insight that provides a method to organize one’s life; 2) a psychic power attained though yoga-like exercises that can be used for healing and psychic activities; and 3) a magical power associated with alchemy and the use of the power of the universe to perform magic, sorcery and other mystical deeds.

Chi, See Superstitions

Taoist Creation Theory

According to the Taoist creation theory (which is similar to the Chinese Creation Theory): “In the beginning of the universe there was only material-force consisting of yin and yang. This force moved and circulated, turning this way and that. As this movement gained speed, a mass of sediment was pushed together and, since there was no outlet for this, it consolidated to form the earth in the center of the universe…How was the first man created?…through the transformation of the material force. When the essence of yin and yang and the five agents are united, man’s corporeal form is established. This is what the Buddhist call production by transformation. There are many such productions today, such as lice.”

According to the Taoist text Tso Chuan, written in the early Han era: “Heaven and earth gave rise to yin and yang, wind and rain and dark and light, and from these are born the Five Elements [Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth]. Out of man’s use comes the Five Flavors [sour, salty, acrid, bitter, sweet], the Five Colors [green, yellow, scarlet, white, black] and the Five Modes [in music]. But when these are indulged to excess, confusion arises and in the end man loses sight of his original nature.”

The key to keeping the universe going was harmony. “In the order of their succession they gave birth to one another, while in a different order they overcome each other. Therefore in ruling, if one violates this order, there will be chaos, but if one follows it, all will be well governed.”

Reflections on Taoist Creation Theory

Many of the key concepts of Taoism are incorporated into the Taoist Creation Theory. One of the most important is summed up in the following passage: “The creator of things is not among things. If we examine the Great Beginning of antiquity we find that man was born out of nonbeing to assume form in being. Having form, he is governed by things. But he who can return to that form which he was born and become as though formless is called a “true man.” The true man is he who has never become separated from the Great Oneness. [Source: Huai-nan Tzu, reprinted in the People’s Almanac]

In his explanation of the universe Lao-tzu wrote:

There is a thing confusedly formed,
Born before heaven and earth,
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change
Goes round and does not weary,
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I know not its name
So I style it “the way.”
Man models himself on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.

Addressing the beginning of the universe, Taoist philosopher Kuo Hsiang wrote in A.D. 312, “If I say yin and yang came first…then since yin and yang are themselves, what came before them?…There must be another thing, and so ad infinitum. We must understand that things are what they are spontaneously and not caused by something else.”

When asked about the existence of God, Kuo Hsiang said, “But let us ask whether there is a Creator or not. If not, how can he create things? If there is he is capable of materializing all forms. Therefore, before we can talk about creation, we must understand the fact that all forms materialize by themselves. Hence everything creates itself without the direction of any Creator. Since things create themselves, the are unconditioned. This is the norm of the universe.”

Mountains of immortals

Taoist Beliefs and Nature

Rather than stressing human salvation with the help of a transcendent beings as is often the case with Western religions, Taoism stresses that meaning and energy are found in all natural things and that reality unfolds with its own rhyme and reason impervious to human intervention. Lao-tze wrote: “The real is originally there in things, and the sufficient is originally there in things. There’s nothing that is not real and nothing that is insufficient. Hence, the blade of grass and the pillar, the leper and the ravishing beauty, the noble, the sniveling, the disingenuous, the strange—in Tao they all move as one and the same.”

Unlike Confucianism and traditional Western religions, which portrays nature as something evil or immortal which man has to overcome, Taoism encourages its followers to act in “harmony with the order of nature” and view life as a “series of transformations, procreation and re-creations.” In Taoist thought the path to heaven is through nature and the terms “heaven” and “nature” are often used interchangeably.

In pursuit of naturalism some Taoists in the old days let their hair grow as long as possible, refused to talk and expressed themselves by whistling. Others took off their clothes and lay on the ground and drank large amounts of wine, in part to thumb their noses at Confucian manners and codes Some of China’s greatest poets and artists tapped into this interpretation of Taoism.

Taoism often argues against human action, saying it is better to do nothing and let nature take its course than do something that could have terrible, unforseen consequences.

Taoism, Life, Death and the Afterlife

At the beginning of time, some Taoists believe, nine vapors were created. The purest vapors formed the heavens and the coarser ones made up the human body. Life, they assert, begins when one of these primordial vapors enters the body at birth and mixes with essence to form spirit. Death occurs when the vapor and essence go their separate ways once again. Taoists believe that immortality is possible if essence and vapor can be kept together. [“World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]

Some Taoist believe the dead are sent to one of the Buddhist paradises or end up ina mountain occupied by the immortals. The concept of a hell is largely absent. Taoists have traditionally believed in the existence of earthly paradises such as the blessed islands of Peng-lai, Ying-chou and Fusang that exist off the coast of Shandong and are said to have been reached by the immortals. On these islands everyone is immortal; all the birds and animals are pure white; and palaces are made of gold and silver.

Another paradise, in the Kunlun mountain in western China, is presided over by the “Western Royal Mother,” a diety with a panther tail, tiger teats and unruly hair. The Taoist paradises are characterized as places where everyone lives in harmony; marriage and poor treatment of women are unknown; and there are no princes or feudal lords.

When Chuang Tzu was asked by a friend why he was singing and drumming and not grieving after his wife died, he said: “When she died, how could I help being affected? But as I think the matter over, I realize that originally she had no life and not only no life, she had no form; not only no form, she had no material force (ch’i). In the limbo of existence and non-existence, there was transformation and the material force was evolved. The material force was transformed to be form, form was transformed to become life, and now birth has transformed to become death. This is like the rotation of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter. Now she lies asleep in the great house [the universe]. For me to go about weeping and wailing would be to show my ignorance of destiny. Therefore I desist.”


Taoism and Immortality

Taoist immortal Immortality is an important idea in Taoism. Because all nature is united by Tao, Taoists believe, immortality can be attained. Taoists also believe that immortality it not something that can be achieved by separating oneself from nature, like with a soul, but rather is something achieved by directing natural forces through the body, creating more durable body materials, using techniques such as breathing, focusing sexual energy and alchemy.

The immortality referred to in Taoism is physical immortality. The highest goal of many devotees of Taoism is the attainment of immortality through a total channeling of energies to reach harmony with Tao. Immortality can be viewed literally or as a symbol of spiritual liberation. The idea of a spiritual immortality like that of Christianity was alien to the Chinese until Buddhism was introduced to China.

Numerous Taoist prayers are dedicated to the spirits of immortality. Taoist painters have traditionally chosen immortally as one of their central themes. Famous Taoist painting dealing with immortality include Immortal Ascending on a Dragon, Riding a Dragon, Fungus of Immortality, Picking Herbs, and Preparing Elixirs.

In the old days, many Taoists spent their whole lives looking for elixirs of immortality. The Emperor Shi went through great lengths to try and achieve immortality. See History

Methods for Achieving Immortality

Methods to achieve immortality fall into two basic categories: 1) religious—prayers, moral conduct, rituals and observances of commandments; and 2) physical—diets, medicines, breathing methods, chemicals and exercises. Living alone in a cave like hermits combined the two and was often see as the ideal.

The basic idea behind the Taoist diet is to nourish the body and deny food to the “three worms”—disease, old age, and death. Immortality can be achieved, Taoists have traditionally believed, by following this diet, by nourishing the enigmatic “embryonic body” force within the body and by avoiding ejaculation during sex which preserves the life-giving semen which in turn mixes with breath and nourishes the body and the brain.

The aim of the Taoist diet is to change the composition of the body from flesh into durable airy material associated with long life. In the old days, this diet often included things like jade, gold, cinnabar (ore from mercury is derived) and certain flowers. Special elixirs sometimes contained arsenic and mercury. The inventors of many potions died prematurely from taking their attempts to prolong their life.

Many Taoist believed that the best material for prolonging life was air and aimed to take in a variety of different kinds of air—from the four season, from the sea and from the mountains—often accompanied by breathing exercises. “Air eating” was believed to make people able to ride the clouds and use dragons for horses. Among the other methods that were tried were throwing oneself into a fire and attempting to achieve immortality as a flame.

A great deal of time and energy was put into concocting elixirs of immortality and finding ingredients for them. One passage on the subject from an ancient text read: “For transforming gold, melting jade, using talismans, and preparing water, efficacious recipes and marvelous formulas exist by thousands and tens of thousands, The best are said to produce feathers for flying to heaven; the next best are said to dissipate calamity and exterminate disaster”

Taoist Deities

Pure Taoism doesn’t dwell on an all-knowing, all-powerful God, or even nature spirits, rather it deals with “nonbeing,” the “unity of experience,” and “oneness” with chi. Taoism’s association with gods is mainly the result of its associations with Chinese folk religions.

There are thousands of Taoist gods. Some are holy men. Others occupy rivers, streams and mountains. Most have individual responsibilities and specific powers and abilities to grant wishes in particular areas of expertise. Taoists who need something pray to the appropriate deity in special shrines called departments or halls in Taoist temples.

Most Taoist gods are associated with a spot in the external world and a corresponding spot on the inside of man and often have a role in preventing disease. The position of Taoist deities in a large pantheon often mirrors those of secular officials in a bureaucracy. Many Chinese cities to this day have a temple dedicated to the City God, the heavenly equivalent of a mayor.

Important Taoist Deities and Immortals

God of Wealth Most Taoist gods originated as local folk gods. Important ones include Shou Hsing (God of Longevity), Fu Hsing (God of Happiness), Lu Hsing (God of High Rank), Tsai She (God of Wealth), Pao Sheng (God of Medicine), Ju Lai Of (God of Luck), Chu Sheng Niang (Goddess of Birth and Fertility), Kuan Kung (God of War), and a variety of local underworld magistrates. Tsao Chun (the Kitchen God) controls each persons lifespan and destiny. He and his wife observe everybody during the year and issue reports to the Jade Emperor at New Year.

Goddesses, female saints, manifestations of yin play an important role in Taoism. The five legendary emperors, including the great Yellow Emperor, are given prominent roles too. At the top of heap is the all powerful “Greatest One”—described as the “Celestial Venerable of the Mysterious Origin” of the Taoist trinity. The other two members of the trinity are the “August Ruler of the Tao” and the “August Old Ruler.” Lao-tze is regarded as the incarnation of the “August Old Ruler.”

The Eight Immortals are key figures in Taoism. They include 1) Chung Li Chu, a figure from the Han dynasty (202 B.C. to A.D. 220), who helped feed thousands of people; 2) Lun Tung-pin, an official who traveled widely and helped the poor and exorcized evil demons; 3) Lan Tsa-ho, a poet and singer who sang about life and giving money to the poor; 4) Tsao Kuo-chi; 5) The aforementioned Western Royal Mother, or Heavenly Empress who possessed the peach of immortality, which all the immortals need to retain their immortality.

Many Taoist gods have bushy eyebrows. The Sun, the Moon, and the stars in the Great Bear, are also important.

Hermits and Chinese Religion

Demon and victim
in a Taoist Temple Hermits have lived in the mountains since ancient times. There are Taoist and Buddhist ones as well as one ones with closer affiliations to traditional Chinese folk religion. But they are not limited to Taoists or Buddhists. Poets, political figures and average people have also been hermits. [Source: Jiang Yuxia, Global Times, February 17, 2011]

Hermits are “unique images that ancient Chinese culture has nurtured. [They] represent Chinese people’s pursuit of an ideal way of life,” the writer Zhou Yu told the Global Times. “Their lifestyle is completely self-supporting, without demanding too much from the outside world….For hermits, to live a secluded life and practice Daoism or Buddhism is not solely about ‘benevolence,’ but living a real, simple life…What they do is to make their heart bright, clear and natural,” explained Zhou, who is also editor of Wendao (Seeking Way), a magazine dedicated to promoting traditional Chinese culture. [Ibid]

In recent years, more and more people have become interested in the exclusive life led by the hermits in Zhongnan Mountain, especially following the publication of books such as Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits by American author and translator Bill Porter in 1993. [Ibid]

Attraction of the Hermit Lifestyle and Zhongnan Mountain

Jiang Yuxia wrote in the Global Times: “Cherishing his reverence and curiosity for Chinese hermits, writer Zhou Yu was eager to change his fast-paced urban life. He thus embarked on a journey, in the spring of 2010, to seek hermits in the legendary Zhongnan Mountain, one of the birthplaces of Taoism, in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Also known as Taiyi or Difei Mountain, Zhongnan Mountain is a section of the Qinling Mountains with the reputation of “Fairyland,” “the first paradise under heaven” and a home to hermits for over 3,000 years. Legend has it that Taoism founder Laozipreached scriptures and nurtured the idea for his classic work Tao the Ching here. [Source: Jiang Yuxia, Global Times, February 17, 2011]

“Everyone wishes that he or she has the chance to get to know about his or her own life again and the lifestyle of hermits provides us another picture. . . When they realize that they need to make adjustments to their lives, they go to the mountains to seek them,” Zhou said. However, he added, real hermits don’t have to live in mountains. “If you don’t have peace and quiet in your heart, you cannot have tranquility even if you live deep in the mountains…Start with the simplest practice: To get to know your needs and desires, and find a proper position for yourself. If you can do that, you can find peace and quiet even if you live in the city.”

Taoist Hermit

Demon in a Taoist Temple After traveling to Zhongan Mountain Zhou came across “Hermit Ming,” who has resided in a thatched valley cottage for a decade, living an ascetic and self-sufficient life. Although Ming does not meet the typical image of ancient hermits, his unique lifestyle, both traditional and modern, and charisma aroused Zhou’s interest enough for him to stay and turn the story of his solitary life into his latest book, Bai Yun Shen Chu (“Deep in the Clouds”). [Source: Jiang Yuxia, Global Times, February 17, 2011]

“Hermit Ming lives in the mountain not only to practice Taoism, but to have a place where he can live a life in which he can face disputes peacefully,” Zhou wrote in the book. “Only in this way are his mind and body able to grow like trees and flowers to show their natural side.” Ming’s daily routine, according to Jiang, consists of: “an early morning start to do chores including hoeing weeds, tilling land and picking herbs; two meals a day, snack and tea at lunchtime, dinner at four; then a walk before settling down to read sutras or do other chores.” By sunset he returned home, “falling asleep to the sounds of springs, wind and birds.” [Ibid]

“Born into a wealthy South China family of Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners for generations,” Jiang wrote, “ Ming was beset with strict rules, complex relationships and feuds among family members from a young age. After witnessing a series of mishaps and the death of his mother at eight, Ming left his family at 17 and began his long-cherished dream of traveling around the country to seek answers to the many questions that had bothered him, including life and death. With only an aluminum mug and two lighters, Ming traveled all the way to Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangxi, Hubei and other provinces before he finally settled down at Zhongnan Mountain.” [Ibid]

“In the valley, he built his own cottage with help from other hermits and villagers living at the foot of the mountain, spending time growing vegetables, practicing Taosim and doing his chores. Unlike those secluded hermits recorded in old books, Ming is unconventional: He does not reject the outside world or its civilization. He has a telephone at his place to keep contact with other hermit friends while they travel around and is skilled at riding a motorbike. He has shared quarters with a female hermit for a decade. Ming has explored as far as Nepal to have a look of the outside world and is friendly to unexpected, curious visitors.” [Ibid]

According to Ming, “the major reason that we have too many agonies is because we receive too much information and we are not good at dealing with it properly. Then you become unhappy… When you live in the mountain, you have time to think about problems.” Ming’s lifestyle has also evoked Zhou to ponder modern urban life and even seek a way out. “In our life, most of the time we are asking for things from others to satisfy our endless demands. Hermits, however, are the other way round,” Zhou said. “I found the possibility of a [new] lifestyle. When we feel bothered, we begin to examine our lives and ask ourselves if there are chances to change it. To some extend, many hermits in Zhongnan Mountain can be called seekers of a new lifestyle.”

Image Sources: 1) Marshall Wen, Chicago Art Museum; 2) Texts, Daoist Center; 3) Mountains of Immortals, Chicago Art Museum; 4) Immotra, University of Washington; 5) God of Wealth. Brooklyn College; Asia Obscura ;

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Motif Tao and The collections have found will put at the Discuss chapter.


The Chinese Imperial Ceramic Artwork Found In Indonesia ( Continiu)






Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA

Private Limited E-Book In CD-Rom Edition

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Motif symbolic type and meaning

Type dan Arti Motif Simbolik


Based on symbolic motifs by William CSA (1932)

Berdasarkan jenis motif symbol menurut William C.S.A(1932) 



Confucius was a philosopher in ancient China, about 500 BC. His main idea was that people could achieve peace by doing their duty, and cooperating with society. If people rebelled, and everyone tried to do his or her own thing, then the world would be full of fighting and unhappiness.


So people should obey the law, and do what the emperor and government officials told them to do. Also, people should do their duty to their parents and take good care of their children, and people should do their duty to their ancestors and to the gods.

At the same time, the government should do its duty to the people, and not abuse them or ask too much of them. The emperor should be cooperative and helpful to the people, just as the people were helpful and cooperative to him.

Because Confucius wanted to make government officials behave better, the Chinese government did not like him while he was alive. But after Confucius died, later emperors of China did use many of his ideas. Of course they mainly liked the idea that people should obey the government, and they weren’t so interested in the idea that the government should help the people!

Here’s an example of a story people told about Confucius:

Zi Lu, they say, asked Confucius, “When we hear a good idea, should we start to do it right away?” Confucius told him no. “First, you should always ask someone with more experience.” Later on, Ran You asked Confucius the same question. But this time Confucius said, “Yes, of course you should do it right away.” There was another student who had heard both of these conversations and was very confused. He asked Confucius why he had answered the same question in two different ways?
“Ran You has a hard time making a decision,” Confucius said. “So I encouraged him to be bolder. Zi Lu sometimes decides things too quickly. So I reminded him to be careful. Naturally different people should get different answers

Kuan Ti kuan kong guan yu


Guan Yu (died 219),[1][2] style name Yunchang, was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China. He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period, of which Liu Bei was the first emperor.[3]

As one of the best known Chinese historical figures throughout East Asia, Guan’s true life stories have largely given way to fictionalised ones, most of which are found in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms or passed down the generations, in which his deeds and moral qualities have been lionised. Guan is respected as an epitome of loyalty and righteousness.

Guan was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still worshipped by many Chinese people today, especially in southern China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among many overseas Chinese communities. He is a figure in Chinese folk religion, popular Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and small shrines to Guan are almost ubiquitous in traditional Chinese shops and restaurants. He is often reverently called Guan Gong (Lord Guan) and Guan Di (Emperor Guan).[4] His hometown Yuncheng has also named its airport after him.



Historical sources on Guan Yu’s life[edit]

The authoritative historical source on Guan Yu’s life is the Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi), written by Chen Shou in the third century CE. During the fifth century, Pei Songzhi annotated the Sanguozhi by incorporating information from other sources to Chen Shou’s original work and adding his personal commentary. Some alternative texts used in the annotations to Guan Yu’s biography include: Shu Ji (蜀記; Records of Shu), by Wang Yin (王隱); Wei Shu (魏書; Book of Wei), by Wang Shen (王沈), Xun Yi (荀顗) and Ruan Ji; Jiang Biao Zhuan (江表傳), by Yu Pu (虞溥); Fu Zi (傅子), by Fu Xuan; Dianlue (典略), by Yu Huan; Wu Li (吳歷; History of Wu), by Hu Chong (胡沖); Chronicles of Huayang, by Chang Qu.

Physical appearance[edit]

No descriptions of Guan Yu’s physical appearance exist in historical records, but his beard was mentioned in the Sanguozhi. Traditionally, he is portrayed as a red-faced warrior with a long lush beard. The idea of his red face may have derived from a later description of him in the first chapter of the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where the following passage appears:

Xuande took a glance at the man, who stood at a height of nine chi,[notes 1][5] and had a two chi[notes 2] long beard; his face was of the colour of a zao,[notes 3] with red lips; his eyes were like that of a phoenix’s,[notes 4] and his eyebrows resembled silkworms.[notes 5] He had a dignified aura and looked quite majestic.

Alternatively, the idea of his red face could have been borrowed from opera representation, where red faces depict loyalty and righteousness.[citation needed] Supposedly, Guan Yu’s weapon was a guan dao named Green Dragon Crescent Blade, which resembled a halberd and was said to weigh 82 catties (about 18.25 kg or 40 lbs). A wooden replica can be found today in the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou County, Shanxi. He traditionally dons a green robe over his body armour, as depicted in illustrations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

A statue of Guan Yu in Zhuge Liang‘s temple in Chengdu, Sichuan.

Early career[edit]

Guan Yu was a native of Xie (解), Hedong commandery (河東郡), which is in present-day Yuncheng, Shanxi. His original style name was “Changsheng” (長生).[Sanguozhi 1] He was very interested in the Zuo Zhuan and could fluently recite lines from the book.[Sanguozhi zhu 1] He fled from his hometown after committing a serious crime and arrived in Zhuo commandery (涿郡; present-day Zhuozhou, Hebei). When the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out in the 180s, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei joined a volunteer militia formed by Liu Bei, and they assisted a Colonel (校尉) Zou Jing in suppressing the revolt.[Sanguozhi 2][Sanguozhi others 1]

When Liu Bei was appointed as the Chancellor (相) of Pingyuan (平原), Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were appointed as “Majors of Separate Command” (别部司马) and they commanded detachments of soldiers under Liu. The three of them shared a brotherly-like relationship, to the point of sharing the same room. Zhang Fei and Guan Yu also stood guard beside Liu Bei when he sat down at meetings. They followed him on his exploits and protected him from danger.[Sanguozhi 3]

Short service under Cao Cao[edit]


Liu Bei and his men followed Cao Cao back to the imperial capital Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) after their victory over Lü Bu at the Battle of Xiapi in 198. About a year later, in 199, Liu Bei and his followers escaped from Xu on the pretext of helping Cao Cao lead an army to attack Yuan Shu. Liu Bei went to Xu Province, killed its Inspector (刺史) Che Zhou (車冑), and seized control of the province. He moved to Xiaopei (小沛; present-day Pei County, Xuzhou, Jiangsu) and left Guan Yu in charge of the provincial capital Xiapi (下邳; present-day Pizhou, Xuzhou, Jiangsu).[Sanguozhi 4][Sanguozhi others 2][Sanguozhi zhu 2]

In 200, Cao Cao led an eastern campaign against Liu Bei, defeated the latter in battle, and retook Xu Province. Liu Bei fled to northern China and found refuge under Cao Cao’s rival Yuan Shao. Guan Yu was captured by Cao Cao’s forces and brought back to Xu. Cao Cao treated Guan Yu respectfully and asked Emperor Xian to appoint Guan as a Lieutenant-General (偏將軍).[Sanguozhi 5][Sanguozhi others 3]

Battle of Boma[edit]

Main article: Battle of Boma

Later that year, Yuan Shao sent his general Yan Liang to lead an army to attack Cao Cao’s garrison at Boma (白馬; or Baima), which was defended by Liu Yan (劉延). Cao Cao sent Zhang Liao and Guan Yu to lead a vanguard force to resist the enemy. In the midst of battle, Guan Yu recognised Yan Liang’s parasol so he charged towards the latter, decapitated him and returned with Yan’s head. Yuan Shao’s men were unable to stop him. The siege on Boma was lifted. On Cao Cao’s recommendation, Emperor Xian conferred the title of “Marquis[notes 6] of Hanshou Village” (漢壽亭侯) on Guan Yu.[Sanguozhi 6]

Leaving Cao Cao[edit]

Cao Cao admired Guan Yu’s character, but he also sensed that Guan had no intention of serving under him for long. He told Zhang Liao, “Why don’t you make use of your friendship with Guan Yu to find out his objective?” When Zhang Liao asked Guan Yu, the latter replied, “I’m aware that Lord Cao treats me very generously. However, I’ve also received much favours from General Liu and I’ve sworn to follow him until I die. I cannot break my oath. I’ll leave eventually, so you should help me convey my message to Lord Cao.” Zhang Liao did so, and Cao Cao was further impressed with Guan Yu.[Sanguozhi 7] The Fu Zi gave a slightly different account of this incident. It stated that Zhang Liao had a dilemma on whether to convey Guan Yu’s message to Cao Cao or not: if he did, Cao Cao might execute Guan Yu; if he did not, he would be failing in his service to Cao Cao. He sighed, “Lord Cao is my superior and is like a father to me; Guan Yu is like a brother to me.” He eventually made his decision to tell Cao Cao. Cao Cao said, “A subject who serves a lord but does not forget his origins is truly a man of righteousness. When do you think he will leave?” Zhang Liao replied, “Guan Yu has received favours from Your Excellency. He’ll most probably leave after he has repaid your kindness.”[Sanguozhi zhu 3]

After Guan Yu slew Yan Liang and lifted the siege on Boma, Cao Cao knew that he would leave, so he presented Guan with even heavier rewards. Guan Yu sealed up all the gifts he received from Cao Cao, wrote a farewell letter to the latter, and headed towards Yuan Shao’s territory to reunite with Liu Bei. Cao Cao’s subordinates wanted to pursue Guan Yu, but Cao stopped them and said, “He’s just doing his duty to his lord. There’s no need to pursue him.”[Sanguozhi 8]

Pei Songzhi commented on this as follows: “Cao Cao admired Guan Yu’s character even though he knew that the latter would not remain under him. He did not send his men to pursue Guan Yu when the latter left, so as to allow Guan to fulfil his loyalty. If he did not possess the magnanimity of an overlord, how would he have allowed this to happen? This was a showcase of Cao Cao’s goodness.”[Sanguozhi zhu 4]

Returning to Liu Bei[edit]

When Cao Cao and Yuan Shao clashed at the Battle of Guandu in 200, Yuan sent Liu Bei to contact Liu Pi, a Yellow Turban rebel chief in Runan (汝南; present-day Runan County, Zhumadian, Henan), and assist Liu Pi in attacking the imperial capital Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) while Cao was away at Guandu. Guan Yu reunited with Liu Bei around this time. Liu Bei and Liu Pi were defeated by Cao Cao’s general Cao Ren, after which Liu Bei returned to Yuan Shao. Liu Bei secretly planned to leave Yuan Shao, so he pretended to persuade Yuan to ally with Liu Biao, the Governor (牧) of Jing Province. Yuan Shao sent Liu Bei to contact another rebel leader, Gong Du, in Runan, where they gathered a few thousand soldiers. Cao Cao turned back and attacked Runan after scoring a decisive victory over Yuan Shao at Guandu, and he defeated Liu Bei in Runan. Liu Bei fled south and found shelter under Liu Biao, who put him in charge of Xinye (新野; present-day Xinye County, Nanyang, Henan) at the northern border of Jing Province. Guan Yu followed Liu Bei to Xinye.[Sanguozhi others 4][Sanguozhi 9]

Battle of Red Cliffs and after[edit]

Liu Biao died in 208 and was succeeded by his younger son, Liu Cong, who surrendered Jing Province to Cao Cao when the latter started a campaign that year with the aim of wiping out opposing forces in southern China. Liu Bei evacuated Xinye together with his followers and they headed towards Xiakou (夏口; in present-day Wuhan, Hubei), which was guarded by Liu Biao’s elder son Liu Qi and was independent of Cao Cao’s control. Along the journey, Liu Bei divided his party into two groups – one led by Guan Yu which would sail along the river towards Jiangling (江陵; in present-day Jingzhou, Hubei); another led by Liu Bei which would travel on land. Cao Cao sent 5,000 elite cavalry to pursue Liu Bei and they caught up with him at Changban (長坂), Dangyang (當陽), igniting the Battle of Changban. Liu Bei managed to escape from the pursuers and reach Han Ford (漢津), where he was picked up by Guan Yu’s fleet, and they sailed to Xiakou together.[Sanguozhi others 5][Sanguozhi 10]

In 208, Liu Bei allied with Sun Quan and they defeated Cao Cao at the decisive Battle of Red Cliffs. Cao Cao retreated north after his defeat and left Cao Ren behind to defend Jing Province. In the Battle of Jiangling (a follow-up to Red Cliffs), Guan Yu was sent to block Cao Ren’s supply lines via infiltration, so he led a special force to attack Xiangyang, which was guarded by Cao Cao’s general Yue Jin. Yue Jin defeated Guan Yu and Su Fei (蘇非) and drove them away.[Sanguozhi others 6] After seizing and pacifying the various commanderies in southern Jing Province, Liu Bei appointed Guan Yu as the Administrator (太守) of Xiangyang and “General Who Rocks Bandits” (盪寇將軍), and ordered him to garrison at the north of the Yangtze River.[Sanguozhi 11]

Guan Yu later engaged Yue Jin and Wen Ping at Xunkou (尋口) and lost. Wen Ping attacked Guan Yu’s equipage and supplies at Han Ford (漢津) and burnt his boats at Jingcheng (荊城).[Sanguozhi others 7]

Guarding Jing Province[edit]

Between 212 and 215, Liu Bei started a campaign to seize control of Yi Province (益州; covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from the provincial governor Liu Zhang. Most of Liu Bei’s subordinates participated in the campaign, while Guan Yu was ordered to remain behind to guard Liu’s territories in Jing Province and oversee its affairs.[Sanguozhi 12]

Sun-Liu territorial dispute[edit]

During that period of time, tensions were rising at the border between Liu Bei and Sun Quan‘s domains in Jing Province as the two allies became more suspicious of each other. After Liu Bei had taken over Yi Province, Sun Quan asked him for three commanderies in southern Jing Province but Liu refused. Sun Quan then sent his general Lü Meng to seize the three commanderies by force. In response, Liu Bei ordered Guan Yu to lead troops to stop Lü Meng,[Sanguozhi others 8] but Guan was deterred by Gan Ning from crossing the shallows near Yiyang (益陽) to confront Sun Quan’s forces. The shallows were thus named ‘Guan Yu’s Shallows‘ (關羽瀨).[Sanguozhi others 9] Lu Su (the chief commander of Sun Quan’s forces in Jing Province) later held talks with Guan Yu to discuss and settle the problem. Liu Bei eventually agreed to divide Jing Province between his and Sun Quan’s domains along the Xiang River. Both sides then withdrew their forces.[Sanguozhi others 10]

Battle of Fancheng[edit]

Main article: Battle of Fancheng

Guan Yu captures Pang De, as depicted in a Ming Dynasty painting by Shang Xi, c. 1430.

In 219, Liu Bei emerged victorious in the Hanzhong Campaign against Cao Cao, after which he declared himself “King of Hanzhong” (漢中王). He appointed Guan Yu as “General of the Vanguard” (前將軍) and bestowed upon him a ceremonial axe. In the same year, Guan Yu led his forces to attack Cao Ren at Fan (樊; or Fancheng, in present-day Fancheng District, Xiangyang, Hubei) and besieged the city. Cao Cao sent Yu Jin to lead reinforcements to help Cao Ren. It was in autumn and there were heavy showers, so the Han River overflowed. Yu Jin’s seven armies were destroyed in the flood. Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu while his subordinate Pang De refused and was executed by Guan. The bandits led by Liang Jia (梁郟) and Lu Hun (陸渾) received official seals from Guan Yu, so they submitted to him and became his followers. Guan Yu’s fame spread throughout China.[Sanguozhi 13]

The Shu Ji recorded that before Guan Yu embarked on the Fancheng campaign, he dreamt about a boar biting his foot. He told his son Guan Ping, “I’m becoming weaker this year. I may not be able to return.”[Sanguozhi zhu 5]

Belittling Sun Quan[edit]

After Yu Jin’s defeat, Cao Cao contemplated relocating the imperial capital from Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) to another place to avoid Guan Yu, but Sima Yi and Jiang Ji told him that Sun Quan would become restless when he heard of Guan Yu’s victory. They suggested to Cao Cao to ally with Sun Quan and enlist his help in hindering Guan Yu’s advances, and in return, Cao Cao would recognise the legitimacy of Sun Quan’s claim over the territories in Jiangdong. In this way, the siege on Fancheng would automatically be lifted. Cao Cao heeded their suggestion. Previously, Sun Quan had sent a messenger to meet Guan Yu and propose a marriage between his son and Guan’s daughter. However, Guan Yu not only rejected the proposal, but also scolded and humiliated the messenger. Sun Quan was enraged.[Sanguozhi 14]

Encounter with Xu Huang[edit]

Cao Cao later sent Xu Huang to lead another army to relief Cao Ren at Fancheng. Xu Huang broke Guan Yu’s encirclement and routed Guan’s forces on the battlefield, thus lifting the siege on Fancheng.[Sanguozhi others 11] Guan Yu withdrew his forces after seeing that he could not overcome the enemy.[Sanguozhi 15] The Shu Ji recorded an incident about Xu Huang meeting Guan Yu on the battlefield. Xu Huang had a close friendship with Guan Yu. They often chatted about other things apart from military affairs. When they met again at Fancheng, Xu Huang gave an order to his men, “Whoever manages to take Guan Yunchang’s head will be rewarded with 1,000 jin of gold.” Guan Yu was shocked and he asked Xu Huang, “Brother, what are you talking about?” Xu Huang replied, “This is an affair of the state.”[Sanguozhi zhu 6]

Losing Jing Province[edit]

After Guan Yu defeated and captured Yu Jin at Fan (樊; or Fancheng), his army lacked food supplies so he seized grain from one of Sun Quan‘s granaries at Xiang Pass (湘關). By then, Sun Quan had secretly agreed to the alliance with Cao Cao, and had sent his general Lü Meng and others to lead a vanguard force to invade Jing Province while he followed behind with another army. At Xunyang (尋陽), Lü Meng ordered his troops to hide in vessels disguised as civilian and merchant ships and they sailed towards Jing Province. Along the way, Lü Meng employed infiltration tactics to disable the watchtowers set up by Guan Yu along the river, so Guan was totally unaware of the invasion.[Sanguozhi others 12]

When Guan Yu embarked on the Fancheng campaign, he left Mi Fang and Shi Ren behind to defend his key bases in Jing Province — Nan commandery (南郡) and Gong’an (公安). Guan Yu had all along viewed them with contempt. During the campaign, Mi Fang and Shi Ren sent insufficient supplies to Guan Yu’s army at the frontline, and Guan remarked, “I’ll deal with them when I come back.” Mi Fang and Shi Ren felt uneasy about this. When Sun Quan invaded Jing Province, Lü Meng showed understanding towards Mi Fang and successfully induced the latter into surrendering while Yu Fan also persuaded Shi Ren to give up resistance. Liu Bei’s territories in Jing Province fell under Sun Quan’s control after the surrenders of Mi Fang and Shi Ren.[Sanguozhi 16]

Dubious account from the Dianlue[edit]

An annotation from the Dianlue in Guan Yu’s biography mentioned:

When Guan Yu was besieging Fancheng, Sun Quan sent a messenger to Guan to offer aid but he also instructed the messenger to slowly travel there. He then sent a registrar (主簿) ahead to meet Guan Yu first. Guan Yu was unhappy that Sun Quan’s offer came late because he had already captured Yu Jin by then. He scolded the messenger, “You raccoon dogs dare to behave like this! If I can conquer Fancheng, what makes you think I can’t destroy you?” When Sun Quan heard Guan Yu’s reply, he knew that Guan was disparaging him, but he wrote a letter to Guan and pretended to apologise and offer to allow Guan to pass through his territory freely.[Sanguozhi zhu 7]

Pei Songzhi commented on the Dianlue account as follows:

Although Liu Bei and Sun Quan appeared to get along harmoniously, they were actually distrustful of each other. When Sun Quan later attacked Guan Yu, he despatched his forces secretly, as mentioned in Lü Meng’s biography: ‘[…] elite soldiers hid in vessels disguised as civilian and merchant ships.’ Based on this reasoning, even if Guan Yu did not seek help from Sun Quan, the latter would not mention anything about granting Guan free passage in his territory. If they genuinely wished to help each other, why would they conceal their movements from each other?[Sanguozhi zhu 8]


By the time Guan Yu retreated from Fancheng, Sun Quan‘s forces had occupied Jiangling (江陵) and captured the families of Guan’s soldiers. Lü Meng ordered his troops to treat the civilians well and ensure that they were not harmed.[notes 7] Most of Guan Yu’s soldiers lost their fighting spirit and deserted and went back to Jing Province to reunite with their families. Guan Yu knew that he had been isolated so he withdrew to Maicheng (麥城; present-day Maicheng Village, Lianghe Town, Dangyang, Hubei) and headed west to Zhang District (漳鄉), where his remaining men deserted him and surrendered to the enemy. Sun Quan sent Zhu Ran and Pan Zhang to block Guan Yu’s retreat route. Guan Yu, along with his son Guan Ping and subordinate Zhao Lei, were captured alive by Pan Zhang’s deputy Ma Zhong in an ambush. Guan Yu and Guan Ping were later executed by Sun Quan’s forces in Linju (臨沮; in present-day Nanzhang County, Xiangyang, Hubei).[Sanguozhi 17][Sanguozhi others 13][Sanguozhi others 14]

Alternate account from the Shu Ji[edit]

The Shu Ji mentioned that Sun Quan initially wanted to keep Guan Yu alive in the hope of using Guan to help him counter Liu Bei and Cao Cao. However, his followers advised him against doing so, saying, “A wolf should not be kept as a pet as it will bring harm to the keeper. Cao Cao made a mistake when he refused to kill Guan Yu and landed himself in deep trouble, to the point of considering relocating the capital to another place. How can Guan Yu be allowed to live?” Sun Quan then ordered Guan Yu’s execution.[Sanguozhi zhu 9]

Pei Songzhi disputed this account, as he wrote:

According to the Wu Shu (吳書; Book of Wu, by Wei Zhao), when Sun Quan sent Pan Zhang to block Guan Yu’s retreat route, Guan was executed immediately after he was captured. Linju was about 200-300 li away from Jiangling, so how was it possible that Guan Yu was kept alive while Sun Quan and his subjects discussed whether to kill him or not? The claim that ‘Sun Quan wanted to keep Guan Yu alive for the purpose of using him to counter Liu Bei and Cao Cao’ does not make sense. It was probably used to silence wise persons.[Sanguozhi zhu 10]

Posthumous honours[edit]

Sun Quan sent Guan Yu’s head to Cao Cao, who arranged a noble’s funeral for Guan and had the head properly buried with full honours.[Sanguozhi zhu 11] In 260, Liu Shan granted Guan Yu the posthumous title of “Marquis Zhuangmou” (壯繆侯),[Sanguozhi 18][Sanguozhi others 15] which implied that Guan did not live up to his name in terms of his ability.[6]


Request to take Qin Yilu’s wife[edit]

See also: Qin Yilu

During the Battle of Xiapi in late 198, when the allied forces of Cao Cao and Liu Bei fought against Lü Bu, Guan Yu made a request to Cao Cao, asking to marry Qin Yilu‘s wife Lady Du (杜氏) after they had achieved victory. Cao Cao agreed, and Guan Yu repeatedly reminded Cao Cao about his promise before the battle was won. After Lü Bu’s defeat and death, Cao Cao was curious about why Guan Yu wanted Lady Du so badly and he guessed that she must be very beautiful, so he had her brought to him. Cao Cao broke his promise to Guan Yu, as he took Lady Du as his concubine and adopted her son Qin Lang (whom she had with Qin Yilu).[Sanguozhi zhu 12][Sanguozhi zhu 13]

Advice to Liu Bei[edit]

The Shu Ji recorded an incident as follows:

When Liu Bei was in the imperial capital Xu, he once attended a hunting expedition together with Cao Cao, during which Guan Yu urged him to kill Cao but he refused. Later, when Liu Bei reached Xiakou (after his defeat at the Battle of Changban), Guan Yu angrily said, “If you had heeded my advice during the hunting expedition in Xu, we would not have ended up in this troubling situation.” Liu Bei replied, “I did not do so then for the sake of the Empire. If Heaven still helps those who are righteous, it might be possible that this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise!”[Sanguozhi zhu 14]

Pei Songzhi commented on the incident as such:

When Liu Bei, Dong Cheng and others plotted against Cao Cao, their plan failed because it was leaked out. If he did not want to kill Cao Cao for the sake of the country, what did he mean when he said this? If Guan Yu really did urge Liu Bei to kill Cao Cao during the hunting expedition and Liu did not do so, it was probably because Cao Cao’s close aides and relatives were present at the scene and had superiority in numbers. Besides, there was a lack of careful planning so Liu Bei had to wait for another opportunity. Even if Liu Bei succeeded in killing Cao Cao, he would not have been able to escape alive, so Liu did not heed Guan Yu’s words. There was nothing to regret about. The hunting expedition event happened in the past, so it was used to justify that Guan Yu had given Liu Bei “valued advice”, which the latter ignored.[Sanguozhi zhu 15]

Asking Zhuge Liang about Ma Chao[edit]

In 215, Ma Chao defected from Zhang Lu‘s side to Liu Bei’s forces, and he assisted Liu Bei in pressuring Liu Zhang to surrender and yield Yi Province to Liu Bei. When Guan Yu received news that Ma Chao (whom he was unfamiliar with) had recently joined them, he wrote to Zhuge Liang in Yi Province and asked the latter who could compete with Ma Chao. Zhuge Liang knew that Guan Yu was defending their border (so he should not displease the latter). As such, he replied, “Mengqi is proficient in both civil and military affairs. He is fierce and mighty, and a hero of his time. He is comparable to Qing Bu and Peng Yue. He can compete with Yide, but is not as good as the peerless beard.”[notes 8][Sanguozhi 19]

Guan Yu was very pleased when he received Zhuge Liang’s reply and he welcomed Ma Chao.[Sanguozhi 20]

Arm injury[edit]

Guan Yu was once injured in the left arm by a stray arrow, which pierced through his arm. Although the wound had healed, he would experience pain in the bone whenever there was a heavy downpour. A physician told him, “The arrowhead had poison on it and the poison had seeped into the bone. The way to get rid of this problem is to cut open your arm and scrape away the poison in your bone.” Guan Yu then stretched out his arm and asked the physician to heal him. He then invited his subordinates to dine with him while the surgery was being performed. Blood flowed from his arm into a container below. Throughout the operation, Guan Yu feasted and drank wine and chatted with his men as though nothing had happened.[Sanguozhi 21]


Guan Yu had two known sons — Guan Ping and Guan Xing. Guan Xing inherited his father’s title “Marquis of Hanshou Village” (漢壽亭侯) and served in the state of Shu during the Three Kingdoms period.[Sanguozhi 22] Guan Yu also had a daughter. Sun Quan once proposed a marriage between his son and Guan Yu’s daughter, but Guan rejected the proposal. Her name was not recorded in history, but she was known as “Guan Yinping” (關銀屏) or “Guan Feng” (關鳳) in folktales and Chinese opera. Guan Yu had an alleged third son, Guan Suo, who is not mentioned in historical texts and appears only in folklore and the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Guan Xing’s son, Guan Tong (關統), married a princess (one of Liu Shan‘s daughters) and served as a “General of the Household” (中郎將) in the Rapid as Tigers (虎賁) division of the imperial guards. Guan Tong had no son when he died, so he was succeeded by his younger half-brother Guan Yi (關彝).[Sanguozhi 23]

According to the Shu Ji (蜀記), after the fall of Shu in 263, Pang Hui (Pang De‘s son) massacred Guan Yu’s family and descendants to avenge his father, who was executed by Guan Yu after the Battle of Fancheng in 219.[Sanguozhi zhu 16]


Chen Shou, who wrote Guan Yu’s biography in the Sanguozhi, commented on the latter as such: “Guan Yu […] were referred to as mighty warriors capable of fighting thousands of enemies. They were like tigers among (Liu Bei‘s) subjects. Guan Yu […] had the style of a guoshi[notes 9] when he repaid Cao Cao’s kindness […] However, Guan Yu was unrelenting and conceited, […] and these shortcomings resulted in their downfalls. This was not something uncommon.”[Sanguozhi 24]

In fiction[edit]

Portrait of Guan Yu (behind) from a Qing Dynasty edition of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

A mural of Guan Yu’s “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” (千里走單騎) in the Summer Palace, Beijing.

A 19th-century Japanese woodcut of Guan Yu by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. In this scene, he is being attended to by the physician Hua Tuo while playing weiqi. See here for a large version of the full picture.

Luo Guanzhong‘s historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms glorified Guan Yu by portraying him as a righteous and loyal warrior. Guan Yu was one of the most altered and aggrandised characters in the novel, which accounted for his popular image in Chinese society.

See the following for some fictitious stories in Romance of the Three Kingdoms involving Guan Yu:

Worship of Guan Yu[edit]

Burning of incense during the veneration of lord Guan Yu, Xingtian Temple

Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty (581–618), and is still popularly worshipped today among the Chinese people. He is variedly worshipped as an indigenous Chinese deity, a bodhisattva in Buddhist tradition and as a guardian deity in Taoism and many religious bodies.[7] He is also held in high esteem in Confucianism. These roles are not necessarily contradictory or even distinguished within the Chinese religious system, which often merge multiple ancient philosophies and religions.[citation needed]

In the Western world, Guan Yu is sometimes called the Taoist God of War, probably because he is one of the most well-known military generals worshipped by the Chinese people. This is a misconception of his role, as, unlike the Greco-Roman deity Mars or the Norse god Týr, Guan Yu, as a god, does not necessarily bless those who go to battle but rather, people who observe the code of brotherhood and righteousness.[citation needed]

General worship[edit]

A Guan Yu statue holding the guan dao in the right hand.

In general worship, Guan Yu is widely referred to as “Emperor Guan” (關帝), short for his Taoist title “Saintly Emperor Guan” (關聖帝君), and as “Guan Gong” (關公; literally: “Lord Guan”). Temples and shrines dedicated exclusively to Guan can be found in parts of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and other places with Chinese influence such as Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan. Some of these temples, such as the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou (解州), Shanxi, were built exactly in the layout of a palace, befitting his status as an “emperor”.

The apotheosis of Guan Yu occurred in stages, as he was given ever higher posthumous titles. Liu Shan, the second emperor of Shu, gave Guan Yu the posthumous title of “Marquis Zhuangmou” (壯繆侯) four decades after his death. During the Song Dynasty, Emperor Huizong bestowed upon Guan Yu the title of “Duke Zhonghui” (忠惠公), and later the title of a prince.  In 1187, during the reign of Emperor Xiaozong, Guan Yu was established as “Prince Zhuangmou Yiyong Wu’an Yingji” (壯繆義勇武安英濟王). After the Song Dynasty was annihilated by the Mongols, who established the Yuan Dynasty in China, Guan Yu was renamed “Prince of Xianling Yiyong Wu’an Yingji” (顯靈義勇武安英濟王) by Emperor Wenzong.

The escalation of Guan Yu’s status to that of an emperor took place during the Ming Dynasty. In 1614, the Wanli Emperor bestowed on Guan Yu the title of “Saintly Emperor Guan the Great God Who Subdues Demons of the Three Worlds and Whose Awe Spreads Far and Moves Heaven” (三界伏魔大神威遠震天尊關聖帝君). During the Qing Dynasty, the Shunzhi Emperor gave Guan Yu the title of “Zhongyi Shenwu Great Saintly Emperor Guan” (忠義神武關聖大帝) in 1644. This title was expanded to “The Grand Emperor Zhongyi Shenwu Lingyou Renyong Weixian Huguo Baomin Jingcheng Suijing Yizan Xuande Guan Sheng Dadi” (仁勇威顯護國保民精誠綏靖翊贊宣德忠義神武關聖大帝), a total of 24 Chinese characters, by the mid-19th century. This name is often shortened to “Saint of War” (武聖), which is of the same rank as Confucius, who was known as the “Saint of Culture” (文聖) during the same period. The Qing advancement of Guan Yu served to strengthen the loyalty of Mongol tribes, as the Mongols revered Guan as second only to their lamas.[8]

Throughout history, Guan Yu has also been credited with many military successes. During the Ming Dynasty, his spirit was said to have aided Zhu Yuanzhang (the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty)’s fleet at the Battle of Lake Poyang. In 1402, Zhu Di launched a coup d’état and successfully deposed his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor. Zhu Di claimed that he was blessed by the spirit of Guan Yu. During the last decade of the 16th century, Guan Yu was also credited with the repulse of Japanese invasion of Korea by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (called the Seven-Year War of Korea). The ruling Manchu house of the Qing Dynasty was also associated with Guan Yu’s martial qualities. During the 20th century, Guan Yu was worshipped by the warlord Yuan Shikai, president and later a short-lived emperor of China.

Today, Guan Yu is still widely worshipped by the Chinese, with many shrines to him are found in homes or businesses. In Hong Kong, a shrine for Guan is located in each police station. Though by no means mandatory, most Chinese policemen worship and pay respect to him. Although seemingly ironic, members of the triads and Heaven and Earth Society worship Guan as well. Statues used by triads tend to hold the halberd in the left hand, and statues in police stations tend to hold the halberd in the right hand. This signifies which side Guan Yu is worshipped, by the righteous people or vice versa. The appearance of Guan Yu’s face for the triads is usually more stern and threatening than the usual statue. This exemplifies the Chinese belief that a code of honour, epitomised by Guan Yu, exists even in the criminal underworld. In Hong Kong, Guan Yu is often referred to as “Yi Gor” (二哥; Cantonese for “second big brother”) for he was second to Liu Bei in their fictional sworn brotherhood. Guan Yu is also worshipped by Chinese businessmen in Shanxi, Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia as an alternative wealth god, since he is perceived to bless the upright and protect them from the wicked. Another reason being related to the release of Cao Cao during the Huarong Trail incident, in which he let Cao and his men pass through safely. For that, he was perceived to be able to extend the lifespan of people in need.

Among the Cantonese people who emigrated to California during the mid-19th century, the worship of Guan Yu was an important element. Statues and tapestry images of the god can be found in a number of historical California joss houses (a local term for Taoist temples), where his name may be given with various Anglicised spellings, including Kwan Dai, Kwan Tai, Kuan Ti, Kuan Kung, Wu Ti, Mo Dai, Guan Di, Kuan Yu, Kwan Yu, or Quan Yu. The Mendocino Joss House, a historical landmark also known as Mo Dai Miu, the Military God-King’s Temple, or Temple of Kwan Tai, built in 1852, is a typical example of the small shrines erected to Guan Yu in America.

Worship in Taoism[edit]

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Guan Yu is revered as “Saintly Emperor Guan” (simplified Chinese: 关圣帝君; traditional Chinese: 關聖帝君; pinyin: Gūanshèngdìjūn) and a leading subduer of demons in Taoism. Taoist worship of Guan Yu began during the Song Dynasty. Legend has it that during the second decade of the 12th century, the saltwater lake in present day Xiezhou County (解州鎮) gradually ceased to yield salt. Emperor Huizong then summoned Celestial Master Zhang Jixian (張繼先), 30th generation descendant of Zhang Daoling, to investigate the cause. The emperor was told that the disruption was the work of Chi You, a deity of war. Zhang Jixian then recruited the help of Guan Yu, who battled Chi You over the lake and triumphed, whereupon the lake resumed salt production. Emperor Huizong then bestowed upon Guan Yu the title of “Immortal of Chongning” (崇寧真君), formally introducing the latter as a deity into Taoism.

In the early Ming Dynasty, the 42nd Celestial Master Zhang Zhengchang (張正常) recorded the incident in his book Lineage of the Han Celestial Masters (漢天師世家), the first Taoist classic to affirm the legend. Today, Taoist practices are predominant in Guan Yu worship. Many temples dedicated to Guan Yu, including the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou County, show heavy Taoist influence. Every year, on the 24th day of the sixth month on the lunar calendar (legendary birthday of Guan Yu, Guan was actually born on the 22nd day of the sixth month of 160), a street parade in the honour of Guan Yu would also be held.

Worship in Buddhism[edit]

Traditional Buddhist depiction of Guan Yu as Sangharama Bodhisattva.

In Chinese Buddhism, Guan Yu is revered by most practising Buddhists as Sangharama Bodhisattva (simplified Chinese: 伽蓝菩萨; traditional Chinese: 伽藍菩薩,; pinyin: Qíelán Púsà) a heavenly protector of the Buddhist dharma. Sangharama in Sanskrit means ‘community garden’ (sangha, community + arama, garden) and thus ‘monastery’. The term Sangharama also refer to the dharmapala class of devas and spirits assigned to guard the Buddhist monastery, the dharma, and the faith itself. Over time and as an act of syncreticism, Guan Yu was seen as the representative guardian of the temple and the garden in which it stands. His statue traditionally is situated in the far left of the main altar, opposite his counterpart Skanda.

According to Buddhist legends, in 592, Guan Yu manifested himself one night before the Zen master Zhiyi, the founder of the Tiantai school of Buddhism, along with a retinue of spiritual beings. Zhiyi was then in deep meditation on Yuquan Hill (玉泉山) when he was distracted by Guan Yu’s presence. Guan Yu then requested the master to teach him about the dharma. After receiving Buddhist teachings from the master, Guan Yu took refuge in the triple gems and also requested the Five Precepts. Henceforth, it is said that Guan Yu made a vow to become a guardian of temples and the dharma. Legends also claim that Guan Yu assisted Zhiyi in the construction of the Yuquan Temple (玉泉寺), which still stands today.

Modern references[edit]

Chinese opera[edit]

A Qing Dynasty opera mask of Guan Yu.

Guan Yu appears in Chinese operas such as Huarong Trail, Red Cliffs, and other excerpts from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. His costume is a green military opera uniform with armour covering his right arm and the knees of his pants. The actor’s face is painted red with a few black lines, to represent honour and courage. He also wears a long three-section black beard made of yak hair and carries the Green Dragon Crescent Blade. Traditionally, after the show ends, the actor has to wash his face, burn joss paper, light incense, and pray to Chinese deities.

Film and television[edit]

Notable actors who have portrayed Guan Yu in film and television include: Lu Shuming, in Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994); Wang Yingquan, in The Legend of Guan Gong (2004); Ti Lung, in Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008); Ba Sen, in Red Cliff (2008-2009); Yu Rongguang, in Three Kingdoms (2010); Donnie Yen, in The Lost Bladesman (2011).

Films which make references to Guan Yu include: Stephen Chow‘s comedy film From Beijing with Love (1994), which, in one scene, refers to the story of Hua Tuo performing surgery on Guan Yu’s arm; Zhang Yimou‘s Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005), in which the fictional story of Guan Yu slaying six generals and crossing five passes forms a major part of the narrative; the horror comedy film My Name Is Bruce (2007), where Guan Yu’s vengeful spirit is accidentally set free by a group of teenagers and he begins to terrorise their town.


Guan Yu is referenced in the manga Battle Vixens (as a schoolgirl Kan-u Unchou) and BB Senshi Sangokuden (as ZZ Gundam, who is portrayed as Guan Yu Gundam).


Guan Yu appears as a playable character in many video games based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms which are produced by Koei, including: the strategy game series of the same title as the novel; the action game series Dynasty Warriors and Warriors Orochi. Other non-Koei titles in which he also appears include: Sango Fighter; Destiny of an Emperor; Atlantica Online; Smite. He is also referenced in Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, Koihime Musō, Titan Quest and Koihime Musō.

Guan Yu is referenced in the Portal Three Kingdoms of the card game Magic: The Gathering on a playable card. He also appears in the History Channel‘s Anachronism card ga

Ancient Chinese warrior yue fei

Ancient Chinese Warrior Yue Fei

Yue Fei - Warrior of Ancient China

A close up view of the
ancient Chinese warrior painting
mounted to this silk wall scroll


The story behind this Ancient Chinese Warrior painting:

Yue Fei (Pinyin with tone marks: Yue Fei) (1103 – 1142 A.D.)

Yue Fei was a Chinese patriot and nationalist military leader who fought for the Southern Song Dynasty against the Jurchen (a northern tribe which established the Jin Dynasty).

He is one of the best-known generals in Chinese history, and widely credited for the creation of the martial art known as Xingyiquan.

Days after his birth, flooding of the Yellow River destroyed Yue Fei’s village. His father drowned in the floods, but not before he had ensured the survival of his wife and son by floating them downstream in a very large clay jar. Yue Fei and his mother settled in Hebei province. Becoming proficient in warfare at an early age, Yue Fei as a young man narrowly escaped execution after killing the Prince of Liang in a martial arts tournament. He did not join the fight against the Jurchen invaders until he was 23.

A Famous Tattoo

According to legend, Yue Fei’s mother tattooed four characters (jing zhong bao guo) which mean “serve the country loyally” on his back before he left home.

This tattoo became the quest for the remainder of his life.

As a valiant and tactically astute general, Yue Fei led many successful campaigns against the forces of the Jurchen. Taking advantage of the difficulties which his opponents’ cavalry experienced in the hilly terrain of Southern China, he was able to score victories although his troops were frequently outnumbered. His forces succeeded in regaining territory south of the Yangtze and Huai Rivers.
The enemies even said, “To push over a mountain is done with great ease, but to push over Yue’s army is done with great difficulty”.

Yue Fei was also known for his strict discipline of his legions, forbidding them to pillage, even when facing the harshest of conditions. He was a role model for followers of Confucius’ ideas and moral values, as well as being an accomplished martial artist and was very poetic.

Sadly, his attempt to recoup the northern lands lost by the Southern Song Dynasty was opposed by officials who believed further warfare would prove too costly. This desire to complete his quest is reflected in his most famous poem (Yue Fei was also a renowned poet) Manjiang Hong (Entirely Red River).

In the middle of a long victorious campaign against the Jurchen, corrupt officials, the most famous being the traitor Qin Hui, persuaded Emperor Gaozong to recall Yue Fei to the capital. Yue Fei had been readying to attack the Jurchen’s Jin Dynasty Capital at the time. The emperor ordered Yue Fei to return twelve times in the form of twelve gold plaques before Yue Fei capitulated.

Qin Hui could not find a reason to execute the captured Yue Fei and was about to release him. However, Qin Hui’s wife made the suggestion that since the emperor held absolute power, Qin Hui having the authority of the emperor, needed no reason to execute Yue Fei.

Yue Fei and his son, Yue Yun, were sentenced to death and executed on charges that were not proven but instead “could be true”.
It is for this reason that not only Qin Hui, but his wife also kneels before Yue Fei’s tomb.

Legend has it those who plotted to have Yue Fei executed were haunted by his ghost and driven to commit suicide.

Today, he is revered as one of the great symbols of patriotism and a national hero in China

Manjiang Hong is well-read and is known throughout China and Chinese people around the world, and his mausoleum in Hangzhou is well-visited. There are also two heavily mutilated statues of Qin Hui and his wife, topless, kneeling outside the temple as if begging for mercy. People in the past used to spit upon and kick them, until they were protected as part of the historic temple.

Also, to instill a sense of patriotism, the Chinese government required all primary school students to read and study at least one text about Yue Fei.

Several martial arts have been attributed to Yue Fei, including Eagle Claw, Xingyiquan, Fanziquan, and Chuojiao, among others.

Yue Fei has been in 126 battles and won them all; this is perhaps the best military record in world history.

This edited information about Yue Fei was obtained from Wikipedia
Used in compliance with the GNU Free Documentation License.


About the Art

This is a elaborate style painting using special black Chinese ink and watercolor on xuan paper (rice paper).

This rice paper was then taken to our mounting shop in Beijing where a hand-made silk wall scroll was created for this painting.

This wall scroll then flew with me from China to the USA and is now located at our San Diego, California gallery, ready to be shipped to you.

How I found this art…

Visiting an old friend and artist in Chengdu, I notice a woman is politely waiting for me. Soon enough, I finish my business, and leave my friend to work on some art that I would pick up several days later. The polite woman greets me as I walk out. She quietly asks if I would just take a look at her artwork.

I walk over to her little booth and take a look. The work is good, and I am surprised that she doesn’t have a studio-gallery like a lot of artists. She says that she likes to sell in the market, and put paintings in the hands of “the common man”. It is then that I realize we have a similar philosophy.

famous warrior artist of China

The artist, Li Ying-Lai, was really excited when I told him that I wanted dragons and legendary warriors of China. He said that dragons and warriors are his favorite subject to paint.

I look through her whole collection, and pick out several pieces that I like. Her husband shows up, and helps out getting paintings out of boxes for me to look at.

After we settle and I pay for all of the paintings, he asks if there is any other kind of art that I am looking for. I tell him, in Chinese, “I have been looking for warriors and really cool dragons for a long time”. Suddenly he is very excited. Grabbing through several boxes he emerges with a photo album. He hands the album to me and tells me that I must look!

Opening the album, I see a great collection of paintings of “Legendary Warriors of China” and several eye-catching dragons. He tells me that all of the photos are of his paintings.

Now, I get pretty excited, because I’ve been looking for good warrior-paintings for more than a year and a half, and I am always on the lookout for a good dragon-painting.

He doesn’t have any work ready to sell, but we talk about sizes, styles, and which warriors and dragons I want, and even down to what the background of each piece should be. We talk until the end of the day, and finally we talk about the price. I am expecting something high, but the price he gives me is just too low for this quality of work. So, for the first time in my art-buying career, I “reverse-bargain”, and tell him that I will pay 50% more as long as the quality is good. He and his wife look puzzled for a second, and then he remarks in Chinese, “I have been waiting to hear someone say that for a long time”. The gesture as they took it was not about money, but more about my personal compliment on the quality and importance of the art itself


The Chinese Imperial Ceramic Artwork Found In Indonesia ( Continiu )






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Eating and drinking in China

Bowl and lid, Jingdezhen, China. Museum no. C.794&A-1910

Bowl and lid, Jingdezhen, China. Museum no. C.794&A-1910. Porcelain painted in underglaze blue.

The V&A possesses one of the most comprehensive and important collections of Chinese art dating from 3000 BC to the present time. The China (T T Tsui) gallery at the V&A is organised according to six main themes; living, eating & drinking, temple & worship, burial, ruling and collecting. Here we present some background history on eating and drinking in China, using objects from the collections and quotes from original sources.

Food’s Central Place in Chinese Life

While people the world over must eat and drink, not many have felt the need to develop such a complex cuisine as the Chinese. Perhaps because famine has been a frequent occurrence in the past, the preparation and consumption of food has always been a matter of great interest to Chinese people. Special meals are served at family anniversaries and religious festivals and food is offered to gods and ancestors. Business deals are struck over a meal and presents often consist of food. The medicinal value of food in promoting good health is taken very seriously by Chinese people.

Rice and other food

Rice has been China’s chief grain since the Song dynasty (960-1279), but it is not the only important staple foodstuff. Rice is grown and eaten mostly in south China. In north China, where the main cereal crops are wheat, millet and sorghum, noodles and steamed buns made from dough are more usual. These grains and starchy foods are called fan; vegetables and meat are called cai (prounounced ‘tsai’). A balanced meal contains both fan and cai.

A Portuguese missionary’s view on rice, written by Fr. Martin de Rada, about 1565

The principal food of all Chinos is rice, for although they have wheat and sell bread therefrom, yet they do not eat it save as if it were a fruit. Their chief bread is cooked rice, and they even make a wine from it which is comparable with a reasonable grape-wine and might even be mistaken for it.

Fr. Martin de Rada quoted in  Boxer, CR (ed) South China in the Sixteenth Century, Hakluyt Society, 1953, p.287

K’ang-hsi, Emperor of China, describes the wild resources of China,
written around 1700

There are forests of oak and poplar and beech, and wild pears and peaches, apples and apricots. Riding by, one can pick the little plums known as ulana, pale red like sharp cherries, and in Jehol there are cherries both white and red and the lard sour cherries, perfect in colour and taste; or one can eat the hazelnuts fresh fallen from the trees and mountain walnuts roasted over an open fire. There is tea, made from fresh snow on the little brazier slung between two horses. There is the perfect flavour of bream and carp from the mountain streams, caught by oneself in the early morning – you can keep something of the flavour for Peking eating if you enclose the fish in mutton fat or pickle them in brine before frying them up in sesame oil or lard. There is venison, roasted over an open fire by a tent pitched on the sunny slope of a mountain; or the liver of a newly killed stag, cooked with one’s own hands (even if the rain is falling), and eaten with salt and vinegar. And in the northeast one can have bear’s paw, which the imperial cooks value so highly.

Translated by Jonathan D Spence and quoted in Spence, JD Emperor of China: Self Portrait of K’ang-hsi, Jonathan Cape, 1974, p9 (with permission of Peters, Frasers, Dunlop).

Cooking and eating

Kitchen scene from a mural in an Eastern Han tomb, about 200

Kitchen scene from a mural in an Eastern Han tomb, about 200. From Wenwu 10, 1972, reproduced in Chang, KC (ed) Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives, Yale University Press, 1977, illustration 9. The people in this busy kitchen scene are shown carrying firewood and drawing water as well as preparing food.

A densely populated land with limited fuel supplies needs a method of cooking that is economical of resources. Chinese cuisine relies on much labour being spent on preparation, in order that cooking can be done quickly. The most common, but not the only, method used by Chinese cooks is stir-frying, in which food is cut into bite-size pieces and cooked fast at high temperature. The food is brought to the table on serving dishes from which the diners help themselves. Each person usually has a bowl, a pair of chopsticks and a spoon. Chopsticks have been in use since Shang times (about 1700-1050BC).

Fine dining

Among the well-to-do it was the custom to have a separate table for each person. The narrow, rectangular tables were placed close together in a semi-circular arrangement or as three sides of a square.

Table and chair, 1550-1640. Museum nos. FE.67-1983, FE.27-1983, FE.41990, C.128-1928, FE.71-1977, C.127-1928

Table and chair set with a jade ewer and stemcup, a porcelain-lidded food box and a porcelain bowl. Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

Several people would have been able to sit round a square table. Raised edges on the table top stopped any spills from dripping in the diners’ laps. Tablecloths were not used to cover the table top although the front and sides were sometimes draped with silk hangings.

A Portuguese missionary’s view, written by Fr. Martin de Rada, about 1565

At banquets, a table is placed for each guest, and when the banquet is a formal one, each guest gets many tables, and to explain this I would like to recount what sort of banquets they offered us, and the way in which they were served.

In a large room, at the top of the hall, they placed seven tables in a row for each one of the Religious, and along the side-walls five tables for each of the Spanish laymen who were there, and three tables for each of the Chinese captains who accompanied us. And next to the doors of the hall, opposite the Religious, sat the captains who had invited us, each one at this own table. In our room they had arranged on one side three tables bearing the covers for each one of us. All these tables were loaded as much as they could be with plates and dishes of food, save that only the principal table contained cooked meats, and all the uncooked food was on the other tables which were for grandeur and display. There were whole geese and ducks, capons, and hens, gammons of bacon and other chops of pork, fresh pieces of veal and beef, many kinds of fish, a great quantity of fruits of all kinds, with elegant pitchers and bowls and other knick-knacks all made of sugar, and so forth. All this which was put upon the tables, when we got up therefrom, was put into hampers and carried to our lodgings.

Fr. Martin de Rada quoted in  Boxer, CR (ed) South China in the Sixteenth Century, Hakluyt Society, 1953, p.287

Concerning table manners, from the Li Ji or ‘Record of Ritual’, 220 AD

When feasting with a man of superior rank and character, the guest first tasted the dishes and then stopped. He should not bolt the food, nor swill down the liquor. He should take small and frequent mouthfuls. While chewing quickly, he did not make faces with his mouth.
Do not [roll] the grain into a ball: do not bolt down the various dishes; do not swill down the soup.
Do not make a noise in eating; do not crunch the bones with the teeth; do not put back fish you have been eating; do not throw the bones to the dogs; do not snatch at what you want.
Do not try to gulp down soup with vegetables in it, nor add condiments to it; do not keep picking the teeth, nor swill down the sauces. If a guest add[s] condiments, the host will apologise for not having had the soup prepared better. If he swill[s] down the sauces the host will apologise for his poverty.

From the Li ji or ‘Record of Ritual’ compiled in the Han dynasty, translated by James Legge, The Li Ki: The Sacred Books of the East, F Max Müller (ed), Vols 27 & 28, Clarendon Press, 1885, pp 468-70

Wine warmer, 500-580. Museum no. C.432-1922

Wine warmer, 500-580. Museum no. C.432-1922. This wine warmer is made from pottery and dates from 500 to 580. Earlier ones were made from bronze and some of these bronze ones from the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD220) have the word jiao (‘to heat’) inscribed on them.


Chinese people have drunk alcohol with their meals since the Neolithic period (about 5000-1700BC). Most alcoholic drinks are produced from cereal grains and some are drunk warm.

The little pot shown here, made between AD 500 and 580, was used for heating wine. The tripod legs would have straddled the heat source. The handle at the side of the pot is hollow to take a wooden extension for lifting it off the stove. At the same time a stick would have been passed through the ceramic loop on the opposite side to steady the hot pot.

The potters who made these wine-warmers sometimes added tails and beast-like heads or faces to the pot, or by giving the tripod legs hooves or paws.

Stemcups were only ever used for alcoholic drinks. The Chinese term means ‘urging cup': the drinker toasts his companions and at the same time urges them to down another cup.


Tea Bowls, 1984 and 1000-1125. Museum nos. C.18-1935, W.3-1938, FE.51-1984

Tea Bowls, 1984 and 1000-1125. Museum nos. C.18-1935, W.3-1938, FE.51-1984. The tea bowl on the right was made in 1984 at the Zibo kiln in Shandong. The bowl on the stand, which dates from 1000 to 1125, came from the same kiln.


Tea is China’s most popular beverage. Chinese people drink green unfermented tea, taken hot without milk or sugar, with meals and snacks and on its own throughout the day. Today, they use mugs with lids and handles, but up until this century tea was always drunk from small bowls.

Eight hundred years separate the two tea bowls made in the same kiln (Zibo, Shandong) shown in the image on the right. The bowl on the right was made in 1984. The tea bowl on the stand was made between 1000 and 1125, by which time tea drinking had become an everyday habit for most and an art for some.

Aristocrats and educated monks and nuns would gather together to taste fine teas and appreciate beautiful utensils. The powdered tea favoured at this time was whisked up with hot water in the tea bowl until it formed a froth. The white whipped topping showed up well against black tea bowls like this, which was one reason for their popularity. Tea making competitions were held, the winner being the person whose froth lasted longest.

The thick sides of stoneware bowls mean the heat of the tea is not lost quickly and the tea- drinker’s fingers do not get scalded. Stands were used for serving or to raise steaming tea bowls to the lips.

Teapots, 1650-1660 and 1984. Museum nos. C.871-1936, FE.31-1984

Teapots, 1650-1660 and 1984. Museum nos. C.871-1936, FE.31-1984. These two teapots were made at the same kiln site at Yixing. The local clays there are cream, red or a warm brown. The teapot on the left was made by the potter Hui Mengchen sometime between 1650 and 1660. The one on the right in the shape of a water chestnut was made in 1984 by the woman potter Jiang Rong.

By the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) tea was no longer made in the bowl because leaf tea replaced powder and the dried and rolled up leaves were brewed in teapots. These were often quite small, just big enough to make one or two cups. The small size meant that good leaves were not wasted. Pots from the Yixing kilns are particularly suitable for tea-making. Stoneware keeps the tea warm and they pour well. They are manufactured in a wide range of imaginative shapes, such as the one on the right in the form of a water chestnut.

Poem about Tea by Bai Juyi,
about 820 AD

The white porcelain jar is scrupulously clean.
The red charcoal is burning with great intensity.
The fragrant powdered tea is under the froth
Blossoms float atop the fish-eye bubbles.
The fine colour is presented in a bowl.
The fragrance remains after the feast.
(Poet’s note: Exuberance over tea after a nap, in memory of Master Yang of Tongzhou)

The poet Bai Juyi (772-846) quoted by Song Boyin in ‘Tea Drinking, Tea Ware and Purple Clay Ware’ in KS Lo Collection in the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Part 2 Urban Council, Hong Kong, 1984


Chinese Five Poison Symbols


The Five Poisons



The Fifth Day of the Fifth Month

One of the most dangerous and inauspicious days of the year in ancient China was the 5th day of the 5th month, according to the lunar calendar, which was popularly referred to as “Double 5″ or “Double 5th“, and also known as tian zhong jie (天中节).  This day marked the beginning of summer which by midseason meant dangerous animals and insects, the spread of infectious diseases, and the appearance of evil spirits.

Five Poison CharmFurthermore, the most dangerous period of that day was considered to be “noon”.  The Chinese actually divided each day into twelve two-hour periods known as shichen (时辰).  “Noon”, then, would be the two hour period from 11AM – 1PM which according to shichen is called wu (午).

One popular way to protect oneself during this day was to drink realgar wine (xiong huang jiu 雄黄酒).  Realgar contains arsenic sulfide which was believed to be an antidote for poisons and would therefore drive away evil spirits and kill insects and other poisonous animals.

Since realgar wine was too strong for children to drink, parents would use the wine to write the Chinese character “king” (wang 王) on a child’s forehead as a form of protection.

The Chinese would also mix into wine powdered cinnabar (dan sha 丹砂 or zhu sha 朱砂), which is the mineral from which mercury is made.  The cinnabar would turn the wine red which the Chinese believe would help fend off attacks from evil spirits.

Other protective measures included hanging branches of artemisia or mugwort (ai 艾) over gates and doors because the leaves resemble the paws of tigers and the aroma is believed to repel insects.  Calamus or “sweet flag” is also hung above gates because the leaves resemble swords.

It was also customary to hang pictures of Zhong Kui, brandishing his magic sword which could slay evil spirits, on doors and gates.

However, one of the most common forms of protection from the dangers was the wearing of “five poison” charms.  Chinese parents would also have their children wear an amulet bearing the images of the five poisons or hang small bags filled with mugwort around their necks.

Examples of old five poison charms are displayed and discussed below.

It should be noted also that in China today the fifth day of the fifth month is celebrated as the popular Duanwu Festival (duan wu jie 端午节) or “Dragon Boat Festival”.  The day commemorates the life and suicide of Qu Yuan (屈原) (340 BC – 278 BC), a famous poet and minister from the State of Chu of the Warring States Period.

The Five Poisons

The “five poisons” (wudu 五毒) actually refer to five poisonous animals.  In contrast to what one might expect, the purpose of the five poisons depicted on an amulet is to counteract pernicious influences.  This is because the Chinese believe in combating poison with poison as shown by the above examples of drinking realgar (arsenic) wine and mixing cinnabar (mercury) with wine.

There is legendary evidence to support this belief of combating poison with poison.  Shennong (神农), also known as the Yan Emperor (yandi 炎帝), was a ruler who lived about 5,000 years ago and is credited with teaching the Chinese how to cultivate crops.  He is also considered the Father of Chinese Medicine because he discovered and personally tested upon himself hundreds of medicinal and poisonous herbs.  He was able to test these herbs because he allegedly had a transparent body and could therefore observe their effects.  He never suffered long-term effects, however, because the poisons apparently canceled each other out.

Some historical sources refer to the five poisons as consisting of the snake, scorpion, centipede, toad and spider.  Other references have the lizard replacing the spider.  Still other sources mention the five poisons as the snake, scorpion, centipede, spider and the “three-legged toad”.  (Learn more about the “three-legged toad” at Liu Hai and the Three-Legged Toad.)

Finally, the tiger is sometimes included as one of the five poisons as explained below.

Five Poison Charms

"Fifth day of fifth month" Chinese charm

The inscription on this charm reads wu ri wu shi (五日午时) which translates as “noon of the 5th day” and which refers to noon on the 5th day of the 5th month.

As you can see, the charm has a crack.  If you look closely, you will see an area at the upper left of the square hole that has been flattened.  Most likely, this charm was at some time nailed to the gate of an old traditional Chinese house to protect the family from evil spirits and poisonous animals associated with this unlucky day.

Five poison charm displaying scorpion, tiger, three-legged toad, snake and centipedeThe reverse side of the charm displays members of the five poisons.

Above the square hole is the centipede with its venomous claws.

At the upper right is a lizard.  Unfortunately, the lizard’s head has been flattened by the nail so that the only discernable feature is the tail.

At the lower right is a tiger which is shown running in full stride.

The tiger is the only member of the group that is not poisonous so why is it included with the five poisons?

The reason has to do with the nature of the tiger. The Chinese consider the tiger to be a solitary animal.

There is an old Chinese proverb which says hu du bu chi zi (虎独不吃子) which literally means “tiger solitary does not eat children.  The character for “solitary” (独) and the character for “poison” (毒) are both pronounced du.  When spoken, the proverb can thus be interpreted as “tiger poison does not eat children”.

Tigers are frequently included on amulets of this type for this reason and also because they see well in the dark and have the ability to make evil spirits flee.

At the lower left is the three-legged toad which is discussed in detail at Liu Hai and the Three-Legged Toad.

To the left of the square hole is the snake.

There is one final point worth noting about this charm.  You will notice that, unlike most charms, this particular charm is not round.  It is actually eight-sided.

This eight-sided shape is believed to enhance the effectiveness of the charm because the number “8” (ba 八) is a lucky number due to its similar pronunciation in certain Chinese dialects to the word “prosper” or “wealth” (fa cai 发财).

This charm has a diameter of 29 mm and a weight of 7.5 grams.

Ancient Chinese five poisons charm

On the left is shown the reverse side of an amulet with the centipede and spider to the right, the snake at the bottom and a “three-legged toad” to the left of the center hole.

The animal at the top is a tiger.  Tigers are sometimes put on amulets because they are believed to have the ability to set evil spirits to flight and because they see well in the dark.

Images of tigers (see Peach Charms) are considered particularly effective in scaring away malignant spirits and protecting children.

Five poisons charm with inscription -- riches and honor, prosperity and happiness

While the reverse side of this piece is meant to protect, which is the purpose of an amulet, the obverse side is more like a charm in that it is meant to bring good luck.

The obverse side, shown at the left, has the four Chinese characters fu gui chang le (富贵昌乐) written in seal script and read top to bottom and right to left.

The meaning is “riches and honor, prosperity and happiness”.

This charm has a diameter of 47.8 mm and weighs 25.9 grams.

Old Chinese charm displaying five poisons

This is the reverse side of another old Chinese five poison charm.

The large animal at the right is a tiger or cat.  To the right of the cat’s tail is a lizard and to the left is a spider.  A snake is at the left of the center hole and the three legged toad is at the lower left.

Old Chinese five poison charm with inscription "Expel evil and send down good fortune"The inscription on the obverse side of the charm is read top to bottom as qu xie jiang fu (驱邪降) which translates as “Expel evil and send down good fortune”.

At the very top of the charm is a spider.  In this case, the spider is not one of the five poisons.  When not grouped with other members of the five poisons the spider is actually considered an auspicious symbol on its own. This is because another word for spider in Chinese is xizi (虫喜 子) where the first character has the same pronunciation as the word for “happy” (xi 喜).  A picture of a spider dropping down is therefore a visual pun for “happiness being sent down from the sky”.

At the bottom of the charm is the three legged toad. The three-legged toad on charms is regarded as auspicious and conducive to good fortune.  For a more detailed discussion, please see Liu Hai and the Three-Legged Toad.

There is some disagreement as to the figure at the right.  Some say it is Liu Hai and others say it is
Zhong Kui.  For a detailed discussion of Liu Hai, please see the above link.  For information on Zhong Kui, please see Daoist (Taoist) Charms and Chinese Pendant Charms.

This charm has a diameter of 46 mm and a weight of 26.3 grams.

"Expel evil and send down good fortune" five poison charm

The charm at the left is very similar to the one above although the person on the right appears to be different.

The inscription is qu xie jiang fu (驱邪降) meaning “expel evil and send down good fortune”.

This charm also has the spider, here representing “happiness”, at the eleven o’clock position and the three-legged toad at the bottom.

Reverse side of Chinese charm displaying tiger, three-legged toad, lizard, snake and spider

The images of the “five poisons” on the reverse side are the same as those on the above charm although they are drawn a little differently and are in a slightly different order.

Beginning at the right and moving clockwise are the tiger, three-legged toad, lizard, snake and spider.

This charm has a diameter of 44 mm and a weight of 24.6 grams.

After read this info we can explaine why very rare the  five Poison symbol motif on the ceramic plate or other pottery.

Dr Iwan Only found one collection from each type of the poison above let’s we look the rae collections below


Yuan Snake Symbol Bowl



Ming Tiger  Plate





chu jung God Of Fire


Foundry artisans needed fire to melt gold or silver: therefore they worship the God of Fire. This is one picture of the deity, carrying a pot and wearing a black gauze cap. One of the two servants carries a plate of ore, the other a mine. Before the god’s seat is a whole stack of gold ingots. Some technicians are melting gold and silver in the front of the furnace. Others are hammering gold into foil. This picture sheds some light on how artisans of old used to cast gold and silver


God of literature kue

Chu Jung was created by Taiwan to gain their independence from China. He possesses the powers of the God of Fire and was made to believe this to be his true identity.
He was shown the truth by the true gods of China. Although he does not remember his past, he still will fight for China.



i wang tin chung



Because of its long emphasis on scholasticism, and the high status placed on the literati it is perhaps natural that the Chinese should have had a god of literature or a god of scholars.

There are several versions as to who Wen Chang may have been: he is variously said to have been an actual scholar in the Tang Dynasty, the Chin Dynasty (265-316 CE) and the Sung Dynasty (1000 CE).

The mythological version, however, centers around the story of a scholar named Chung K’uei whose face was badly deformed. As was customary, the unfortunate man was supposed to have received the golden rose from the emperor after passing his exam.

 At the “graduation” ceremony, however, the emperor was so horrified by Chung K’uei’s appearance that he refused to give him the golden rose. In despair, Ching K’uei drowned himself. His spirit drifted to the heavens where he became the arbiter of the fate of scholars with the honorific name of Wen Chang.

In pictures of Wen Chang he is usually surrounded by a demon-like character wielding a pen named K’uei Hsing and a man known as “Red Coat.” K’uei Hsing is the conferer of degrees and diplomas, hence scholars prayed to him for success in the Imperial Exams. Red Coat or the God of Good luck was regarded as the deity responsible for finding jobs for scholars. He was regarded particularly as the protector of those who were not very good students. In one story, an examiner, disgusted by a weak essay, was ready to fail the candidate when a strange man in red appeared from nowhere. Silently the man in red nodded to the examiner to signal that he should pass the candidate. Completely taken aback by the celestial visitor, the examiner passed the candidate!

In Chinese mythology there is also another god who is regarded as the god of literature. Strangely enough this god of literature, Kuan Yu, is also the god of war. Kuan Yu is one of the most venerated gods of the Chinese pantheon and his heroic exploits are detailed in the classic work The Three Kingdoms.

God Of The Kitchen

In Chinese folk religion and Chinese mythology, the Kitchen God, named Zao Jun or Zao Shen, is the most important of a plethora of Chinese domestic gods that protect the hearth and family. In addition he is celebrated in Vietnamese culture as well.

It is believed that on the twenty third day of the twelfth lunar month, just before Chinese New Year he returns to Heaven to report the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor (Yu Huang). The Jade Emperor, emperor of the heavens, either rewards or punishes a family based on Zao Jun’s yearly report.The Story of Zao Jun[edit]

Zao Jun from Myths and Legends of China, 1922 by E. T. C. Werner

Though there are many stories on how Zao Jun become the Kitchen god, the most popular dates back to around the 2nd Century BC. Zao Jun was originally a mortal man living on earth whose name was Zhang Lang. He eventually became married to a virtuous woman, but ended up falling in love with a younger woman. He left his wife to be with this younger woman and, as punishment for this adulterous act, the heavens afflicted him with ill-fortune. He became blind, and his young lover abandoned him, leaving him to resort to begging to support himself. Once, while begging for alms, he happened across the house of his former wife. Being blind, he did not recognize her. Despite his shoddy treatment of her, she took pity on him and invited him in. She cooked him a fabulous meal and tended to him lovingly; he then related his story to her. As he shared his story, Zhang Lang became overwhelmed with self-pity and the pain of his error and began to weep. Upon hearing him apologize, Zhang’s former wife told him to open his eyes and his vision was restored. Recognizing the wife he had abandoned, Zhang felt such shame that he threw himself into the kitchen hearth, not realizing that it was lit. His former wife attempted to save him, but all she managed to salvage was one of his legs.

The devoted woman then created a shrine to her former husband above the fireplace, which began Zao Jun’s association with the stove in Chinese homes. To this day, a fire poker is sometimes referred to as “Zhang Lang’s Leg”.

Alternatively, there is another tale where Zao Jun was a man so poor he was forced to sell his wife. Years later he unwittingly became a servant in the house of her new husband. Taking pity on him she baked him some cakes into which she had hidden money, but he failed to notice this and sold the cakes for a pittance. When he realized what he had done he took his own life in despair. In both stories Heaven takes pity on Zhang Lang’s tragic story. Instead of becoming a vampirish hopping corpse, the usual fate of suicides, he was made the god of the Kitchen, and was reunited with his wife.

The origin of the Kitchen god differs. Another possible story of the “Stove god” is believed to have appeared soon after the invention of the brick stove. The Kitchen god was originally believed to have resided in the stove and only later took on human form. During the Han Dynasty, it is believed that a poor farmer named Yin Zifang, was surprised by the Kitchen god who appeared on Lunar New Year as he was cooking his breakfast. Yin Zifang decided to sacrifice his only yellow sheep. In doing so, he became rich and decided that every winter he would sacrifice one yellow sheep in order to display his deep gratitude.

Worship and customs[edit]

Traditionally, every Chinese household would have a paper effigy or a plaque of Zao Jun and his wife (who writes down everything that is said in the household over the year for her husband’s report to Jade Emperor) above the fireplace in the kitchen. This tradition is still widely practiced, and Zao Jun was the most highly worshiped god of those who protect the household and family. Offerings of food and incense are made to Zao Jun on his birthday (the third day of the eighth lunar month) and also on the twenty third day of the twelfth lunar month, which marks his return to Heaven to give his New Year’s report to the Jade Emperor. On this day, the lips of Zao Jun’s paper effigy are often smeared with honey to sweeten his words to Yu Huang (Jade Emperor), or to keep his lips stuck together. After this, the effigy will be burnt and replaced by a new one on New Year’s Day. Firecrackers are often lit as well, to speed him on his way to heaven. If the household has a statue or a nameplate of Zao Jun it will be taken down and cleaned on this day for the new year.

Many customs are associated with the Kitchen god, especially defining the date of the “Kitchen god festival”, also known as “Little New Year”. It is noted that the date differed depending on the location. It is believed that people in northern China celebrate it on the twenty-third day of the twelfth lunar month, while the people in southern China celebrate it on the twenty-fourth. Along with location, traditionally the date may also be determined by one’s Profession. For example, “feudal officials made their offerings to the Kitchen god on the twenty-third, the common people on the twenty-fourth, and coastal fishing people on the twenty-fifth”.[1] In addition, generally it was the males of the household that lead the sacrificial rites.[1]

In order to establish a fresh beginning in the New Year, families must be organized both within their family unit, in their home, and around their yard. This custom of a thorough house cleaning and yard cleaning is another popular custom during “Little New Year”. It is believed that in order for ghosts and deities to depart to Heaven, both their homes and “persons” must be cleansed. Lastly, the old decorations are taken down, and there are new posters and decorations put up for the following Spring Festival.[1]


Independent Chinese families are classified accordingly to the stove they possess. Because circumstances of a divided household, kitchens are shared but never the stove. In the case of a fathers death, The sons divide their fathers household. The eldest son inherits the stove and the younger brothers transfer the coals from the old stove to their own new stoves. This invites the Stove god to join their newly formed households ( Ahern, Martin, Wolf 1978). This process is called “pun chu” or dividing the stove. This indicates the “soul” of the family and it signifies fate of the family.

A Chinese story says,” When a shaman informed one family that there were ants and other things in their stove, they destroyed the stove and threw the bricks and coals into the river”. A neighbor explained, ” There was nothing else they could do. A family will never have peace if they dont have a good stove”. (Ahern, Martin, Wolf 1978, 131-133).

Ahern, Martin, Wolf, 1978 state that “The association of Stove God and God is thus an association of God and family. The Character of the relationship is essentially bureaucratic; the family is the smallest corporate unit in society, and the Stove God is the lowest ranking member of a supernatural bureaucracy”. This relates a correlation of the Stove god and the importance of this deity is to the family unit (pg.133).

The domestic deity is seen as being in charge of watching over the home life. It has been expressed that his presence is more like that of a policeman sent from above to observe the family. This practice is known as a bureaucratization of religion in Chinese society. The Jade Emperor is in charge of an administration divided into bureaus, and each bureaucrat-god takes responsibility for a clearly defined domain or discrete function. The Kitchen God would thus serve the role of the home domain as he would overlook the daily dynamics of a family, the members and their behaviour (Ting, 2002, pg.326).

Ting, 2002, also states that there are 3 levels of Cosmology containing an organization of heaven is like that of the organization on earth. With a supreme deity- an Emperor (Jade Emperor or Heavenly God) — Local Officials (City gods) — Commoners (gods of the hearth)(pg.326). This confirms the organization of the heavens and how the Kitchen god reports to higher level God, the Jade Emperor.

According to Mann 1997, There is another god that shares the realm of the household. “Pollution, sickness, and death were everyday concerns for women in the household as well as the focal points of their spiritual and ritual lives. Within their households they worshiped the deities who oversaw these homely concerns. The goddess of the household were territorial deities who shared the domain with the Kitchen God, worshiped by men. This God is known as the Purple Goddess/ or Privy Goddess/”. The Privy goddess was worshipped only by woman and no temples have been erected in her honor and has no relation or interaction with the Kitchen god (pg.,186).

Zao Jun in literature[edit]

Laurence Yep‘s novel Dragonwings describes the honey ritual, but the book refers to the deity as the Stove King.

Zao Jun’s story is interwoven with a feminist spin into the protagonist’s story in Amy Tan‘s novel The Kitchen God’s Wife. She reflects on her life story as a Chinese American woman. She uses the symbolism of the Kitchen god’s story and uses it as a parallel towards modern day life. She outlines the patriarchy that still exists within modern day life but more significantly in Chinese cultural practices. Tan also illustrates several facets of the humble status of women in Chinese society in the early 20th century (Tan, 1991).

In Tan’s story, there is an elaborate description of the coming of Zao Jun. The character Winnie goes into detail about how he came to be and attempts to address cultural struggles as she removes the picture of the Kitchen God from her daughter Pearl’s stove, as she does not believe this is the kind of luck Pearl needs. She then promises to fill the altar with the image of another god. In addition to this cultural struggle there is also a feminist undertone at the core, suggesting that this ritual is sexist, outdated, and inappropriate in today’s world. The story can be viewed as a struggle between traditionalism and biculturalism (Tan, 1991).

In popular culture[edit]

Zao Jun was one of the minor gods played in Supernatural‘s 5th series “Hammer of the Gods”.


Kuan Yu God Of War



Guan Yu (Wade-Giles spelling: Kuan Yu) (died 219] was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China.

He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period, of which Liu Bei was the first emperor. As one of the best known Chinese historical figures throughout East Asia, Guan’s true life stories have largely given way to fictionalized ones, mostly found in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms or passed down the generations, in which his deeds and moral qualities have been lionized.

Guan is respected as an epitome of loyalty and righteousness. Guan was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still worshipped by many Chinese people today, especially in southern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and their descendants overseas. He is a figure in Chinese folk religion, popular Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and small shrines to Guan are almost ubiquitous in traditional Chinese shops and restaurants




In 219, Guan Yu attacked the nearby enemy city of Fancheng (present-day Fancheng District, Xiangyang, Hubei), which was guarded by Cao Ren, and besieged it. In autumn, heavy showers in the region caused the Han River next to the city to overflow.

 The flood destroyed reinforcements troops from Cao Cao led by Yu Jin and Pang De. Both Yu Jin and Pang De were captured by Guan Yu in battle. However, reinforcements led by Xu Huang managed to force Guan Yu’s troops to retreat.At that time, Guan Yu realised that Sun Quan had secretly formed an alliance with Cao Cao and attacked Jing Province while he was attacking Fancheng. Mi Fang and Shi Ren, whom he left in charge of Jing Province, had surrendered to Sun Quan. When Guan Yu’s troops received news that their families in Jing Province had fallen into the control of Sun Quan, some of them started deserting and returning to Jing Province to reunite with their families. Guan Yu’s army was severely depleted due to the desertions so he attempted to retreat to Yi Province in the west but was surrounded and besieged by Sun Quan’s forces at Maicheng (southeast of present day Dangyang, Hubei). Guan Yu attempted to break out of the encirclement with his son Guan Ping and subordinate Zhao Lei but failed. They were captured in Zhang Town (east of present-day Yuan’an County, Hubei) and executed by Sun Quan after refusing to surrender. Sun Quan sent Guan Yu’s severed head to Cao Cao, who performed the proper funeral rites and buried Guan’s head with full honours.

In 260, Liu Shan gave Guan Yu the posthumous title of “Marquis Zhuangmou” ( ), which states that he does not live up to his name in terms of his ability.

Tsai Tsen Yai The God Of Wealth



The Tsai Shen Yeh or “Choy San” (God of Wealth) is one of the most popular symbols of Fortune and Prosperity.

The God of Wealth is depicted on top of a Tiger. Dressed in auspicious Dragon Robes, he is carrying a gold ingot and a bundle of auspicious Chinese coins tied together with red string. Following collections of Gods of Wealth for your Feng Shui business

The Mystery Of Money Tree

The Mystery of the Money Tree Revealed

nsf, chinese money tree, chemisty, history

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CREDIT: Tami Lasseter Clare, Portland State University

This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Buried in ancient Chinese tombs, money trees are bronze sculptures believed to provide eternal prosperity in the afterlife.

One money tree was crafted in southwest China during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE). Supported by a ceramic base, this rare piece of art stands 52 inches tall and spans 22 inches wide. Dragons and phoenixes — symbols of longevity — and coins decorate the tree’s 16 bronze leaves.The Portland Art Museum acquired the tree as a gift from a private

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Unearthed from Han Tomb No.2 in Hejiashan Village, Sichuan Province, the money tree in the Eastern Han Dynasty is 198cm high and is comprised of foundation, trunk and crown, etc., all together 29 components. The foundation is made of red pottery and the whole tree is cast with bronze. The crown can be divided into seven layers. The top layer is decorated with phoenixes and birds, and the next two layers are decorated with the images of West Queen, heracles and cliffs, etc. The lower four layers are inserted with 24 out-stretching branches and leaves decorated with patterns of dragon head, rose finch, dog, elephant, deer and strings of coins. The leaves are in pairs, with some in the shape of plantain leaf and others in oval shape. Both leaves and branches are cast with circular coins with a square hole as well as portraits and flying dragons. The whole tree is featured by exquisite casting effect and beautiful design.

Chinese legend has it that money tree is a kind of holy tree, which can bring money and fortune to the people, and that it is a symbol of affluence, nobility and auspiciousness. It can be traced back to the primitive society when the adoration of holy tree was prevalent. It is said that the ancestor of Chinese-style architecture Youchao taught people to build houses on trees, which contributed to the improvement of the living environment. There also exists a holy tree named Chinese Hibiscus in Chinese myth. According to the existing historical materials, the concept “money tree” is derived at the latest from the Han Dynasty.

Money trees have been excavated by the archaeologists from Han tombs for many times, an indication that the adoration of the money tree was prevailing in the Han Dynasty. Since then, “money tree” has gradually become a pet phrase for the general public


 Chinese Fans


vintage picture of Chinese Hand Fan

chinese lady with their fans

Have you ever noticed that Chinese hand fan is an important symbol of China, its culture and the people? If we look back to ancient time we would explore that they invented hand fans a long time ago around 3000 years ago or more. Though, no one knows the exact time when Chinese hand fans were invented. Since then Chinese hand fans are referred as useful tool and decorative item in China. It is a part of Chinese art and tradition.

Chinese hand fans became very much popular in the Han Dynasty. It is said that Chinese hand fans first were made by only bamboo, they used to craft very brilliantly. They were the real artists. Have you seen any Chinese hand fans, I think if you have then you have noticed that their hand fans are designed with nice paintings. Shaolin monks in China still use hand fans while they practice Kung fu. It is a great weapon for them. This is a very handy item and dangerous if you see these Chinese hand fans to shaolin monks’ hands. Be careful!

Image credit:


Chinese Nylon-Cloth Dragon Hand Fan in Brilliant Red or Black Simple Colors: Red Color

Red color of hand fan! It looks very nice, Right!

Would you like to present this hand fan for your little girl? She would would happy because of this red color Chinese hand fan. This is one kind of traditional style Chinese hand fan. If you are serious and finding for a unique gift ideas for others then I recommend this Chinese hand fan.
Chinese Nylon-Cloth Dragon Fan in Brilliant Red or Black Simple Colors: Red

Chinese Nylon-Cloth Dragon Fan in Brilliant Red or Black Simple Colors: Red

Are you looking for Chinese style of hand fan? If you are then this is the perfect one for you. It is read with dragon painting. I think this hand fan never would dissatisfy you because of its colorful design and dragon painting. It is about 10.5″ high and 18″ wide. Don’t you think it could be a nice gift for others? Get it and present it to others since it is a great colorful hand fan.

Buy Now

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Amico Black Plastic Frame Embroidery Floral Detail Folding Hand Fan

Black Color of Embroidery Hand Fan

Do you like black color? This is my one of the favorite colors of my mom. Actually if you like black color then I hope you would not bother to decorate your beautiful house with this hand fan. It is a perfect hand fan for wall decoration.If you like black color and searching for decorating your home’s wall with black color of decor item then i highly recommend this hand fan to you. It is made by plastic, fabric and metal. This handmade hand fan is well designed with embroidered flower. This is an ideal gift for girls and women, who want to decor home, make cool airflow and stage performance for dancing.

Hsi-wang Wu Royal Lady Of The West 

Xi Wangmu,

 the shamanic great goddess of China


the goddess seated on a wild mountain, holding the ling zhi and a peach, with the three-legged raven

One of the oldest deities of China is Xi Wangmu (Hsi Wang Mu). She lives in the Kunlun mountains in the far west, at the margin of heaven and earth. In a garden hidden by high clouds, her peaches of immortality grow on a colossal Tree, only ripening once every 3000 years. The Tree is a cosmic axis that connects heaven and earth, a ladder traveled by spirits and shamans.

A good pair of Chinese famille rose plates, brightly decorated with the Eight Horses of Mu Wang,

each plate with four horses frolicking beneath a flowering tree, the borders with bold peony blooms and colourful butterflies, Qianlong 1736-95, 22.7cm. (2)

In Chinese mythology the Eight Horses drew the chariot of the Emperor Mu Wang (Zhou dynasty, C.1028-221BC) on his journey to the Western Gardens in search of the Peach of Immortality. The design is also known in blue and white as well as copied on Worcester porcelain and on Delftware.

Xi Wang Mu controls the cosmic forces: time and space and the pivotal Great Dipper constellation. With her powers of creation and destruction, she ordains life and death, disease and healing, and determines the life spans of all living beings. The energies of new growth surround her like a cloud. She is attended by hosts of spirits and transcendentals. She presides over the dead and afterlife, and confers divine realization and immortality on spiritual seekers.

The name of the goddess is usually translated as Queen Mother of the West. Mu means “mother,” and Wang, “sovereign.” But Wangmu was not a title for royal women. It means “grandmother,” as in the Book of Changes, Hexagram 35: “One receives these boon blessings from one’s wangmu.” The classical glossary Erya says that wangmu was used as an honorific for female ancestors. [Goldin, 83] The ancient commentator Guo Pu explained that “one adds wang in order to honor them.” Another gloss says it was used to mean “great.” Paul Goldin points out that the Chinese commonly used wang “to denote spirits of any kind,” and numinous power. He makes a convincing case for translating the name of the goddess as “Spirit-Mother of the West.” [Goldin, 83-85]

The oldest reference to Xi Wangmu is an oracle bone inscription from the Shang dynasty, thirty-three centuries ago: “If we make offering to the Eastern Mother and Western Mother there will be approval.” The  inscription pairs her with another female, not the male partner invented for her by medieval writers—and this pairing with a goddess of the East persisted in folk religion. Suzanne Cahill, an authority on Xi Wangmu, places her as one of several ancient “mu divinities” of the directions, “mothers” who are connected to the sun and moon, or to their paths through the heavens. She notes that the widespread tiger images on Shang bronze offerings vessels may have been associated with the western mu deity, an association of tiger and west that goes back to the neolithic. [Cahill, 12-13]

After the oracle bones, no written records of the goddess appear for a thousand years, until the “Inner Chapters” of the Zhuang Zi, circa 300 BCE. This early Taoist text casts her as a woman who attained the Tao [Feng, 125]:

Xi Wang Mu attained it and took her seat on Shao Guang mountain.
No one knows her beginning and no one knows her end.

These eternal and infinite qualities remain definitive traits of the goddess throughout Chinese history.

The Shan Hai Jing
Another ancient source for Xi Wangmu is the Shan Hai Jing (“Classic of Mountains and Seas”). Its second chapter says that she lives on Jade Mountain. She resembles a human, but has tigers’ teeth and a leopard’s tail. She wears a head ornament atop her wild hair. [Remi, 100] Some scholars interpret this as a victory crown. [Birrell, 24] Most think it is the sheng headdress shown in the earliest reliefs of the goddess: a horizontal band with circles or flares at either end. [Cahill, 16; Strassberg, 109]

seated goddess wearing the sheng headdress, with knobs at both ends
Xi Wangmu wearing the Sheng Crown

The sheng is usually interpreted as a symbol of the loom. The medieval Di Wang Shih Zhi connects it to “a loom mechanism” the goddess holds. Cahill says that the sheng marks Xi Wangmu as a cosmic weaver who creates and maintains the universe. She also compares its shape to ancient depictions of constellations—circles connected by lines—corresponding to the stellar powers of Xi Wangmu. She “controls immortality and the stars.” Classical sources explain the meanings of sheng as “overcoming” and “height.” [Cahill, 45; 16-18]

This sign was regarded as an auspicious symbol during the Han dynasty, and possibly earlier. People exchanged sheng tokens as gifts on stellar holidays, especially the Double Seven festival in which women’s weaving figured prominently. It was celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month, at the seventh hour, when Xi Wangmu descended among humans. Taoists considered it the most important night of the year, “the perfect night for divine meetings and ascents.” [Cahill, 16, 167-8] It was the year’s midpoint, “when the divine and human worlds touch,” and cosmic energies were in perfect balance. [Despeux / Kohn, 31]

goddess presiding over shamanic dances and other rites
Xi Wangmu seated amidst worshippers, dancing frog, magical raven, nine-tailed fox, and various ritual scenes. Directly beneath her is a possible representaation of the celestial Grindstone.

The Shan Hai Jing goes on to say of the tigress-like Xi Wangmu: “She is controller of the Grindstone and the Five Shards constellations of the heavens.” [Cahill, 16] The Grindstone is where the axial Tree connects to heaven, the “womb point” from which creation is churned out. [Mitchell cite] In other translations of this passage, she presides over “the calamities of heaven and the five punishments.” [Strassberg, 109] For Guo Pu, this line referred to potent constellations. [Remi, 102] The goddess has destructive power—she causes epidemics, for example—but she also averts them and cures diseases. [Asian Mythology]

The passage above also says that the tiger-woman on Jade Mountain “excels at whistling.” Other translators render this line as “is fond of roaring” or “is good at screaming.” The character in question, xiào, does not translate easily. It is associated with “a clear, prolonged sound” that issues from the throats of sages and shamans. (It may have resembled Tuvan throat singing.) Xiào was compared to the cry of a phoenix, a long sigh, and a zither. Its melodic sound conveyed much more than mere words, and had the power to rouse winds and call spirits. Taoist scriptures also refer to the xiào, and in the Songs of Chu it appears “as a shamanistic ritual for calling back the soul of the deceased.” [Yun, online]

The twelfth chapter of the Shan Hai Jing returns to the goddess, seated on She Wu mountain: “Xi Wangmu rests on a stool and wears an ornament on her head. She holds a staff. In the south, there are three birds from which Xi Wangmu takes her nourishment. They are found to the north of the Kunlun mountains.” [Remi, 481] The three azure birds that bring fruits to the goddess belong to her host of shamanic spirits and emissaries that turn up in art and literature.

tigress-woman seated on mountainside as three phoenix-like birds fly toward her

An 18th-century woodcut depicts the goddess in her old shamanic form, with tiger’s teeth and bamboo staff, sitting on a mountaintop with various chimeric animals. From an edition of the Shan Hai Jing.

This description places Xi Wangmu on the mountain She Wu—“Snake Shaman.” Wu is the Chinese name for female shamans. Its written character depicts two dancers around a central pillar—the same cosmic ladder that recurs in the iconography of Xi Wangmu. The Songs of Chu, a primary source on ancient Chinese shamanism, describes Kunlun mountain as a column connecting heaven and earth, endlessly deep and high. [Cahill, 47] It is the road of shamanic journeys between the worlds.

Xi Wangmu has shamanic attributes in the Shan Hai Jing. She is depicted as a tigress, an animal connected to shamans in China and over much of Asia. As early as 2400 bce, Indus Valley seals depict tiger-women and women dancing with tigers. In the early Shang dynasty,bronzes of the early Shang dynasty show a tigress clasping children in her paws—possibly a clan ancestress, or a shamanic initiator—and tigers flank the head of a child being born on a colossal fangding. The taotie sign represents a tiger on innumerable Shang and Zhou offering vessels—and on masks. [On the taotie as tiger, Rawson, 244]

Mathieu Remi observes of the tigress form of Xi Wangmu, “There are good reasons for thinking that here we have a description of a shaman in trance.” He points to Chinese scholars who compare her staff to the staff of sorcerers. [Remi, 100, 481] Cahill draws the same conclusion, calling attention to modern parallels: “The stool, headdress, and staff—still part of the shaman’s paraphernalia in Taiwan today—reflect her shamanistic side.” [Cahill, 19]

three birds swoop toward a tiger-woman seated on a mountainside, attended by a three-legged raven, chilin and other animals.

Chapter 16 of the Shan Hai Jing returns to Xi Wangmu in the western wilderness. It describes “the mountain of Wangmu” in the country of the Wo people, who eat phoenix eggs. Whoever drinks the sweet dew of this place will be able to attain every desire. On the great mountain Kunlun is a spirit with a human face and a tiger’s body and tail. (Both are white, the color of the West and the goddess.) Finally, Xiwangmu is again described with tiger teeth and tail, with new details: she “lives in a cave,” on a mountain that “contains a thousand things.” [Remi, 575-78]

The Daren fu of Sima Xiangru concurs that Xi Wangmu lives in a grotto. In his account, the white-haired goddess is served by a three-footed crow and is unimaginably long-lived. [Remi, 481-2, 588] The ancient Huainan Zi contains the first written reference to Xi Wangmu granting the elixir of immortality. She bestows it on the Archer Yi, but his wife Chang E takes it and floats up to the moon where she becomes a toad (and the moon goddess). [Lullo, 270, 285] Xi Wangmu also grants longevity in the Songs of Chu. Seekers ask her for the divine nectar, or drink it, in many artistic depictions.

The marvellous Kunlun mountain lies somewhere far in the west, beyond the desert of Flowing Sands. It was often said to be in the Tian Shan (“heaven mountain”) range of central Asia, and the source of the Yellow River. But Kunlun is a mysterious place outside of time, without pain or death, where all pleasures and arts flourished: joyous music, dancing, poetry, and divine feasts.[Cahill, 19-20, 77]

Kunlun means “high and precarious,” according to the Shizhou Ji, because “its base is narrow and its top wide.” [Despeux / Kohn, 28] It is also called the Highgate or Triple Mountain. The Shan Hai Jing names it Jade Mountain, after a primary symbol of yin essence. In the Zhuang Zi, Xi Wangmu sits atop Shao Guang, which represents the western skies. Elsewhere she sits on Tortoise Mountain, the support of the world pillar, or on Dragon Mountain. In the Tang period, people said that the goddess lived on Hua, the western marchmount of the west in Shaanxi, where an ancient shrine of hers stood. [Cahill, 76, 14-20, 60]

woodcut of the nine-tailed foxThe sacred mountain is inhabited by fantastic beings and shamanistic emissaries. Among them are the three-footed crow, the nine-tailed fox, a dancing frog, and the moon-hare who pounds magical elixirs in a mortar. There are phoenixes and chimeric chi-lin, jade maidens and azure lads, and spirits riding on white stags. A third century scroll describes Xi Wangmu herself as kin to magical animals in her western wilderness: “With tigers and leopards I form a pride; Together with crows and magpies I share the same dwelling place.” [Cahill, 51-3]

Medieval poets and artists show the goddess riding on a phoenix or crane, or on a five colored dragon. Many sources mention three azure birds who bring berries and other foods to Xi Wangmu in her mountain pavilion, or fly before her as she descends to give audience to mortals. The poet Li Bo referred to the three wild blue birds who circle around Jade Mountain as “the essence-guarding birds.” They fulfil the will of the goddess. Several poets described these birds as “wheeling and soaring.” [Cahill, 99; 92; 51-3; 159]

The Jade Maidens (Yü Nü) are companions of the goddess on Kunlun. They are dancers and musicians who playjade maidens gather in a wilderness garden  as the goddess flies in on a phoenix chimes, flutes, mouth organ, and jade sounding stones. In medieval murals at Yongle temple, they bear magical ling zhi fungi on platters. In the “Jade Girls’ Song,” poet Wei Ying-wu describes their flight: “Flocks of transcendents wing up to the divine Mother.” [Cahill, 99-100]

Jade Maidens appear as long-sleeved dancers in the shamanic Songs of Chu and some Han poems. The Shuo wen jie zi  defines them as “invocators [zhu] …women who can perform services to the shapeless and make the spirits come down by dancing.” [Rawson, 427] Centuries later, a Qing dynasty painting shows a woman dancing before Xi Wang Mu and her court, moving vigorously and whirling her long sleeves. [Schipper, 2000: 36] Chinese art is full of these ecstatic dancing women.

Tang poets describe Xi Wangmu herself performing such dances in her rainbow dress and feathered robe with its winged sleeves. In The Declarations of the Realized Ones she dances while singing about the Great Wellspring; the Lady of the Three Primordials replies in kind. [Cahill, 165-6, 187]

The Jade Maidens act as messengers of the goddess and teachers of Taoist mystics. They impart mystic revelations and present divine foods to those blessed to attend the banquet of the goddess. But the Book of the Yellow Court warns spiritual seekers against “the temptation to make love to the Jade Maidens of Hidden Time.” [Schipper 1993:144]

Sometimes Yü Nü appears as a single divinity, in connection with other goddesses. In Chinese Buddhism, she is the dragon king’s daughter, and presented to the bodhisattva Guan Yin. Or she is born from an appeal to Tian Hou (“Empress of Heaven”), a title posthumously bestowed on the coastal saint Ma Zi (who was syncretized with the goddess of the East). [Stevens, 167]

The immortals journey to Kunlun to be with Xi Wangmu. The character for immortal (xian) reads as “mountain person,” and alternately as “dancing person.” [Schipper: 2000:36] The goddess lives in a “stone apartment” within her sacred mountain grotto—from which spring the underground “grotto heavens” of medieval Taoism. It is the paradise of the dead; a tomb inscription near Chongqing calls it a “stone chamber which prolongs life.” [Wu, 83]

Xi Wang Mu is an eternal being who guides vast cosmic cycles. In her mysterious realm, the passage of time is imperceptible: “A thousand years are just a small crack, like a cricket’s chirp.” A visitor turns his head for a second, and eons have passed. When king Mu returns from his visit to her paradise, the coats of his horses turn white. [Cahill, 47; 84; 114-15; 129] The goddess of the West confers elixirs of immortality, even as she receives the dead and presides over their realm. 

Mirrors and Tombs
Ancient art is rich in iconography of the goddess: bronzes, murals, painted lacquers, clay tiles, and stone reliefs. Much of this art is from funerary contexts, befitting the signification of the West. The goddess sits with hands tucked into voluminous sleeves, on a throne perched above an irregular stone pillar or a multi-tiered mountain. An ancient lacquer bowl from a tomb at Lelang depicts her thus, wearing a leopard hat and sitting on a leopard mat, with a jade maiden beside her and a canopy above. [Liu, 40] Sometimes she is enthroned in pavilions or halls.

goddess seated in hall, hands in sleeves, with large birds
The goddess seated in pillared hall: sarcophagus from Sichuan

In an important find near Tengzhou, Shandong, an incised stone depicts Xi Wangmu with a leopard’s body, tail, claws, teeth, and whiskers—and a woman’s face, wearing the sheng headdress. Votaries make offerings to her on both sides. The inscription salutes Tian Wangmu: Queen Mother of the Fields. [Lullo, 271] This alternate title reflects her control of the harvests, a tradition attested elsewhere. [Cahill, 13]

At Suide in Shaanxi, a sheng-crowned Xi Wangmu receives leafy fronds from human and owl-headed votaries, while hares joyously pound exilir in a mortar (below). The magical fox, hare, frog, crow, and humans attend her in a tomb tile at Xinfan, Sichuan. The tomb art of this province shows the goddess of transcendence seated in majesty on a dragon and tiger throne. [Liu, 40-3] This magical pair goes back to the Banpo neolithic, circa 5000 BCE, where they flank a burial at Xishuipo,  Henan. [Rawson, 244] Tiger and dragon represented yin and yang before the familiar Tai Ji symbol came into use during the middle ages.

goddess worshipped with fronds by animal spirit biengs
Tomb relief from Suide, Shaanxi

The Western Grandmother presides at the summit of the intricate bronze “divine trees” that are unique to Sichuan. Their stylized tiers of branches represent the multiple shamanic planes of the world mountain. The ceramic bases for the trees also show people ascending Kunlun with its caverns. [Wu, 81-91] “Universal mountain” censers (boshanlu) also depict the sacred peak with swirling clouds, magical animals and immortals. [Little, 148]

Xi Wangmu often appears on circular bronze mirrors whose backs are filled with concentric panels swirling with cloud patterns and thunder signs. She is flanked by the tiger and dragon, or the elixir-preparing rabbit, or sits opposite the Eastern King Sire, amidst mountains, meanders, “magic squares and compass rings inscribed with the signs of time.” [Schipper 1993: 172] Some mirrors are divided into three planes, with a looped motif at the base symbolizing the world tree. At the top a pillar rests on a tortoise—a motif recalling the mythical Tortoise Mountain of Xi Wangmu. [Wu, 87]

Han dynasty people placed bronze mirrors in burials as blessings for the dead and the living, inscribed with requests for longevity, prosperity, progeny, protection, and immortality. Taoists also used these mystic mirrors in ritual and meditation and transmissions of  potency. One mirror depicting Xi Wangmu bears a poem on the transcendents:

When thirsty, they drink from the jade spring; when hungry, they eat jujubes. They go back and forth to the divine mountains, collecting mushrooms and grasses. Their longevity is superior to that of metal or stone. The Queen Mother of the West. [Cahill, 28-9]

The Goddess in popular movements
The Han Shu and other ancient histories indicate that the common people saw Xi Wangmu as a savior, protector, and healer in a time of severe drought and political disorder. A popular movement devoted to the goddess arose and spread rapidly. It reached its height in 3 BCE, as described as the Monograph on Strange Phenomena: “It happened that people were disturbed and running around, passing a stalk of grain or flax from one to another, and calling it ‘the tally for transmitting the edict.’” [Lulo, 278]

The common people marched westward through various provinces, toward the Han capital. Many were barefoot and wild-haired (like their untamed goddess). People shouted and drummed and carried torches to the rooftops. Some crossed barrier gates and climbed over city walls by night, others rode swift carriages in relays “to pass on the message.” They gathered in village lanes and fields to make offerings. “They sang and danced in worship of the Queen Mother of the West.” [Lullo, 278-9]

People passed around written talismans believed to protect from disease and death. Some played games of chance associated with the immortals. [Cahill, 21-3] There were torches, drums, shouting. Farming and normal routines broke down. This goddess movement alarmed the gentry, and the Confucian historian presented it in a negative light. He warned the danger of rising yin: females and the peasantry stepping outside their place. The people were moving west—opposite the direction of the great rivers—“which is like revolting against the court.” The writer tried to stir alarm with a story about a girl carrying a bow who entered the capital and walked through the inner palaces. Then he drew a connection between white-haired Xi Wangmu and the dowager queen Fu who controlled the court, accusing these old females of “weak reason.” His entire account aimed to overthrow the faction in power at court. [Lullo, 279-80]

Change was in the air. Around the same time, the Taiping Jing (Scripture of Great Peace) described “a world where all would be equal.” As Kristofer Schipper observes, “a similar hope drove the masses in search of the great mother goddess.” [Schipper: 2000, 40] Their movement was put down within the year, but the dynasty fell soon afterward.

Yet veneration of the goddess crossed class lines, reaching to the most elite levels of society, as it had since Shang times. Imperial authorities of the later Han dynasty set up altars to the goddess. But courtly ceremonies differed from rural festivals, and religious interpretations were contested. Unfortunately, the Hanshu is the only written account of folk religion, from a hostile Confucian perspective. [Cahill, 24; Lullo, 277-81] The literati did not value peasant religion, so it was not recorded: “what is certain is that the religion of the common people, with its worship of holy mountains and streams, as well as the great female deities, was systematically left out.” [Schipper: 2000, 34]

Patriarchal revisions
From the Han dynasty forward, the image of Xi Wangmu underwent marked changes. [Lullo, 259] Courtly writers tried to tame and civilize the shamanic goddess. Her wild hair and tiger features receded, and were replaced by a lady in aristocratic robes, jeweled headdresses, and courtly ways. Her mythology also shifted as new Taoist schools arose. She remains the main goddess in the oldest Taoist encyclopedia (Wu Shang Bi Yao). But some authors begin to subordinate her to great men: the goddess offers “tribute” to emperor Yu, or attends the court of Lao Zi. [Cahill, 34, 45, 121-2] They displace her with new Celestial Kings, Imperial Lords, and heavenly bureaucracies—but never entirely.

In the later Han period, the spirit-trees of Sichuan show Xi Wangmu at the crest, with Buddha meditating under her, in a still-Taoist context. [Little, 154-5; Wu, 89] By the Six Dynasties, several paintings in the Dun Huang caves show the goddess flying through the heavens to worship the Buddha. [Cahill, 42] (In time, Taoism and Buddhism found an equilibrium in China, and mixed so that borders between the two eroded.) But cultural shifts never succeeded in subjugating the goddess.

She held her ground in the Tang dynasty, when Shang Qing Taoism became the official religion. She was considered its highest deity, and royals built private shrines to her. Her sheng headdress disappears, and is replaced by a nine-star crown. Poets named her the “Divine Mother,” others affectionately called her Amah, “Nanny.” But some literati demote the goddess to human status, making her fall in love with mortals, mooning over them and despairing at their absence. In a late 8th century poem she becomes “uncertain and hesitant” as she visits the emperor Han Wudi. [Cahill, 82-3; 58-69; 159]

Others portrayed her as young and seductive. [Lullo, 276] Worse, a few misogynists disparaged the goddess. The fourth century Yü Fang Bi Jue complained about her husbandless state and invented sexual slurs. It claimed that she achieved longevity by sexually vampirizing innumerable men and even preying upon boys to build up her yin essence. But the vigor of folk tradition overcame such revisionist slurs—with an important exception.

The ancient, shamanic shapeshifter side of Xi Wangmu, and her crone aspect, were pushed aside. Chinese folklore is full of tiger-women: Old Granny Autumn Tiger, Old Tiger Auntie (or Mother), Autumn Barbarian Auntie. They retain shamanic attributes, but in modern accounts they are demonized (and slain) as devouring witches. Two vulnerable groups, old women and indigenous people, become targets. [ter Harrm, 55-76] Yet the association of Tiger and Autumn and Granny goes back to ancient attributes of Xi Wangmu that are originally divine.

In another shift, the Han elite invented a husband for the Western Queen Mother: the Eastern King Sire (Dong Wang Gong). As Susan Lullo observes, there is “no evidence in Han literature that the King Father ever existed in myth.” (There was a god of Tai Shan, the sacred mountain of the East, but he never seems to be coupled with Xi Wangmu.) The new husband was added to the eastern wall of tombs, opposite the Western Mother, for “pictorial balance”—but also to domesticate the unpartnered goddess. [Lullo, 273-4, 261]

The attempt to marry the goddess did not find favor in popular tradition. Two thousand years later after the Shang inscription to the Eastern and Western Mothers, folk religion continued to pair Xi Wangmu with a goddess of the East. Often it was Ma Gu or Ma Zi, goddess of the Eastern Sea, whose paradise island of Penglai was equivalent to Kunlun. Ma Zi is another eternal being who oversees vast cycles of time, as the Eastern Sea gives way to mulberry fields, and then back to ocean again. Some sources say that Xi Wangmu traveled to this blessed Eastern Isle. [Cahill, 118; 62; 77] These goddesses also share a title; like Wangmu, the name Ma Zi means “maternal ancestor, grandmother.” [Schipper, 166; Stevens, 137]

Another Eastern partner of the goddess was Bixia Yüanjün, Sovereign of the Dawn Clouds. She was the daughter of the god of Mt. Tai, and her sanctuary stood on its summit. Bixia Yuanjün oversaw birth as her counterpart Xi Wangmu governed death and immortality. [Little, 278] A major shrine to Xi Wangmu stood along the path up this mountain. [Stevens, 53] The great poet Li Bo referred to “the Queen Mother’s Turquoise Pond” from which pilgrims drank while ascending Mount Tai. Stone inscriptions describe a rite of “tossing the dragons and tallies” in which monks threw bronze dragons and prayers for the emperor’s longevity into the waters of the goddess. [Cahill, 1-2, 59]

Taoist mysticism
From very ancient times the Grandmother of the West was associated with the tiger, the element metal, autumn, and the color white. These associations were part of the Chinese Concordance, which assigned to each direction (including the center) an animal, element, organ, emotion, color, sound, and season. Also known as Five Element or Five Phases, this concordance is the basis of Chinese medicine, astrology, and geomancy (feng shui).

Xi Wangmu is called Jin Mu Yüan Jün: Metal Mother, Primordial Ruler. [Cahill, 68] She is the great female principle, Tai Yin, which is also the name of the Lung meridian in Chinese medicine. It is linked to autumn, death, and grief. The goddess governs the realm of the dead, but is simultaneously the font of vital energy and bliss. A mural at Yongle Temple in Shanxi shows her with a halo, crowned with a phoenix and the Kun trigram that announces her as the Great Yin. Opposite her is a painting of the Empress of Earth. [Little, 276; 281]

The Book of the Center says that Xi Wangmu is present in the right eye. “Her family name is Great Yin, her personal name, Jade Maiden of Obscure Brilliance.” [Schipper, 1993: 105] The Shang Jing Lao Ze Zhong Jing accords on these points and instructs adepts how to manifest celestial beings within their bodies. It names her “So-of-itself,” “Ruling Thought,” and “Mysterious Radiance.” [Cahill, 35]

In Taoist mysticism the human body is the microcosm that reflects the terrestrial and celestial macrocosm, and these themes are interwoven in traditions about the goddess. Kunlun is present in the body as an inverted mountain in the lower abdomen, at the center of the Ocean of Energies (Qi Hai). The navel is the hollow summit of the mountain, through which the depths of that ocean can be reached. This is the Cinnabar Field (lower Dan Tian), the “root of the human being.” [Schipper 1993: 106-7]

On the celestial level, the goddess also manifests her power through the Dipper Stars, a major focus of Taoist mysticism. [Schipper, 70. He notes that Ma Zi was also seen “as an emanation of one of the stars in the Big Dipper.” (43)] A Shang Qing text dating around 500 says that Xi Wangmu governs the nine-layered Kunlun and the Northern Dipper. The Shih Zhou Zhi also connects Kunlun mountain “where Xi Wang Mu reigns” to a double star in the Big Dipper, known as the Dark Mechanism. The Dipper’s handle, called the Jade Crossbar of the Five Constants, “governs the internal structure of the nine heavens and regulates yin and yang.” [Cahill, 35-8]

Taoist texts repeatedly associate Xi Wangmu with nine planes, a nine-leveled mountain, pillar, or jade palace. She is worshipped with nine-fold lamps. She governs the Nine Numina—which are the original ultimate powers in Shang Qing parlance. The goddess herself is called Nine Radiance, and Queen Mother of the Nine Heavens. [Cahill, 68-9, 126]

Around the year 500, Tao Hung Jing systematized Taoist deities into two separate hierarchies, male and female, with Xi Wangmu ranked as the highest goddess. He gave her a lasting title: The Ninefold Numinous Grand and Realized Primal Ruler of the Purple Tenuity from the White Jade Tortoise Terrace. Other sources, such as the poet Du Fu, describe her as descending to the human realm enveloped in purple vapors. [Cahill, 33; 24; 168]

Teacher of Sages
Taoists recognized the ancient great goddess as a divine teacher and initiator of mystic seekers, and in many cases as the ultimate origin of their teachings and practices. She governs the Taoist arts of self-transformation known as internal alchemy, including meditation, breath and movement practices, medicines and elixirs. Books say that the legendary shamanic emperors Shun and Yü studied with Xi Wangmu. They also credit her as the source of wisdom that the Yellow Emperor learned from the female transcendents Xüan Nü and Su Nü. Over time the goddess comes to be portrayed as a master of Taoist scriptures, with a library of the greatest books on Kunlun. [Cahill, 14-15; 44; 34]

Legend said that the Zhou dynasty king Mu (circa 1000 bce) travelled to Kunlun in search of the Western Mother. Many ancient sources elaborated on their meeting beside the Turquoise Pond. The emperor Han Wudi was granted a similar audience in 110 BCE. The Monograph on Broad Phenomena says that the goddess sent a white deer to inform him of her advent, and he prepared a curtained shrine for her. She arrived on the festival of Double Sevens, riding on a chariot of purple clouds. She sat facing east, clothed in seven layers of blue clouds. Three big blue birds and other magical servitors set up the ninefold tenuity lamp. The goddess gave five peaches to the emperor. He wanted to save the seeds for planting, but she laughed and said that they would not bear fruit for 3000 years. [Cahill, 48-55]

In a later account, the cloud carriage of the goddess is drawn by nine-colored chimeric chilin. She wears a sword, a cord of knotted flying clouds, and “the crown of the Grand Realized Ones with hanging beaded strings of daybreak.” She granted the emperor a long instruction on how to attain the Tao—which he failed to follow. Instead of nourishing essence, preserving breath, and keeping the body whole, he lost himself in carousing and indulgences. [Cahill, 81, 149-153]

Literature focuses on her meetings with emperors, but a deep and broad tradition casts Xi Wangmu as the guardian of women and girls. They worshipped her at the birth of daughters, and she protected brides. [Stevens, 53] Celebrations of women’s fiftieth birthday also honored the goddess. Women who stood outside the patriarchal family system were regarded as her special protegees, whether they earned their own way as singers, dancers, prostitutes, or became nuns, hermits, or sages who attained the Tao. [Cahill, 70]

Though men greatly outnumber women as named and remembered Taoist masters, in practice women acted as teachers and libationers. Female instruction was built in to a greater degree than any “major” religion; tradition demanded that initiation be done by a person of the opposite sex, and the highest degree of initiation “could only be obtained by a man and a woman together.” [Schipper 1993: 58, 128-9]

Many accounts show Xi Wangmu as the ultimate source of teachings transmitted by female sages and transcendents to mortal men. The Zhen Gao scroll lays out a complete spiritual matrilineage that begins with Xi Wangmu and enumerates clans and religious communities in the female line. [Cahill, 34] The female immortal Wei hua-cun was said to have transmitted teachings to the shaman Yang Xi. Shang Qing Taoism arose from her revelations, but it was understood that they were inspired by the Spirit Mother of the West. [Schipper 2000: 44; Cahill, 155] Shang Qing tradition also holds that the female transcendents Xuan Nü (the Dark Woman) and Su Nü (Natural Woman) had taught the Yellow Emperor.

Qi Xi, or the Night of Sevens
Over the centuries the Double Sevens festival drifted away from Xi Wang Mu, and toward the Weaver Girl. This night was the one time in the year that she was allowed to meet Cowherd Boy. An ancient legend says that the god of heaven separated the lovers, or in some versions, Xi Wangmu herself. Angered that the girl was neglecting her loom, she made her return to the heavens. When Cowherd followed, the goddess drew her hairpin across the sky, creating the celestial river of the Milky Way to separate the lovers. (They were the stars Vega and Aquila.) Later, she helped them to reunite by sending ten thousand magpies to create a bridge. So the holiday is sometimes called the Magpie festival.

In this tomb art from Guyuan in Ningxia, it is Xi Wangmu and Dong Wanggong who are separated by the Milky Way, not the Weaver Girl and Cowherd, showing that there were a range of stories around these themes.

In other versions, Weaver Girl is a fairy whose work is to weave colorful clouds in the sky. The cowherd surprises her and her six fairy sisters swimming in a lake. He steals Weaver Girl’s clothes (or all of them) and she is forced to marry him. This angers the goddess of heaven, who commands her to return to heaven.

Xi Wangmu’s connection to weaving has faded, just as her sheng headdress was dropped from Taoist iconography. Now it is Weaving Maid who oversees women’s fabric arts, silk cultivation, and needlework. She rules “the fecund female world of seedy melons and fruits” and “the gathering and storing of precious things.” Yet this too connects her with ancient goddess, whose “numinous melon produces abundantly” every four eons. [Cahill, 77]

The drift of mythic themes pops up in various places. The magpies who form the reunion bridge are sacred to Xi Wangmu. The Milky Way separates not the ill-starred lovers, but the Western Mother and the Eastern King, on a painted coffin in Ningxia. [Liu, fig. 43] Xi Wangmu was traditionally the controller of the North Dipper, but in the famous mystic diagram from Baiyuan Guan, Cowherd is holding the constellation. A Double Sevens song in the Yangzi region invokes the Eastern goddess for transcendent powers: “On this night we should beg for the techniques of immortality, clawing away some of Ma Gu’s medicine to cure the Lady in the Moon.” [Mann, 173

As before, the festival “marked the beginning of autumn,” when ghosts are propitiated and women begin to sew winter clothes. On this day they wash their hair with herbal infusions, spread out offerings of melon and fruit seeds, and atttempt to thread needles by moonlight: the “test for skill.” [Mann, 170, 173] From this custom the festival came to be called the Night of Skills, or Pleading for Skills.

The holiday was “extremely popular among unmarried girls” in the Canton Delta, the year’s best festival. In this region of delayed marriage and sworn spinsters, it is called the Festival of Seven Sisters. Its story does not focus on the lovers, but on the Weaving Maid and her sisters. (Here it is the sisters who became furious at the Weaver Girl’s marriage, and who only permitted her to cross over to her husband once a year.) Women propitiate the Seven Sisters “with elaborate displays of their needle and handicraft skills.” They create altars with candles, incense, flowers, fruits, and finely decorated miniature clothing, shoes, and furniture, all in sevens. The celebration culminates with a “wish-fulfilment banquet.” [Stockard, 42-4]

By the late Ming period, the mixture of Buddhism and Taoism gave rise to a new goddess with attributes of Xi Wangmu and Guanyin: Wusheng Laomu. This Venerable Eternal Mother “created the world in the beginning of time.” She helps and teaches her children—who go to her western paradise at death. [Despeux, 42]

The visionary Tanyangzi was from childhood devoted to Guanyin and Amitabha. Born in 1558 as Wang Taozhen, she meditated and was reluctant to marry. Her parents betrothed her but the fiance died soon after, and the maiden embraced the status of widow, making it possible to remain unwed. She had visions of an unimaginably beautiful “Supreme Perfected.” From this “great goddess,” Tanyangzi received a transmission of a smoky mystic character which she breathed in and absorbed into her body. This initiation enabled her to go without eating and resist sexuality and physicality. At the age of nineteen, Tanyangzi was said to have ascended to Kunlun, where she met Xi Wangmu and received immortality. Yet she died a few months later. [Despeux, 45] Here the Taoist and Buddhist themes are mixed in somewhat contradictory ways! Taoists did not reject sexuality, and their intepretation of immortality did not imply leaving the body behind

Women’s embroidery kept the Western Spirit Mother alive. Their favorite scene seems to have been the goddess flying on a phoenix toward her mountaintop garden, with the Jade Maidens assembled to welcome her return and the peaches of immortality ripening beside the Turquoise Pond.

Left: modern statue of Xi Wang Mu holding a peach of immortality


The Chinese Imperial Ceramic Artwork Found In Indonesia ( Continiu )






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Kuan Yin (Guan Yin) 

 Kuan Yin


In Buddhism, individuals exist that are known as bodhisattvas, which do not attain enlightenment until they have helped many others attain enlightenment, and are viewed as princes of the heavens (Prebish, 1993, p. 74). Kuan Yin, also called Avalokitesvara in India is seen as the bodhisattva of compassion and wisdom, since he aids those who ask for his help (Prebish, 1993, p.60). Bodhisattvas are seen as princes of the heavens and deities of compassion, who prolong their own enlightenment in order to help others achieve a state of enlightenment. As befitting the bodhisattva of compassion, his name means, “the lord who looks down” and is seen as a servant of the Buddha. Kuan Yin first appeared in India, as the bodhisattva of mercy, Padmapani, then was known as either Lokiteshvara or Avalokitesvara (Craven, 1997, p.172). He was finally transformed into the female Kuan Yin or Guan Yin in China and Japan, as the bodhisattva of mercy or compassion (Craven, 1997, p. 172). In India, Kuan Yin is seen as a male and in China and Japan as a female, and is usually depicted by the Chinese as wearing a long, flowing white robe (Anaya, 1993, p.1). It is not unusual for a bodhisattva to be viewed as both female and male, since they are able to transform themselves as such, in order to visit people (Anaya, 1993, p. 2). This sculpture is identifiable as Kuan Yin for several reasons, the first being that the majority of Chinese and Japanese depictions of Kuan Yin are more feminine in appearance, also the statue is shown in a pose which Kuan Yin is usually shown in with legs crossed with one raised upward and an arm resting on the raised leg. Despite the slightly more effeminate features, the figure as a whole appears more neuter in gender.
Descriptive Analysis
The statue is quite small in stature, no more than several inches, and is petite as well. The statue would be fairly lightweight, as it is made from porcelain, and is not very tall, it is also most likely smooth to touch since it is finished with a glaze. The statue, after being formed, would most likely be sanded down, polished to give it a smooth surface, and then a glaze applied to make it even smoother and shiny. The porcelain would be composed of a whitish clay, and after being smoothed and polished, the statue would be given the ivory hued glaze. It is triangular shaped with a wider base and narrow, slightly pointed top, the legs are crossed with the right leg folded under and the left leg at a forty-five degree angle. The left arm rests on the left leg with the hand elongated and lightly resting upon the knee, the right arm rests behind the hips and appears to be propping the body upward, with the right hand resting flat on the ground. The chest is flat and upright along with the rest of the body, with the monastic robe draped over both of the shoulders. The shoulders lay flat and are squared towards the viewer, the robe is folded and draped over both shoulders, with the robe falling down on the chest in a V-shape. The head is oval shaped with the hair wrapped around the top of the head with either a comb or bun resting on top, atop the hair is a veil which seems to be a part of the monastic robe.

The facial features are Asian in origin with the eyes cast downward, the nose rather large and the lips thin. The ears in particular, are stretched out, similar to a Buddha’s, indicative that the bodhisattva was a very rich person in the former life, before becaming a religious figure. The robe worn by the bodhisattva is draped on the body in multiple, elaborate folds on the shoulders, along the arms, at the bottom of the chest, and particularly along the hips and legs. The bodhisattva also sits on top of a large portion of his robe, using it as a sort of cushion. All of the arms and legs are covered, with only the left hand and foot showing, the chest is half-bare all the way down to the stomach. The figure is elongated in an elegant manner, with the robe clinging to the body in a loose manner. The bodhisattva Kuan Yin would normally be shown with a lotus flower or willow branch in either hand, to help identify him as Kuan Yin, which is curiously left out of the statue.


Kuan Yin or Guan Yin was initially known in India as Avalokitesvara, the lord who looks down and although he was relatively unknown at first, he became one of the more important bodhisattvas of Buddhism (Prebish, 1993, p.60). Avalokitesvara became a major figure in Buddhism after he was depicted in the Pure Land Sutras as one of the attendants to the Buddha, he is thought to be the embodiment of compassion after constantly purifying himself for years (Prebish, 1993, p.60). In addition to representing compassion, he also represents wisdom, both of which are important qualities of Buddhahood (Prebish, 1993, p.60). Having a deity which wholly represents compassion is restricted to Buddhism and is not found in any other world religion, resulting in centuries of devotion and worship by followers from all of socitey (Karetzky, 2004, p.1). In addition, Avalokitesvara was known as one of the Buddha’s attendants, but eventually evolved into a separate deity, viewed as a redeemer or guardian (Karetzkky, 2004, p.1). In China and Japan, Avalokitesvara was called either Kuan Yin or Guan Yin, and morphed into a female deity, after it became known that the deity appeared as a woman on numerous occaisions (Karetzky, 2004, p.2-3). In China, numerous female deities were formed into new ones, which developed into goddess cults, thus, Kuan Yin is seen as both a male and female deity depending on what country is being examined (Karetzky, 2004, p.3).

Kuan Yin is frequently shown with or on either a lotus, which is a symbol of enlightenment, or a willow branch, riding around on either a cloud or dragon (Dawn, 2005, p.1). In China and Japan Kuan, Yin is usually shown wearing a long, flowing white robe, and in India, Avalokitesvara is shown either a monastic robe, or in a shirt and pants with a lot of jewelry on the body. In this instance, Kuan Yin is shown with a simple robe and no adornments which is symbolic of a monastic or religious life, he is also shown with long, and stretched ears, which indicate a lot of wealth in the former life. The belief was that the more money a person had, the larger and heavier the gold earrings would have been, and the earrings in turn stretched out the ears from their weight, which became a symbol of wealth. Kuan Yin is also sometimes seen with many arms and heads in order to help those in need of his help (Prebish, 1993, 60). During the Ming Dynasty, Kuan Yin sculptures were generally in temples and was portrayed as having a thousand eyes and arms, murals of Kuan Yin were not of importance and were typically shown in the traditional scenes from the life of the Buddha (Karetzky, 2004, p.57). Temples also housed printed and woodcut stories of Kuan Yin as well as, smaller depictions of scented wood and softer stone (Karetzky, 2004, p.57). Small icons of Kuan Yin were also made for the home and were fashioned from materials such as porcelain, bronze, jade, and ivory, which were richer mediums for art (Karetzky, 2004, p.57).

During the Ming Dynasty, artists payed particular attention to showing their art as lifelike, taking into consideration posture, mood, the deity’s symbols, in order to make their work as accurate as possible (Karetzky, 2004, p.57). In addition, artists liked to covey the deity’s character by careful observation and great attention to the detail, which was important to the patrons, since the sculpture would have been used for private worship at home (Karetzky, 2004, p.57).

Bodhisattvas are sometimes shown to be decidedly female or male, although in this instance, Kuan Yin is portrayed as a neuter or asexual being, which is standard of the original belief that bodhisattvas can make themselves appear as either sex. Although this depiction of Kuan Yin is kept simple with just a robe, hair comb, and veil, Kuan Yin is usually shown holding a lotus or a willow branch, the lotus typically represents enlightenment, and the willow branch symbolizing fertility. Kuan Yin is typically shown in a long and flowing white robe, symbolizing purity, although the statue is entirely ivory, it is still associated with purity. The bodhisattva is shown in a seated position with one knee raised upward, which helps to identify it as Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva is typically shown in such a manner, because legend says that Kuan Yin was seated in the same pose as she gazed into a pond, when people sought her out (Unknown, “Guanyin,” p.1).

Personal Interpretation
This smaller depiction of Kuan Yin is very pleasant to behold, and the deity seems to have a great deal of peace surrounding it, which suits the bodhisattva’s attributes of compassion and wisdom. The statue possesses clear masculine and feminine features, the manly features inlcude; a flat chest, no visible curves to the figure, the broad shoulders, and the manner in which the bodhisattva sits. The feminine features are the elongated and graceful hands, hair which is pulled up by a hair comb and covered by a veil, the downcast eyes, and finer facial features. The robe is clinging to the body, which is shown to be more fleshy in the face, which is more rounded, and in the legs. The statue is portrayed in such a way that coincides perfectly with the legend of Kuan Yin being found sitting next to a pond and gazing into the water, the face is very serene and the pose relaxed to suggest Kuan Yin was not meditating or performing a religious task. Personally, I find that the bodhisattva’s relaxed pose, serene face, and calm demeanor is what makes this particular statue so tranquil in appearance and in air, although the artist is unknown, he or she was very gifted to be able to portray a lifelike person in such a manner. Overall, Kuan Yin has been wonderfully portrayed, particularly in conveying the serenity of the bodhisattva, it is no wonder that such tasteful piece was used for the wealthy and nobility of the time.



Laozi (see other names and spelling variations; Chinese: 老子, English pronunciation: /ˌlˈdzʌ/;[1][2] fl. 6th century BCE) was a philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching (often simply referred to as Laozi).[3] His association with the Tào Té Chīng has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of philosophical Taoism (pronounced as “Daoism”). He is also revered as a deity in most religious forms of Taoist philosophy, which often refers to Laozi as Taishang Laojun, or “One of the Three Pure Ones“.

According to Chinese traditions, Laozi lived in the 6th century BCE. Some historians contend that he actually lived in the 5th–4th century BCE, concurrent with the Hundred Schools of Thought and Warring States period,[4] while some others argue that Laozi is a synthesis of multiple historical figures or that he is a mythical figure.

A central figure in Chinese culture, both nobility and common people claim Laozi in their lineage. He was honored as an ancestor of the Tang imperial family, and was granted the title Táishāng xuānyuán huángdì, meaning “Supreme Mysterious and Primordial Emperor”. Throughout history, Laozi’s work has been embraced by various anti-authoritarian movements.


“Laozi” (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ[pronunciation?]) is an honorific title, also romanized as Lao Tse, Lao Tu, Lao-Tsu, Laotze, Lao Tzu, Laosi, Laocius, etc. Lao () means “venerable” or “old”, such as modern Mandarin laoshi (老师), “teacher”. Zi (), Wade–Giles transliteration tzu, in this context is typically translated as “master”. Zi was used in ancient China as an honorific suffix, indicating “Master”, or “Sir”. In popular biographies, Laozi’s given name was Er, his surname was Li (forming Li Er, ) and his courtesy name was Boiang. Dan is a posthumous name given to Laozi, and he is sometimes referred to as Li Dan ().[5][6][7]

Historical views[edit]

The earliest reliable reference (circa 100 BCE) to Laozi is found in the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) by Chinese historian Sima Qian (ca. 145-86 BCE), which combines a number of stories. In the first, Laozi was said to be a contemporary of Confucius (551-479 BCE). His surname was Li (李 “plum”), and his personal name was Er (耳 “ear”) or Dan (聃 “long ear”). He was an official in the imperial archives, and wrote a book in two parts before departing to the West. In the second, Laozi was Lao Laizi (老莱子 “Old Master”), also a contemporary of Confucius, who wrote a book in 15 parts. In the third, Laozi was the Grand Historian and astrologer Lao Dan (老聃 “Old Long-ears”), who lived during the reign (384-362 BCE) of Duke Xiàn (獻公) of Qin.[8][9]

The oldest known text of the Tao Te Ching that has been excavated was written on bamboo tablets and dates back to the late 4th century BC.[3]

In the mid-twentieth century a consensus had emerged among scholars that the historicity of Laozi was doubtful or unprovable and that the Tao Te Ching was “a compilation of Taoist sayings by many hands.”[10] Alan Watts (1975) held that this view was part of an academic fashion for skepticism about historical spiritual and religious figures, arguing that not enough would be known for years, or possibly ever, to make a firm judgment.[11]

According to popular traditional biographies, Laozi worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou, and was a scholar (shown in many Lao Zi paintings).[12] This reportedly allowed him broad access to the works of the Yellow Emperor and other classics of the time. The stories assert that Laozi never opened a formal school, but he nonetheless attracted a large number of students and loyal disciples. There are numerous variations of a story depicting Confucius consulting Laozi about rituals and the story is related in Zhuangzi (though the author of Zhuangzi may have invented both the story and the character of Laozi).[13][14]

Popular legends tell of his conception when his mother gazed upon a falling star, how he stayed in the womb for 62 years, and was born when his mother leaned against a plum tree. He accordingly emerged a grown man with a full grey beard and long earlobes, which are a symbol of wisdom and long life.[15][16] In other versions he was reborn in some thirteen incarnations since the days of Fuxi; in his last incarnation as Laozi he lived to nine hundred and ninety years, and spent his life traveling to reveal the Dao.[17]

According to legends, Laozi leaves China on his water buffalo.[18]

Many of the popular accounts say that Laozi was married and had a son named Zong, who became a celebrated soldier. A large number of people trace their lineage back to Laozi, as did the emperors of the Tang Dynasty.[19] According to Simpkins & Simpkins, while many (if not all) of the lineages are inaccurate, they provide a testament to the impact of Laozi on Chinese culture.[20]

Laozi meets Yinxi

The third story Sima Qian drew on states that Laozi grew weary of the moral decay of city life and noted the kingdom’s decline. According to these legends, he ventured west to live as a hermit in the unsettled frontier at the age of 160. At the western gate of the city, or kingdom, he was recognized by a guard, Yinxi (Wade Giles Yin Hse).

The sentry asked the old master to produce a record of his wisdom. This is the legendary origin of the Daodejing. In some versions of the tale, the sentry is so touched by the work that he leaves with Laozi, never to be seen again. Some legends elaborate further that the “Old Master” was the teacher of the Siddartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, or was even the Buddha himself.[13][21]

Laozi’s relationship with Yinxi is the subject of numerous legends. It is Yinxi who asked Laozi to write down his wisdom in the traditional account of the Daodejing’s creation. The story of Laozi transmitting the Daodejing to Yinxi is part of a broader theme involving Laozi the deity delivering salvific truth to a suffering humanity. Regardless, the deliverance of the Daodejing was the ultimate purpose of his human incarnation. Folklore developed around Laozi and Yinxi to demonstrate the ideal interaction of Taoist master and disciple.[22]

Depiction of Laozi in Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner‘s Myths and Legends of China

A seventh century work, Sandong zhunang (“Pearly Bag of the Three Caverns”), provides one account of their relationship. Laozi pretended to be a farmer when reaching the western gate, but was recognized by Yinxi, who asked to be taught by the great master. Laozi was not satisfied by simply being noticed by the guard and demanded an explanation. Yinxi expressed his deep desire to find the Tao and explained that his long study of astrology allowed him to recognize Laozi’s approach. Yinxi was accepted by Laozi as a disciple. This is considered an exemplary interaction between Daoist master and disciple, reflecting the testing a seeker must undergo before being accepted. A would-be adherent is expected to prove his determination and talent, clearly expressing his wishes and showing that he had made progress on his own towards realizing the Tao.[23]

The Pearly Bag of the Three Caverns continues the parallel of an adherent’s quest. Yinxi received his ordination when Laozi transmitted the Daodejing, along with other texts and precepts, just as Taoist adherents receive a number of methods, teachings and scriptures at ordination. This is only an initial ordination and Yinxi still needed an additional period to perfect his faith, thus Laozi gave him three years to perfect his Dao. Yinxi gave himself over to a full-time devotional life. After the appointed time, Yinxi again demonstrates determination and perfect trust, sending out a black sheep to market as the agreed sign. He eventually meets again with Laozi, who announces that Yinxi’s immortal name is listed in the heavens and calls down a heavenly procession to clothe Yinxi in the garb of immortals. The story continues that Laozi bestowed a number of titles upon Yinxi and took him on a journey throughout the universe, even into the nine heavens. After this fantastic journey, the two sages set out to western lands of the barbarians. The training period, reuniting and travels represent the attainment of the highest religious rank in medieval Taoism called “Preceptor of the Three Caverns”. In this legend, Laozi is the perfect Daoist master and Yinxi is the ideal Taoist student. Laozi is presented as the Tao personified, giving his teaching to humanity for their salvation. Yinxi follows the formal sequence of preparation, testing, training and attainment.[24]

The story of Laozi has taken on strong religious overtones since the Han dynasty. As Daoism took root, Laozi was recognized as a god. Belief in the revelation of the Dao from the divine Laozi resulted in the formation of the Way of the Celestial Master, the first organized religious Daoist sect. In later mature Daoist tradition, Laozi came to be seen as a personification of Dao. He is said to have undergone numerous “transformations”, or taken on various guises in various incarnations throughout history to initiate the faithful in the Way. Religious Daoism often holds that the “Old Master” did not disappear after writing the Daodejing, but rather spent his life traveling to reveal the Dao.[17]

Lao Tzu was born in the village of Chu Jen in the Kingdom of Ch’u. (He may have been born sometime in the sixth century B.C.E. [Before the Common Era]. Traditionally, he is said to have lived at the same time as Confucius, but recent scholars place him about two centuries later.) Lao Tzu spent most of his life as an archivist in the library of the Zhou Dynasty court, a boring job that gave him lots of time to think. He quit when he saw things were getting corrupt, and then went into exile. Lao Tzu became disturbed by the corruption he saw everywhere around him and decided to take the easy way out- literally, and leave the country. He traveled west on a water buffalo to reach the great desert. At the westernmost gate, a guard who recognized him, demanded that he write down his teachings, unrecorded until this point. The collected teachings became the Tao Te Ching.[25]

Tao Te Ching[edit]

See also: Tao Te Ching, Tao, and Wu wei

Laozi is traditionally regarded as the author of the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching), though the identity of its author(s) and/or compiler(s) has been debated throughout history.[26][27] It is one of the most significant treatises in Chinese cosmogony. As with most other ancient Chinese philosophers, Laozi often explains his ideas by way of paradox, analogy, appropriation of ancient sayings, repetition, symmetry, rhyme, and rhythm. In fact, the whole book can be read as an analogy – the ruler is the awareness, or self, in meditation and the myriad creatures or empire is the experience of the body, senses and desires. Passages such as “Block the openings, shut the doors” and “the sage who does nothing never ruins anything” refer to sitting in meditation. “Keep the people ignorant” means do not pay attention to the senses and thoughts.

The Tao Te Ching, often called simply Laozi after its reputed author, describes the Dao (or Tao) as the source and ideal of all existence: it is unseen, but not transcendent, immensely powerful yet supremely humble, being the root of all things. According to the Daodejing, humans have no special place within the Dao, being just one of its many (“ten thousand”) manifestations. People have desires and free will (and thus are able to alter their own nature). Many act “unnaturally”, upsetting the natural balance of the Dao. The Daodejing intends to lead students to a “return” to their natural state, in harmony with Dao.[28] Language and conventional wisdom are critically assessed. Taoism views them as inherently biased and artificial, widely using paradoxes to sharpen the point.[29]

Livia Kohn provides an example of how Laozi encouraged a change in approach, or return to “nature”, rather than action. Technology may bring about a false sense of progress. The answer provided by Laozi is not the rejection of technology, but instead seeking the calm state of wu wei, free from desires. This relates to many statements by Laozi encouraging rulers to keep their people in “ignorance“, or “simple-minded”. Some scholars insist this explanation ignores the religious context, and others question it as an apologetic of the philosophical coherence of the text. It would not be unusual political advice if Laozi literally intended to tell rulers to keep their people ignorant. However, some terms in the text, such as “valley spirit” (gushen) and “soul” (po), bear a metaphysical context and cannot be easily reconciled with a purely ethical reading of the work.[29]

Wu wei (無爲), literally “non-action” or “not acting”, is a central concept of the Daodejing. The concept of wu wei is multifaceted, and reflected in the words’ multiple meanings, even in English translation; it can mean “not doing anything”, “not forcing”, “not acting” in the theatrical sense, “creating nothingness”, “acting spontaneously”, and “flowing with the moment.”[30]

It is a concept used to explain ziran (自然), or harmony with the Dao. It includes the concepts that value distinctions are ideological and seeing ambition of all sorts as originating from the same source. Laozi used the term broadly with simplicity and humility as key virtues, often in contrast to selfish action. On a political level, it means avoiding such circumstances as war, harsh laws and heavy taxes. Some Taoists see a connection between wu wei and esoteric practices, such as zuowang “sitting in oblivion” (emptying the mind of bodily awareness and thought) found in the Zhuangzi.[29]

Some of Laozi’s famous sayings include:

“When goodness is lost, it is replaced by morality.””The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness.””The best people are like water, which benefits all things and does not compete with them. It stays in lowly places that others reject. This is why it is so similar to the Way.””When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.”

“Try to change it and you will ruin it. Try to hold it and you will lose it.”

—Laozi, Tao Te Ching


See also: Daoism

Laozi is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism, intimately connected with the Daodejing and “primordial” (or “original”) Daoism. Popular (“religious”) Daoism typically presents the Jade Emperor as the official head deity. Intellectual (“elite”) Daoists, such as the Celestial Masters sect, usually present Laozi (Laojun, “Lord Lao”) and the Three Pure Ones at the top of the pantheon of deities.[31][32]


A stone sculpture of Laozi, located north of Quanzhou at the foot of Mount Qingyuan


Zhuāngzi (莊子) is a central authority regarding eremitism, a particular variation of monasticism sacrificing social aspects for religious aspects of life. Zhuāngzi considered eremitism the highest ideal, if properly understood.[33]

Scholars such as Aat Vervoom have postulated that Zhuāngzi advocated a hermit immersed in society. This view of eremitism holds that seclusion is hiding anonymously in society. To a Zhuāngzi hermit, being unknown and drifting freely is a state of mind. This reading is based on the “inner chapters” of the self-titled Zhuangzi.[34]

Scholars such as James Bellamy hold that this could be true and has been interpreted similarly at various points in Chinese history. However, the “outer chapters” of Zhuāngzi have historically played a pivotal role in the advocacy of reclusion. While some scholars state that Laozi was the central figure of Han Dynasty eremitism, historical texts do not seem to support that position.[35]


Potential officials throughout Chinese history drew on the authority of non-Confucian sages, especially Laozi and Zhuangzi, to deny serving any ruler at any time. Zhuangzi, Laozi’s most famous follower in traditional accounts, had a great deal of influence on Chinese literati and culture.

Political theorists influenced by Laozi have advocated humility in leadership and a restrained approach to statecraft, either for ethical and pacifist reasons, or for tactical ends. In a different context, various anti-authoritarian movements have embraced the Laozi teachings on the power of the weak.[36]

The right-libertarian economist Murray Rothbard suggested that Laozi was the first libertarian,[37] likening Laozi’s ideas on government to F.A. Hayek‘s theory of spontaneous order.[38] James A. Dorn agreed, writing that Laozi, like many 18th century liberals, “argued that minimizing the role of government and letting individuals develop spontaneously would best achieve social and economic harmony.”[39] Similarly, the Cato Institute‘s David Boaz includes passages from the Daodejing in his 1997 book The Libertarian Reader.[40] Philosopher Roderick Long, however, argues that libertarian themes in Taoist thought are actually borrowed from earlier Confucian writers.[41]

Left-libertarians have been highly influenced by Laozi as well. In his 1937 book Nationalism and Culture, the anarcho-syndicalist writer and activist Rudolf Rocker praised Laozi’s “gentle wisdom” and understanding of the opposition between political power and the cultural activities of the people and community.[42] In his 1910 article for the Encyclopedia Britannica, Peter Kropotkin also noted that Laozi was among the earliest exponents of essentially anarchist concepts.[43] More recently, anarchists such as John P. Clark and Ursula K. Le Guin have written about the conjunction between anarchism and Taoism in various ways, highlighting the teachings of Laozi in particular.[44] In her translation of the Tao Te Ching, Le Guin writes that Laozi “does not see political power as magic. He sees rightful power as earned and wrongful power as usurped… He sees sacrifice of self or others as a corruption of power, and power as available to anyone who follows the Way. No wonder anarchists and Taoists make good friends.”[45]



 (bahasa Tionghoa: 文殊 Wénshū atau 文殊師利菩薩 Wénshūshili Púsà ); Jepang: Monju; Tibet: Jampelyang; Nepal: मंजुश्री Manjushree) adalah seorang Bodhisattva (individu yang tercerahkan) dalam tradisi Agama Buddha Mahayana dan Vajrayana. Manjusri adalah seorang bodhisattva yang dikaitkan dengan kebijaksanaan, pengajaran dan kesadaran dan dalam tradisi Vajrayana merupakan dewa meditasi (yidam), yang menggambarkan kebijaksanaan yang tercerahkan. Menurut sejarah, kitab suci Mahayana menjelaskan bahwa Manjusri adalah seorang pengikut Buddha Gautama, walaupun ia tidak disebutkan dalam kitab suci Pali.

Istilah Sanskerta akan Mañjuśrī dapat diartikan sebagai “Kemuliaan Baik Hati” (Gentle Glory)[1]. Mañjuśrī juga dikenal dengan nama Sanskerta yang lebih lengkap yakni Mañjuśrī-kumāra-bhūta.[2]

Tradisi agama Buddha[sunting]

Rupang Manjusri (Monju) di Senkoji di Onomichi, Jepang.

Para ahli mengidentifikasikan Manjusri sebagai “Bodhisattva mistis dalam tradisi Mahayana yang tertua dan paling signifikan.”[3] Manjusri pertama kali disebut pada awal tradisi kitab-kitab Mahayana seperti Prajnaparamita Sutta dan melalui masa awal tradisi inilah ia menjadi simbol perwujudan dari prajñā (kebijaksanaan).[4] Manjusuri digambarkan kemudian dalam banyak teks yang berhubungan dengan Tantric seperti Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa.[5] dan Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti.

Bersama-sama dengan sang Buddha dan pengikutnya Samantabhadra, ia membentuk trinitas Shakyamuni (Jepang: Sanzon Shaka). Dalam Buddhisme Tibet, ia juga seringkali digambarkan dalam trinitas dengan Avalokiteshvara dan Vajrapani.

Manjusri diceritakan dalam sejumlah Sutra Mahayana, khususnya Prajnaparamita Sutra. Sutra Teratai memberikan sebuah surga kepadanya yang bernama Vimala, yang menurut Avatamsaka Sutra berada di timur. Menurut beberapa tradisi Vajrayana, Saraswati adalah istrinya. Ia juga kadang-kadang dipanggil Manjughosha.

Patung perak Manjusri dari Ngemplak Semongan.

Chinese Monkey  Symbol

Monkeys have extremely charming manners that draw others

Monkeys have extremely charming manners that draw others. Monkeys solve difficult problems with ease.They are quick-witted,innovative, and they have total and intense belief in themselves.

No one delights in their own accomplishments like the Monkeys. Enjoying themselves immensely, they try anything at least once! Monkeys are intellectual and their memory is phenomenal.

They recall the smallest details of everything they have seen,read, and heard. They must depend on that memory since they have an otherwise untidy mind. Monkeys are wizards with money.

They are original, shrewd, and when they need to, they can fool anyone.There are a hundred and one fantastic schemes they want to try, and you can bet they make some of them work. Even when they take you in, it is hard to be angry with them, or begrudge them anything.

They don’t care what opinions others have of them. They know they are lucky, and they also know they have the ability to change things when convenience calls.

Monkeys are virtually unsinkable! When the odds are stacked against them, Monkeys know when to quit. Their timing is superb, and they will wait to try another time. If you try to trick Monkeys, they will probably catch you. They never make a move without a plan. They are great strategists. They can spot an opportunity in any form. They never miss a trick

The complete info read at the Monkey Zodiac motif at the Discuss chapter

Chinese Musical Instrumen

 Driwan found Gambang music instrumen with dragob chillin and pat kua painted,look the more new cambang with out picture panited below


Na Cha

La Cha (or Na Cha) being the third prince of Lei Cheng (deity holding a pagoda) was born with special powerful fighting skills at a tender age and was made a warrior at the age of 7.


 His strong presence among the chinese community is due to his popular epic.

His most popular weapon is his magic rings he use to fly on sky and fight his opponents away.

 He always take the lead on any war against evil, with his entourage sent down by heaven. His presence will scare off all evill spirits on earth. In feng shui, the La Cha is normally invited into homes to usher in happiness, increase descendants luck, protection of the kids from sickness/danger, preventing child bully and grooming obedience in children.

When the kids are well taken care of by the guardian angel and give less problems to the parents, the latter can focus better on their work in the office


OX(Water Buffalo)



Ox people are hard-working and persistent, they can stick at a task longer and go at it harder than anybody. They believe in themselves and tend to classify almost everything into two basic categories, bad and good. They hold up their high standards as a model and severely judge those who don’t aspire to maintain these same ideals.

Ox people are not social or party animals, they tend to be quiet when in a party. Although appears to be tranquil, in fact, Oxens are ponderous but impulsive when angry. They are capable of fearsome rages, therefore, it is better not to cross an Oxen.

Ox people are observant, they have remarkable memories and are good at reporting on absolutely everything they observe. Go ask an Oxen if he remembers who were at the party 8 months ago, most likely, he will name them one by one to you.

In the home, the Ox is a great guy to have around. In business, the OX can succeed in the arts, a contracting business, or an estate., thanks to their creative nature. And since an Ox is intelligent and good at his hands, he can be a good surgeon as well.

Ox people are stubborn and dogmatic, they believe in their decision and will never regret. They are also very close to their families. disappointedly, Oxens often find that those who are close to them fail to understand them. Nevertheless, they are patient, and caring and that makes the Oxen the best friend you can ever have.

Chinese Phoenix

Fenghuang are mythological birds of East Asia that reign over all other birds. The males are called Feng and the females Huang. In modern times, however, such a distinction of gender is often no longer made and the Feng and Huang are blurred into a single feminine entity so that the bird can be paired with the Chinese dragon, which has male connotations.

 Chinese phoenix - auspicious bird rising from ashes

Appearance: six celestial bodies

A common depiction was of it attacking snakes with its talons and its wings spread. According to scripture Erya – chapter 17 Shiniao, Fenghuang is said to be made up of the beak of a rooster, the face of a swallow, the forehead of a fowl, the neck of a snake, the breast of a goose, the back of a tortoise, the hindquarters of a stag and the tail of a fish. Today, however, it is often described as a composite of many birds including the head of a golden pheasant, the body of a mandarin duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane, the mouth of a parrot, and the wings of a swallow.

Its body symbolizes the six celestial bodies. The head is the sky, the eyes are the sun, the back is the moon, the wings are the wind, the feet are the earth, and the tail are the planets. Its feathers contain the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, blue and yellow. It is also sometimes depicted as having three legs.

Origin: good-luck totem

A vase with a phoenix-headed spout, gray sandstone with celadon coating, Song Dynasty, last half of 10th century. Images of an ancient bird have appeared in China for over 4,000 years, the earliest as Shang Dynasty pottery motifs, then appearing decorating bronzes, as well as jade figurines (many of the most beautiful from the Liao Period). Some believe they may have been a good-luck totem, believing that it is a totem of eastern tribes in ancient China. Current theories suggest that it is likely based in part – for example the snake-like neck – on folk memory of the Asian Ostrich which was common in prehistoric China but became extinct several thousand years ago. That this bird was well-known to the early modern humans in Asia, noted for its peculiarity, and hunted for food, is attested by numerous archaeological finds, such as pottery decorated with what appear to be painted ostriches, and bones by early campsites.

 Chinese phoenix - auspicious bird rising from ashes 

Fenghuang seems to have no connection with the phoenix of the Western world, which derives from Egyptian mythology. Peculiarly, the Egyptian phoenix may also in part reference a prehistoric bird, the Bennu Heron. Unlike the Fenghuang, which is a chimera not very much like any one extant bird, the Egyptian phoenix is most often considered similar to a heron or eagle.

During the Han Dynasty (2,200 years ago) two phoenixes, one a male (feng, 鳳) and the other a female (huang, 凰) were often shown together facing one other. Later, during the Yuan Dynasty the two terms were merged to become the generally translated “phoenix”, but the “King of Birds” came to symbolize the Empress when paired with a dragon as a dragon represented the Emperor. From the period of the Emperor Jiajing (1522-66) on, a pair of phoenixes was differentiated by the tail feathers of the two birds (typically together forming a closed circle pattern–the male identified by five serrated tail feathers (five being an odd, or yang number) and the female by what appears to be one, but is in fact, two (two being an even, or yin number) curling or tendriled tail feathers. It was also in the Ming Dynasty that phoenixes first began to appear with combs, hence comb-less phoenixes are pre-Ming, and phoenixes depicted with combs, Ming or post-Ming.

Also during this period, the feng huang was used as a symbol representing the direction south. This was portrayed through a male and female facing each other. Their feathers were of the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, green, and yellow. These colors are said to represent the Confucian virtues of: loyalty, honesty, decorum, and justice.

Meaning: high virtue and grace

The Fenghuang has very positive connotations. It is a symbol of high virtue and grace. The Fenghuang also symbolizes the union of yin and yang. Shan Hai Jing – chapter 1 Nanshan jing records each part of Fenghuang’s body symbolizes a word, the head represents virtue (德,) the wing represents duty (義,) the back represents propriety (禮,) the abdomen says belief (信) and the chest represents mercy (仁.)

 Chinese phoenix - auspicious bird rising from ashes

In ancient China, they can often be found in the decorations for weddings or royalty, along with dragons. This is because the Chinese considered the dragon and phoenix symbolic of blissful relations between husband and wife, another common yin and yang metaphor

Plant Of Long Life

 The  Sacred Fungus Of Immotarlity

 2010942 Symbol mark: Sacred Fungus, the symbol of longevity, immortality, in a double circle, underglaze blue.

Symbol mark: Sacred Fungus, the symbol of longevity, immortality, in a double circle, underglaze blue

Teksing porcelains

Late Qing Sacred Fungus motif Bowl found at sintang West Borneo and Padang west sumatra

The Drinking and Chinese Tea Bowl

Tea Drinking and Ceramic Tea Bowls
An overview through dynastic history

Li Baoping 李宝平
Department of Archaeology
The University of Sydney

Fig.1 Tenth-century (Five dynasties) green ware bowl and stand carved with lotus petals 青釉刻花托碗, unearthed at the Huqiu Pagoda in Suzhou 蘇州虎丘塔, Jiangsu. (Source: Suzhou Municipal Museum)

Tea vessels are an indispensable part of tea culture. As the people who invented porcelain, it is hardly surprising that over the ages the Chinese have used chinaware as the primary vessel for drinking tea. Ceramic tea bowls are mentioned in the first major text on tea, The Classic of Tea 茶經. Compiled between 758-60CE by Lu Yu 陸羽 (733–804) of the Tang dynasty, this work had a profound effect on the diffusion of the tea-drinking. Lu Yu lists and ranks tea bowls made in kilns in six prefectures, and the celadon bowls made in Yuezhou 越州, Zhejiang. Called Yue ware 越窑 these are considered to be the most suitable for tea drinking.[Fig.1]

In The Classic of Tea Lu Yu also disagreed with those who regarded the famous Xing ware 邢窑—the white porcelain from Xingzhou in Hebei, as being superior to Yue celadon. He gave three reasons: first, while the Xing white porcelain looks like silver, Yue greenware is like jade; secondly, while Xing ware was like snow, Yue ware was like ice; and, thirdly, while Xing ware was white and made tea appear reddish, Yue ware was celadon and made tea appear green. Or, as he wrote:


Fig.2 Jian ware tea bowl with hare’s fur markings 建窯兔毫盞, unearthed from a tomb of 1205 in Zhangshu, Jiangxi. (Source: Zhangshu Municipal Museum)

It can be most probably surmised that greenware 青瓷 was the favoured ceramic type for drinking tea in the Tang. The popularity of green coloured ceramics used for tea bowls is also supported by evidence from the greenware kilns of Changsha, Hunan 湖南長沙. The Changsha kilns are not among the seven producers listed by Lu Yu, nonetheless it must have been a significant supplier of tea bowls, something evident from the fact that a bowl was unearthed at the Changsha kiln site which, prior to firing, had written on it: tu wan 荼埦, ‘bitter-tea bowl’. More interesting yet are finds from the Belitung shipwreck 黑石號沉船. This Arab merchant vessel set sail from a Chinese port and was probably destined for the Middle East, but sank in Indonesia waters in the early ninth century, something indicated by a ceramic bowl incised with a Chinese reign date corresponding with the year 826CE. The wreck contained a significant cargo of Chinese ceramics. These include numerous Changsha ware bowls of identical shape but diverse decoration, and a small number of Yue greenwares, Xing white porcelain, as well as wares with other origins. One of the Changsha bowls was also inscribed, before firing, with the words cha zhanzi 茶盞子, another term for tea bowl.[1] This is somewhat surprising since the bowl was most probably not intended for tea drinking in the Middle East, and the Chinese words would have meant little to a foreign user. It is hoped that further study of this tea bowl and other ceramics from Belitung will provide new insights into the production and management of Chinese ceramics in the Tang.

Contrasted with the Tang period, the Song dynasty saw the prevalence of blackware tea bowls, though other ceramic types were also used. This has a lot to do with the contemporary custom of ‘tea contending’ 鬥茶. While the primary tea-brewing technique during the Tang was to grind tea cakes into powder and then boil the resultant powder in a pot before ladling it into a tea bowl for drinking, the tea contending of the Song feature a whipped-tea method. This consisted of the grinding of the tea cake (usually an expensive or luxurious item) into fine powder, placing the powder in a bowl, pouring boiling water into the bowl from a ewer (usually also made from ceramic), and whipping the mixture with a whisk. The ‘tea contending’ partly consisted of comparison of the colour of the resulting tea. The whiter the froth of the whipped-tea the better, and not surprisingly blackware bowls were obviously well suited to this purpose. Tea contending prevailed in Song society, from the royal court to commoners, and its popularity lead to the intensive manufacturing and appreciation of blackware bowls across the empire.

Fig.3 Jizhou ware tea bowl with paper cut design encircling popular contemporary auspicious marks of May the Hall be Filled with Gold and Jade 金玉满堂, Longevity with Wealth and Nobility 長命富貴, Happiness, Longevity, Health and Peace 福壽康寧. Unearthed at the site of the Jizhou kiln. (Source: Jiangxi Provincial Museum)

A noteworthy feature of Song blackware tea bowls is that the black glaze is often decorated and fired with special markings that resemble hare’s fur 兔毫盞, tortoiseshell 玳瑁盞, partridge feathers 鷓鴣斑, oil drops 油滴, or the like. And such effects were frequently praised in poems and other works of the Song and later periods by famous scholar-bureaucrats such as Su Dongpo 蘇東坡 (1037-1101). Even the Song emperor Huizong 宋徽宗 (1082-1135) declared that black was valued for tea bowls and those with hare’s fur markings were the most superior. The most influential producer of blackware tea bowls were the Jian kilns in Jianyang 建陽, Fujian.[Fig.2] Some Jian ware bowls were inscribed before firing with the words ‘imperial tribute’ 供御, indicating these specific bowls were made for the use of the court. Blackware tea bowls from China were also cherished in Japan from Song times, and tea contending too was introduced to Japan. Blackware ceramic bowls entered Japan via diverse routes. For example, among ceramics from the Yuan dynasty Shin’an wreck 新安沉船 a few Jian ware bowls were found. This merchant ship probably set sail from Ningbo, Zhejiang, and was destined for Japan, but it sank in Korean waters after a short stop-over (as indicated by the presence of a few Korea celadon wares in the wreck). A few wood tabs bearing a Yuan reign date of 1323 imply the era of the ship’s loss.[2]

Diplomacy was another channel by which Chinese blackware ceramics entered Japan. In 1406, the early Ming emperor Yongle bestowed ten Song-era Jian ware bowls on Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, 1358-1408), the third shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate who ruled from 1368 to 1394 during the Muromachi period. The many Japanese monks who travelled to practice at monasteries in China also brought chinaware back to Japan. As a matter of fact, blackware bowls are given the generic name of tenmoku 天目 by tea masters in Japan, as it is believed that Japanese monks brought back Jian ware bowls from the Tianmu Shan 天目山 mountain in Zhejiang after studying Chan/Zen Buddhism at the local monasteries.[3]

Fig.4 Jizhou ware tea bowl with leaf pattern, unearthed from a tomb dating from 1206 in Shangrao, Jiangxi 江西上饒. (Source: Shangrao Municipal Museum)

Apart from the Jian kilns, Jizhou 吉州 in Jiangxi was another most famous producer of blackware tea bowls during the Song-Yuan period.[Figs 3&4] During the latest symposium on blackwares from Jizhou and other kilns and two accompanying blackware exhibitions held by the Shenzhen Museum in February 2012, much discussion was devoted to the interaction between blackware, tea cultures and Chan/Zen Buddhism.[4] The Shenzhen exhibitions and symposium were a breakthrough in research of Chinese blackwares that built on the exhibition in 1996 of similar ceramics organized by the Sackler Museum of Harvard University. Titled ‘Hare’s Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feather: Chinese Brown- and Black-glazed Ceramics, 400-1400′, that exhibition proved to be foundational for study of blackware tea bowls.[5] The reason that this exhibition included only blackwares dating from before the year 1400 is again related to tea, since another major change occurred in tea brewing techniques at this time. In 1391, Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋, the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty banned the production of expensive tea cakes and only loose tea leaves were henceforth allowed to be sold. Thus, in the Ming tea was brewed by pouring boiling water over leaves placed in a vessel. The emergence of what is known as the steeping method of tea making lead to the decline of blackware tea bowls that had only enjoyed an advantage when tea contending was based on the use and grinding of tea cakes. Subsequently we see the rise of the use of tea-pot in the Ming-Qing era, particularly the zisha 紫砂 or purple clay-ware tea pots from Yixing 宜興, Jiangsu, and porcelain from Jingdezhen 景德镇, Jiangxi.[6][7]

Fig.5 Batavian ware cup and saucer, featuring brown glaze outside and underglaze painting inside. From the Ca Mau shipwreck of 1723-1735 found in Vietnamese waters. (Source: Zelnik Collection, Hungary)

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jingdezhen became the porcelain capital of China; it also exported its products worldwide. Consequently cups from Jingdezhen were widely used for drinking tea, both home and abroad. So-called ‘Batavian ware’ might exemplify the wide use of tea cups from Jingdezhen. This type of porcelain features brown glaze and is usually decorated with underglaze blue or overglaze coloured enamels.[Fig.5] It is now often called ‘Batavian ware’ after the Dutch East India Company port of Batavia (now Jakarta) in Java, from where these wares were transshipped in vast quantities to Europe.[8] Batavian ware was fashionable in Europe, particularly during the eighteenth century. They were much favoured in Holland and Sweden, and were also exported to America. Batavian ware was also depicted in numerous European art works. Examples include Jan Josef Horemans the Elder’s (1682-1759) ‘Tea Party in a Netherlandish Garden: Springtime’.[9][Fig.6] Numerous Europe museums have collections of Batavian wares, including the Zwinger Palace in Dresden that hold the porcelain collection of Augustus the Strong (1670-1733), Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. It is also found in large quantities in shipwrecks around the world.[10][11].

Fig.6 Tea Party in a Netherlandish Garden: Springtime, Jan Josef Horemans the Elder’s (1682-1759), Sheaf C.–Kilburn R. 1988, plate 149.

While the tea vessels cited hitherto are all from famous ceramic centres and it is no surprising to enjoy a high status with their users, a ceramic jar widely revered as an icon of Japanese tea culture is different in this regard. It was purchased by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art at an auction held by Christie’s in New York City. The jar, made in China during the late Southern Song or Yuan dynasty (thirteenth or fourteenth century) and shipped to Japan as a humble container for a commercial product, developed a distinguished pedigree in the hands of influential tea connoisseurs, collectors and rulers who used it for storing precious tea and displayed it in their tearooms between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries.[12] It was probably manufactured in the coastal provinces of Fujian or Guangdong, but the exact origin remains to be identified. How a humble ceramic jar from China became an icon of Japanese tea culture is a question that deserves more research, including its place of origin in China. In summary, ceramic tea vessels are closely associated with tea-brewing techniques of different historical periods in China and contain a great wealth of information related to their manufacturers, distributors and users in China and associated countries. Interpreting the ceramics universally represented at worldwide archaeological sites and museum collections will allow us to gain much insight into past human societies. In view of the great deal of research done on tea from China’s history,[13] research dedicated to tea vessels is particularly valuable.[14]


The Chines Imperial Ceramic Artwork Found In Indonesia ( continiu )






Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA

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The Chinese large Bronze seated bodhisattva Pu Hsien is the personification of love, virtue, and patience. The bodhisattva holding a lotus flower is shown seated sideways on a recumbent elephant on a oval lotus base. It dates to mid 20th century. Size: 31 ¼” high x 22 ½” wide x 13″ deep (79.4 x 57.2 x 33 cm)


AT THAT TIME Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva rose from his seat, uncovered his right shoulder, placed his palms together, and facing the Buddha, said, “World Honored One, for what reason is the Bodhisattva Guanshiyin called ‘Guanshiyin’?”
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, “Good man, if any of the limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of living beings who are undergoing all kinds of suffering hear of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and recite his name single-mindedly, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will immediately hear their voices and rescue them.
“If a person who upholds the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva enters a great fire, the fire will not burn him, all because of this Bodliisattva’s awesome spiritual power.
“If a person being tossed about in the great sea calls out the Bodhisattva’s name, he will find a shallow place.
“If the hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of beings who seek gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, carnelian, coral, amber, pearls, and so forth enter the great sea, an evil wind may toss their boats into the territory of the rakshasa ghosts. But if among them there is even one person who calls out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will all be saved from the difficulty of the rakshasas. For this reason, he is called Guanshiyin.
“Further, if a person who is about to be harmed calls out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, the knives and staves of the attackers will break into pieces and he will be saved.
“If yakshas and rakshasas enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system come to torment a person, if they hear him call out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, all those evil ghosts will not even be able to stare at that person with their evil eyes, how much the less harm him.
“If a person, whether guilty or not, who has been put in stocks or bound with chains calls out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, his fetters will break apart and he will immediately be freed.

“If bandits enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system infest a dangerous road on which a merchant chief in charge of costly jewels is leading a group of merchants, but among the merchants there is even a single person who says, ‘Good men, do not be afraid! You should all single-mindedly recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva bestows fearlessness upon living beings. If you recite his name, you shall surely be saved from these robbers,’ and if upon hearing that, the merchants all cry out together, ‘Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva,’ then they will immediately be saved because they recited his name.
“Inexhaustible Intention! The awesome spiritual power of the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Guanshiyin is as lofty and sublime as that!
“If living beings who have much sexual desire constantly and reverently recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from desire.
“If those who have much hatred constantly and reverently recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from hatred.
“If those who are very stupid constantly and reverently recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from stupidity.
“Inexhaustible Intention, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has great awesome spiritual powers such as these and confers great benefits. Therefore living beings should always be mindful of him.
“If women who seek sons bow and make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will give birth to blessed, virtuous, and wise sons. If they seek daughters, they will give birth to upright and handsome daughters who have planted roots of virtue in previous lives and who are regarded and respected by all.
“Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has powers such as these. If there are living beings who reverently bow to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be blessed and their efforts will not be in vain.
“Therefore living beings should all receive and uphold the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.

“Inexhaustible Intention! If a person were to receive and uphold the names of Bodhisattvas in number as the grains of sand in sixty-two kotis of Ganges Rivers, and in addition were to exhaustively make offerings to them of food, drink, clothing, bedding, and medicine, what do you think—would that good man’s or good woman’s merit and virtue be great or not?”

Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva replied, “Very great, World Honored One.”
The Buddha said, “If another person were to receive and uphold the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and bow and make offerings but once, that person’s blessings would be equal to and not different from the other person’s. They could not be exhausted in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons.
“Inexhaustible Intention, one who receives and upholds the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva obtains the benefit of blessings and virtues as limitless and boundless as those.”
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, how does Guanshiyin Bodhisattva roam through this Saha world? How does he speak the Dharma for living beings? How does he carry out this work with the power of expedients?”
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, “Good man, if living beings in this land must be saved by means of someone in the body of a Buddha, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will manifest it the body of a Buddha and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Pratyekabuddha, he will manifest in the body of a Pratyekabuddha and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Hearer, he will manifest in the body of a Hearer and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the Brahma King, he will manifest in the body of the Brahma King and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of Shakra, he will manifest in the body of Shakra and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the God of Sovereignty, he will manifest in the body of the God of Sovereignty and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the Great God of Sovereignty, he will manifest in the body of the Great God of Sovereignty and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a great heavenly general, he will manifest in the body of a great heavenly general and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of Vaishravana, he will manifest in the body of Vaishravana and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minor king, he will manifest in the body of a minor king and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of an Elder, he will manifest in the body of an Elder and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a layman, he will manifest in the body of a layman and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minister of state, he will manifest in the body of a minister of state and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Brahman, he will manifest in the body of a Brahman and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika, he will manifest in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the wife of an Elder, of a layman, of a minister of state, or of a Brahman, he will manifest in a wife’s body and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a pure youth or a pure maiden, he will manifest in the body of a pure youth or pure maiden and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a heavenly dragon, yaksha, gandharva, asura, garuda, kinnara, mahoraga, human, or nonhuman, and so forth, he will manifest in such a body and speak Dharma for them.

“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit, he will manifest in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit and speak Dharma for them.

“Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings.

“Therefore you should all single-mindedly make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva Mahasattva can, in the midst of fear, crisis, and hardship, bestow fearlessness. That is why in this Saha world all call him the “Bestower of Fearlessness.”

Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I shall now make an offering to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.” He then removed his necklace of pearls, its value in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold, and offered it to the Bodhisattva, saying, “Humane One, accept this Dharma offering, this necklace of precious pearls.”

Guanshiyin Bodhisattva refused to accept it.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva again said to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, “Humane One, out of pity for us, accept this necklace.”
The Buddha then told Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, “You should take pity on Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva and the fourfold assembly, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, and accept this necklace.”
Then, out of pity for the fourfold assembly, the gods, dragons, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva accepted the necklace. He divided it into two parts: one part he offered to Shakyamuni Buddha and the other to the stupa of Many Jewels Buddha.
“Inexhaustible Intention, such is the self-mastery and spiritual power of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, who roams throughout the Saha world.”
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask this question:

World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks,
I now ask again,
Why is this disciple of the Buddha Called Guanshiyin?

The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks,
With verses answered Inexhaustible Intention:
Listen to the practice of Guanyin,
Who skillfully responds in all places.

With vast vows, as deep as the sea,
Throughout inconceivable eons,
He has served many thousands of
kotis of Buddhas,
And has made great, pure vows.

I shall now tell you in brief,
That for those who hear his name or see him,
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly,
He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence.

If someone is the victim of another’s harmful intent,
And is pushed into a pit of fire,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The pit of fire will turn into a pool.
If someone is being tossed about in the great sea,
And is surrounded by the dangers of dragons, fish, and ghosts,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The waves will not drown him.

If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru,
And another person tries to push him off,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
He will stand firm as the sun in space.

If someone is pursued by evil people,
Who want to throw him off a VajraMountain,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
Not a single hair on his body will be harmed.

If someone is surrounded by vicious bandits,
Who threaten him with knives,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The bandits will all give rise to compassion.

If someone is in trouble with the law,
And on the verge of being executed,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The knives will break into pieces.

If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained,
Or if his hands and feet are in stocks,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
His bonds will open and he will be free.

If someone is about to be harmed,

By mantras, spells, or poison,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The harm will all return to the sender.

If someone meets with evil rakshasas,
Poisonous dragons, or ghosts,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
They will then not dare to harm him.

If someone is surrounded by vicious beasts,
With fearsome fangs and claws,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The beasts will quickly run far away.

Poisonous snakes and scorpions,
Have blazing lethal vapors,
But if one evokes the strength of Guanyin,
At the sound of one’s voice, they will disperse.

Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning
May send down hail or great floods of rain,
But if one evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The clouds will immediately scatter.

Living beings are beset with hardships,
And oppressed by limitless sufferings.
The power of Guanyin’s wondrous wisdom
Can rescue the world from suffering.

Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations,
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means,
Going throughout countries in the ten directions,
He manifests everywhere in all places.

The various evil destinies,
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals,
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death
Are all gradually wiped away.

True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator,
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom,
Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator,
May we constantly behold you with reverence!

Undefiled pure light,
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness

Is able to quell calamities of wind and fire
As it shines on all worlds.

Compassionate substance: the thunder of precepts.
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud.
He rains down sweet dew and Dharma rain,
Which extinguish the flames of affliction.

In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits,
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
All his many enemies will scatter and leave.
Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World’s Sounds
A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide,
A sound beyond all worldly sounds,
We shall always bear it in mind.

In thought after thought we have no doubt:
Guanshiyin is pure and sagely.
In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death,
He is our refuge and protector.

Complete with all merit and virtue,
His kind eyes watching living beings,
He is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea.
Therefore we should reverently worship him.

At that time the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth rose from his seat and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, if there are those who hear this chapter of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, who learn about the self-mastery of his deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as shown in this Universal Door, you should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be small.”

When the Buddha had spoken the “Universal Door Chapter,” eighty-four thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for anuttarasamyaksambodhi.

Today there are three celebrations observed by both Taoist and Buddhist that her birthday was on the nineteenth day of the second lunar month, the date of her achievement of immortality was the nineteenth day of the sixth lunar month and date of her attaining enlightenment (Nirvana) was the nineteenth day of the ninth lunar month.   


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Jiang Tai Gong, ( Jiang Tai Gong, 姜 太 公 )

The God in Charge of Granting Titles to Gods


Life History of Real Jiang Taigong

Jiang Taigong, native of Donghai in Zhou Dynasty, was said to be a descendant of Emperor Yandi of remote ages. One of his forefathers had been a holding high position during the reign of Emperor Shun. Later, because of his achievement in helping Yu the Great to harness rivers, he was granted the fief of Lu (west of today’s Nanyang City in Henan Province) and addressed as Marquis of Lu. Jiang Taigong was also called Lu Shang or Lu Wang. To show him respect, later generations called him Jiang Ziya. In ancient times “zi” was an honorific title for men.

King Wen way on the journey to seek talents and met Jiang ZIya by chance. Jiang Ziya was a learned man and always wanted an opportunity to put his talents into practice. However under the reign of King Zhou, the last ruler of Shang Dynasty, he was unable to serve him as King Zhou was a tyrant.

Most of his life was spent in obscurity and poverty. He only was able to use his abilities when he was seventy years old. Jiang had heard that King Wen, chief of Zhou clan in the late Shang dynasty, was amiable and easy to approach, respecting the elder and loving children, placing those able and virtuous people in important positions. Thus Jiang moved to Wenshui. Building a hut near Panxi, he made a living by fishing, while waiting for the important post to be conferred by King Wen that would enable him to use his wisdom in assisting King Wen. Despite waiting for the wise ruler for a long time, Jiang hair turned grey and his hope seems futile.  However as destined one day he heard the sound of horses and people’s voices coming from afar. A delicate featured man dressed up as a King approached him. When told the distinguished visitor was the King Wen of Zhou, who was eagerly seeking talents, he felt very happy and finally was appointed the Prime Minister!

He carried out political and military reforms. Domestically, he emphasizes on developing production; externally, he deployed forces to conquer small neighboring clans to expand territories and weaken the Shang Dynasty.  
With his assistance King Wen defeated Quanrong, conquered Shang Dynasty’s Chongguo, and moved the capital from Qishan to Fengcheng. The territory of Zhou gradually increase and stretched from Mi (today’s Lingtai in Gansu Province) in the west of Yu (Around todays Qinyang County in Henan Province) in the east. Then Zhou territory further expanded to the valley of Yangtze, Hanshui and Rushui rivers. Its political, economic and military strength greatly surpassed the Shang Dynasty, paving the way for the founding of the Zhou Dynasty.

Unfortunately, King Wen died before he fulfilled his ambition of overthrowing the Shang. His son Ji Fa, historically known as King Wu, succeeded to the throne.    
With the assistance of Jiang, he sent troops to fight King Zhou of Shang, and carried out his father’s plan to establish the Zhou Dynasty. The regime is called Western Zhou in history. Due to his merits in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty, Jiang was granted the area of Qi (the central and eastern parts of today’s Shandong Province) as his fief, and regarded as the founder of Qi.

Jiang Taigong in Legend 

There are numerous legend about Jiang Taigong. One account said that his parents died when he was a child and he followed his aunt to Zhaoge, the capital of Shang. At the age of twelve he started working as a butcher because his aunt’s  family needed his help. But he failed at his job and wandered away from Zhaoge, until he met King Wen and found success.

One legend said Jiang fished for three days and three nights without catching anything. Later someone taught him the way of angling. Following the advice, Jiang finally caught a carp. Upon opening it’s belly, he found a cloth roll with characters reading “Lu Wang (namely Jiang Taigong) will be granted the area of Qi as his fief”.

Based on another legend King Wen dreamed of the Heavenly Emperor calling him “Chang (King Wen was named Ji Chang), I am going to grant you a good mentor and assistant. His name is Wang”. He then saw Jiang taigong beside the Heavenly Emperor. It was the same night Jiang Taigong had the same dream. Soon afterwards when meeting Jiang, King Wen asked. “Is Wang your name?”
“Yes,” replied Jiang, smiling. “It seems that I had seen you somewhere,” said King Wen. After Jiang told him the exact date he had the same dream with King Wen, he took Jiang and offered him an important position.

This legend is the most popular among all. Jiang Taigong was originally a famous general of King Wen and a respected figure. He was even believed ton have become a supernatural being. So anyone who wants to drive evil spirits out of his house would put on the wall a poster with characters reading. “Jiang Taigong is here. All evil spirits keep off.”

Jiang Taigong is depicted as an elderly man with white beard and hair, dressed up in imperial robe, one hand holding a flag (flag denotes his power to control or dispatch armies) and the other hand holds a sword.

Jiang Taigong famous quote, ”Jiang Taigong is here. Other gods withdraw and keep off”. Thus declared Jiang Taigong at a platform after he granted titles to other gods. “Since I had offered a title to them, I should at least place myself above them”, he declared.

From then onwards, when people were building a new house, they would paste up a banner reading “Jiang Taigong is here, hundred affairs are not forbidden as taboo”, (姜太公在此, 百事無禁忌) this would prevent evil spirits from occupying the building.


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Taoist Master Zhang, ( Zhang Tian Shi, 張 天 師)


Master Zhang, whose full name was Zhang Ling, or Zhang DaoLing (34-156), was the founder of the Five Pecks of Rice Sect of Taoism during the Eastern Han Dynasty.  A native of Fengxian County, Jiangsu Province, he studied in the Imperial College and well versed in the Five Classics. He practiced meditation in Heming Mountain in today’s Dayi County, Sichuan Province in the reign of Emperor Shundi (r.125-144). In 141, he wrote twenty-four Taoist texts and institutionalized Taoism, which was called the Five Pecks of Rice Sect, calling himself Occult Master of Great Purity. Its believers had to pay five pecks of rice as contribution to support his institution. It emphasized repenting one’s mistakes and have faith in Taoists canons. It propagated its doctrine by praying and drawing charms, and gave treatment with blessed holy water or incantations.

Legends of Master Zhang

Many legends are told about him. One said that Zhang DaoLing was the eight descendants of Zhang Liang, a high official of the Han Dynasty, he was a tall man, with extraordinary appearance characterized by full forehead, red hair, green eyes, straight nose and square mouth, bushy eyebrows and big ears. All this features, plus his beard, gave the impression that he looked like an immortal priest. In the tenth year of the Jianwu period under the reign of the Emperor Guangwu of the Eastern Han Dynasty, he was born in the Tianmu Mountain.

Before he was born his mother dreamed about a tall immortal wearing a gold crown and embroidered robe descending from the Big Dipper to her room. He gave her a scented plant, and suddenly vanished. She awakened to find her quilt, clothes and the entire room was lingered with an extraordinary fragrance that last for a month. Then she became pregnant. On the day when she was in labour, the courtyards was permeated in colored clouds, and the room was bright with red beams. The fragrance again fills the air. Daoling was able to walk as soon as he was born.

He was extremely intelligent as he had knowledge and can memorize the entire Dao De Jing, astronomy, geography and mystic diagrams at the age of seven. He passed the second degree Imperial examination, as became the magistrate of Jingzhou. Albeit an official he was determined to practice meditation. Before long he tender his resignation and lived in seclusion in Beimang Mountain. It was said that one day a white tiger bought scriptures in it’s mouth to him. Emperor He Di appointed him as Imperial tutor to the crown prince, and conferred on him the title Marquis of Jixian. He was invited to take up the official position, three times, but he always refused. In A.D. 90, he went to Long He Mountain in Jiangxi Province where he tried alchemy – to make pills of Immortality and delivered sermons for about thirty years, his disciples totaling more than three thousand.   

Master Zhang was well known for curing people with Talismans, blessed holy water, and delivered people from danger and disaster.

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The Queen of Heaven (天 后 聖 母, Tian Hou Sheng Mu)

The Queen of Heaven is also known Ma Zu. Originally named Lin Muo Niang; was born in 960 AD, on the 23rd day of the 3rd month in the Song Dynasty. She was born in a village along PuTian, Fujian’s Province.

Based on the book “Gods of Ancient China”, the day she was born, the land was covered by a purple streak, perfumed scent filled every household, and a golden halo appeared above the Lin house, within which emitted a red glow. One month after her birth she had not cried. So her parents called her Lin Muo Niang (Muo is the Chinese character meaning silence).

She was very filial to her parents, intelligent and loved to help people in adversity. She was a good swimmer and had gone fishing since childhood with her elder brother. She often rowed a boat during a vicious storm to save people in distress at the risk of her life. Her heroic deeds gained attention far and wide.

Ten centuries ago on a stormy day she came to aid an overturned merchant ship. She managed to rescue only nine of the ten people on board. The one left was tossed away by a huge wave. Disregarding her own safety, she swam and managed to save the last victim, however she herself drowned due to exhaustion.

Reluctant to accept that she had died, people preferred to assume that she had become a goddess. According to the legend, somebody saw the Goddess in imperial garments soared to the Heavens. To commemorate her people of Pu Tian, her hometown, built a temple dedicated to her.

After her death, the Goddess was said to become more miraculous. On one occasion, a violent storm was raging over the seas and overturned a few fishing boats. All the fishermen fell into the sea. At that moment a streak of light was seen among the dark clouds, the Goddess was seen descending from Heaven, she then miraculously set all the overturned boats and pulled the fishermen into the boats. And then suddenly the wind subsided, the waves calmed down and the sky cleared. All the people were saved.

Emperor of various dynasties glamorized the Goddess. During a period of eight hundred years, on forty occasions they granted her titles which, when placed together, ran to sixty Chinese characters, including “State Protecting Sage”, “Protector of the State and People” and “Goddess of Heaven”.    

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The Supreme Lord of the Dark Heaven

( 玄 天 上 帝, Xuan Tian Shang Ti )   


Xuan Tian Shang Ti, was originally a butcher, he had killed a lot as days passed he felt remorse for his sins and repents by giving up butchery and retired to a remote mountain for cultivation of the Tao. One day while he was assisting a woman in labor, while cleaning the woman’s blood stained clothes along a river, the words “Xuan Tian Shang Di” (玄 天 上 帝) appeared before him. The woman in labor turns out to be Guan Yin manifestation. To redeem his sins, he dug out his own stomach and intestines and washes it in the river. The river turns into dark murky water then after a while it changes the water into clear pure water.
Unfortunately he loses the stomach and intestines while he was washing it in the river. The Jade Emperor was moved by his sincerity and determination to clear his sins; hence he became an Immortal known as “Xuan Tian Shang Ti”.

After he becomes an immortal his stomach and intestines after absorbing the world essences it was transformed into a demonic turtle and snake harming people. No one could subdue them. Eventually Xuan Tian Shang Ti returns back to earth to subdue them and use them as his transportation or disciples.

Xuan Tian Shang Ti is portrayed as a warrior in imperial robes, the left hand holds the “three mountain mudra” while the right hand holds a prominent sword. He is usually seated on a throne with the right stepping on the snake and left leg extended stepping on the turtle. His face is red with long flowing black beards, looks very stern with bulging pair of eyes. His birthday is celebrated on the third day of third lunar month.

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Imperial Sovereign Wen Chang

( 文 昌 帝 君, Wen Chang Di Jun )


The popular Chinese Taoist god of literature and writing, invoked by scholars to assists them in their works. He is especially venerated by people who require help with their entrance examinations for an official career.
In reality, Wen-chang is a constellation of six stars in the vicinity of the Great Bear. It is said that when these stars are bright, literature flourishes. He visits the Earth frequently in human shape. Taoists texts mention seventeen separate existences of the stellar deity on Earth

In addition to the ancestors of whose worship it really consists, Taoism has in its pantheon the specialized gods worshipped by the scholars. The chief of these is Wen Chang, the God of Literature. The account of him (which varies in several particulars in different Chinese works) relates that he was a man by the name of Chang Ya, who was born during the T’ang dynasty in the kingdom of Yeh (now known as ZheJiang Province), and went to live at Tzŭ T’ung in Szechuan, where his intelligence raised him to the position of President of the Board of Ceremonies. Another account refers to him as Chang Ya Tzŭ, the Soul or Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, and states that he held office in the Chin dynasty (A.D. 265–316), and was killed in a fight. Another again states that under the Sung dynasty (A.D. Page 105960–1280), in the third year (A.D. 1000) of the reign-period Hsien P’ing of the Emperor Chun Tsung, he repressed the revolt of Wang Chun at Ch’ing Tu in Szechuan. General Lei Yu-chung caused to be shot into the besieged town arrows to which notices were attached inviting the inhabitants to surrender. Suddenly a man mounted a ladder, and pointing to the rebels cried in a loud voice: “The Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung has sent me to inform you that the town will fall into the hands of the enemy on the twentieth day of the ninth moon, and not a single person will escape death.” Attempts to strike down this prophet of evil were in vain, for he had already disappeared. The town was captured on the day indicated. The general, as a reward, caused the temple of Tzŭ T’ung’s Spirit to be repaired, and sacrifices offered to it.

The object of worship nowadays in the temples dedicated to Wen Chang is Tzŭ T’ung Ti Chun, the God of Tzŭ T’ung. Various emperors at various times bestowed upon Wen Chang honorific titles, until ultimately, in the Yuan, or Mongol, dynasty, in the reign Yen Yu, in A.D. 1314, the title was conferred on him of Supporter of the Yuan Dynasty, Diffuser of Renovating Influences, Ssŭ-lu of Wen Chang, God and Lord. He was thus apotheosized, and took his place among the gods of China.

Thus the God of Literature, Wen Chang Di Jun, duly installed in the Chinese pantheon, and sacrifices were offered to him in the temples dedicated to him. But scholars, especially those about to enter for the public competitive examinations, worshipped as the God of Literature, or as his palace or abode (Wen Chang), the star K’uei in the Great Bear, or Dipper, or Bushel—the latter name derived from its resemblance in shape to the measure used by the Chinese and called tou. The term K’uei was more generally applied to the four stars forming the body or square part of the Dipper, the three forming the tail or handle being called Shao or Piao. How all this came about is the next story.

A scholar, as famous for his literary skill as his facial deformities, had been admitted as first academician at the metropolitan examinations. It was the custom that the Emperor should give with his own hand a rose of gold to the fortunate candidate. This scholar, whose name was Chung K’uei, presented himself according to custom to receive the reward which was rightfully due to him. At the sight of his repulsive face the Emperor refused the golden rose. In despair the miserable rejected one went and threw himself into the sea. At the moment when he was being choked by the waters a mysterious fish or monster called ao raised him on its back and brought him to the surface. K’uei ascended to Heaven and became arbiter of the destinies of men of letters. His abode was said to be the star K’uei, a name given by the Chinese to the sixteen stars of the constellation or ‘mansion’ of Andromeda and Pisces. The scholars quite soon began to worship K’uei as the God of Literature, and to represent it on a column in the temples. Then sacrifices were offered to it. This star or constellation was regarded as the palace of the god. The legend gave rise to an expression frequently used in Chinese of one who comes out first in an examination, namely, tu chan ao, “to stand alone on the sea-monster’s head.” It is especially to be noted that though the two K’ue’s have the same sound they are represented by different characters, and that the two constellations are not the same, but are situated in widely different parts of the heavens.

Images of Wen Chang portray him as an official or as a scholar. He is always seen holding an auspicious scepter “Ru Yi” or a register book. Usually accompanied by his two faithful attendants, namely Tien Lung (Deaf Celestial) and Di Ya (Mute Terrestial). His birthday is celebrated on the third day of second lunar month.   

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The Door Gods ( 門 神, Men Shen )


The Door gods are the earliest gods worshipped by the Chinese. They are regarded as the Spiritual Guardians of the Entrance. An altar is usually placed besides the entrance, where offerings are given daily.  
According to the legend the Door gods were formerly imperial generals, Qin Shu Bao and Wei Chi Gong. They were both assigned to protect Emperor Tai Zong ( 太 宗 皇 帝 ) , from ghosts and demons during the Tang dynasty.  It was believed that the Emperor had nightmares whenever he sleeps during the night. He would always be pursuit by ghosts or demons in his dream, it could be his karma manifesting to him as he had killed numerous people before he was enthroned as the Emperor. His siblings were also killed.

Whenever the two generals stood guard outside his room entrance, he would be able to sleep soundly without any nightmares. It was believed that ghosts and demons dare not enter the emperor’s room whenever the two generals are present.

As the two generals are mortals, the Emperor Tai Zhong feared that the generals would suffer from fatigue having to keep watch over him every night. Hence, he ordered portraits of the imperial generals to be hung on each side of the door.

They wear warrior robes, have gentle dispositions and are usually shown as standing. Qin Shu Bao holds a slender club, whereas Wei Chi Gong holds a mace.

The portraits of the Door Gods are usually changed just before Chinese New Year. Worn out portraits does not have the ability to keep away evil spirits and to protect the house. 

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The Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven

(九 天 玄 女, Jiu Tian Xuan Nu )


The Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven is a female deity. She had been the teacher of the ancient Yellow Emperor. When the Yellow Emperor had been fighting the rebel Ch`i You, the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven descended and bestowed the Yellow Emperor with the military register for dispatching, with a seal and sword. She made a drum that was made out of cow skin with eighty sides, which the Yellow Emperor used to defeat Ch`i You.

During the period of spring and autumn, the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven transformed herself into the Jade Lady of Nan Shan. She helped the Yueh State send a punitive expedition against the Wu State, and taught the army to be equipped with six thousand highly qualified soldiers. Afterwards, she departed without bidding farewell, and soared to the sky. On the Nan Shan mountain, the king of the Yueh State built a temple in commemoration of her. The temple is named the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven.

The Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven has a disciple whose name was Pai-Yun Tong-chun. He received all the dharma-methods from the Mysterious Lady, and later was able to be elevated to heaven to be in charge of the Taoist books that belong to the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven.

She is depicted as a fair rosy complexion lady, usually brandishing a sword in her right hand while the left hand holds a gourd. The Taoist gourd is a symbol of immortality, healing (contains golden elixir), longevity and good fortune.

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The Great Spirits of The Earth

(福 德 正 神, Fu De Zheng Shen)


The great spirits of the earth possess great spiritual powers that not many spirits can match! Why! There is several aspect of the earth; it is wide and extensive, it supports and nourishes all living beings, it receives the great rain, it produces grass and trees, it holds all planted seeds, it produces medicines, it is impartial and it holds many treasures.

All the lands through out the world receives his protection; all the grasses, woods, stones, sands, paddy fields, hemp, bamboo, reeds, grains, rice, gems, and oil come forth from the ground because of his power. He can even prevent plagues ghosts from spreading epidemics; furthermore he’s the greatest wealth deity on earth! The image on the left is the sculpture of the great spirits of the earth. He’s always depicted as an elderly man with a white beard usually smiling and maintaining a benevolent expression. He holds an auspicious wish fulfilling object called “Ru Yi” 「如意」.While the other hand on the right holds several gold ingots.  He is also called “The Upright Spirit of Fortune and Wealth” (福德正神) when worshipped in temples and homes; while in a cemetery, he is called “Hou Tu” (后土)

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The Thunder God ( 雷 公, Lei Gong )


It is believed that a bolt of lightning erupting in the midst of the dark universe disrupts the primordial chaos. Hence at the beginning of time, chaos is altered into order by lightning. Thunder and lightning are worshipped by the primitive because it is one of the greatest forces in the Universe that is feared by man.

In mythology, the Thunder god is in charge of thunder. He is portrayed as having a green face and body, he resemble a bird like creature his face has a beak. Holds a hammer and chisel, when struck together lightning bolts are released.
He could punish on behalf of Heaven, could strike a vicious person, such as unfillial sons or daughter, able to distinguish between good and evil, and uphold justice.  In Buddhism he is a Dharma protector.

It is believed his feature derives from the Garuda, a mystical bird-like creature who was the messenger or vehicle of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu. He bears a close resemblance to the Garuda as expounded in Hindu text and Buddhist sutra’s as one of the “Eight class of mystical beings” (天 龍 八 部, Tian Long Ba Bu ).

The Garuda is the arch enemy of the snake, dragon or “naga”, which he feeds on them. Historically, from classical Indian mythology, Garuda is the king of birds.
Slightly fierce, with one face in the form of an eagle, round eyes and a curved beak, Adorned with gold necklaces and bracelets, the lower body is covered with feathers and large wings are unfurled behind. Standing on legs of two talons above coiled snake.

If you were to make a comparative study of the features of the Thunder god and Garuda based on these pictures, you will discover that there is a close resemblance in terms of the features.

                                    Lord Vishnu and the Garuda

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Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva ( Di Zang Wang Pu Sa, 地 藏 王 普 薩 )



Di Zhang may be represented in sitting or standing posture. He always has a kind and benevolent feature and carries either, or both, his symbols of the Cintamani or “Wish-fulfilling Jewel’ and the “Ringed-Staff”, which is also called the Khakkhara. This ringed staff is often carried by Buddhist monks in their travels so that the sounds caused by the jingling rings can warn small animals and insects of their approach lest they be trod upon and killed. It is also sometimes called the alarm-staff.

In the much treasured picture of Di Zhang Pu Sa, which is found in many Buddhist homes and temples, he is seen seated upon a lotus throne. His hands holds the precious flaming pearl which has vast magical powers beyond description. He wears the robe of a Northern Buddhist monk and on his head is the “Five-leaves crown, where the representation of a Dhyani-Buddha can be seen on each of the leaves”.

Whenever you have the urge to pray to this Bodhisattva for any help, visualize him a few seconds as you silently recite, “NAMO DI ZHANG WANG PUSA” . Di Zhang Pu Sa is very responsive to sincere prayers of faith and he may yet grant you your wish, if it is not too unselfish or unreasonable. All may pray to him with this simple invocation and, due to, your past karmic links with him may yet make you into another ardent Ti Tsang devotee again in this lifetime.

The standing posture of Di Zhang is particularly popular in Japan where he is known as Jizo Bosatsu. It represents the readiness of Jizo to respond immediately to the calls of help made by those who have faith in his saving powers. Standing upon a lotus, he holds his precious flaming jewel with his left hand while the ringed staff is held with the right, ever ready to force open the gates of Hell with the staff and to dispel the darkness of the infernal realm with his luminous gem.

Di Zhang is at times depicted accompanied by a dog, which also has a significant meaning. On the death of his mother, the Bodhisattva, not as “Sacred Girl’, hastened into the underworld with the view of comforting her and to seek favorable treatment for her. However, he could not find her but later discovered that she had already taken rebirth as a female dog. Upon his return to earth Di Zhang soon traced and adopted the animal, which then became his companion on his pilgrimages.
Another popular depiction of him is in this standing or ‘activity-form’ which has his left hand holding an alms bowl against his navel, while his right hand forms the mudra (hand-sign) of “giving consolation and peace to all living beings”.

Di Zhang Pu Sa has many emanations and he has manifested in countless forms to save beings at different times and places. In the Chinese Buddhist Pantheon his is the only figure in the form of a monk. This is to indicate that Mahayana Buddhism is suitable for both the monks and the laity.
Di Zhang’s compassion is not practiced exclusively for the benefit of the beings of the hell realm, he also gives blessings to those of the world who seek his help and he is a comforter of the poor, oppressed, sick, hungry, and those who are troubled by spirits and nightmares. Those who have firm faith in him can easily receive his protection. With faith one needs to recite any of these simple prayers:

Images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are recognized by the symbols that they are associated with. Each of these symbols has a particular meaning which most people are unaware of. For example, the KHAKKHARA, or Ringed Staff, which Di Zhang holds, is not only meant to warn small and crawling creatures of his approach so as to avoid stepping on them but also to inform people of his presence through the jingling caused by the rings. Often a traveling monk on a pilgrimage has to stop at homes to seek alms and since he does not wish to speak unnecessarily, he usually announces his arrival by shaking his sounding staff.

The Khakkhara is often a wooden staff capped with metal loops or crotchets and rings, which are four, six or twelve in number. The Four-ringed staff is carried by a monk who has perceived the Four Noble Truths of Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering. The Six-ringed staff belongs to a Bodhisattva who is constantly practicing the Six Paramitas, while the Twelve-ringed staff is held by a Pratyeka Buddha who has realized the Twelve-fold Links of Causation.

As a result of Di Zhang P’usa having made this promise to Sakyamuni Buddha: “I will fulfill your instructions to continue to relieve beings from their states of suffering and lead them to Salvation. I shall strive to work hard until the next Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, comes to the world “. He is also adored as the “Master of the Six Worlds of Desire,” thus there are depictions of him being surrounded by a Bodhisattva, an Asura, a Man, an Animal (horse or ox), a Preta, and a Demon holding a pitchfork, which symbolizes the six different forms he assumes in the six realms to save the beings there.

In the Chapter 12: The Benefits of Seeing and Hearing of the Di Zhang Sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha gave this advice for the benefit of all human beings:
“Listen to me carefully and I shall tell you in detail. If virtuous ones of the future see the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s image, hear the Ksitigarbha Sutra, recite this Sutra, make offerings to Ksitigrabha, pay homage to him, they will receive these benefits:

1. They will be protected by devas and dragons.
2. Their ability to do good will be increased.
3. Opportunities for doing good will increase.
4. They will strive to attain Buddhahood.
5. They will enjoy sufficiency of food and clothing.
6. They will be free from diseases.
7. Floods and fire will not affect them.
8. Robbers will not trouble them.
9. They will be respected and admired by people.
10. Spirits and devas will protect and assist them.
11. Females shall be reborn as males.
12. The females will become daughters of noble and exalted families.
13. They will be reborn with good complexion.
14. They will be reborn in the heavens for many lives.
15. They will be reborn as kings or rulers of countries.
16. They will have wisdom to recollect their past lives.
17. They will be successful in all their aspirations.
18. They will enjoy happy family relationships.
19. Disasters will not affect them.
20. Their bad karma will be removed.
21. Wherever they go, they are safe.
22. They shall always have peaceful dreams.
23. Their deceased relatives shall be free from sufferings.
24. They will be reborn with happiness.
25. They will be praised by divine beings.
26. They will be intelligent and skilful.
27. They will have compassion for others.
28. They will finally attain Buddhahood.

The birthday of Di Zhang Pu Sa falls on the 30th day of the 7th moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. All over the world Buddhist temples offer prayers to Di Zhang Pu Sa during the 7th lunar month for the benefit of the dead.
Di Zhang’s popularity among the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists is second only to Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa as he takes upon himself the fearful and difficult task of bringing relief and consolation to the suffering beings of hell.

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Liu Ren Xian Shi (六壬仙師 ).


A renowned Taoist master during the Tang dynasty originates from ChangAn Province China. His actual name is Lee Shun Feng (李淳風). This Taoist Sect is also known as Shun Feng Tao (淳風道) named after the founder of this Sect. At a young age he had learning disabilities, both his parents were very concern. They invited a Taoist master to view his physiognomy.

Physiognomy, which claims to find correspondences between bodily features and psychological characteristics, often makes use of such supposed similarities. The Taoist master revealed that based on the physiognomy of the child, his learning disabilities are only temporarily. He has the features of a great sage and shall lead living beings to salvations.

After the Taoist master gave the prediction, later at the age of six he can master all the Chinese classics, literatures and even memorize every single word after reading once! He was so brilliant that not anyone can match him at that age. Due to his past karma or affinity with the Taoist master he met him again at the age of twelve and requested the Taoist master to take him as a disciple. However the Taoist master refused as he was told to fulfill his obligations to his parents. In China we place great emphasis in filial piety and repaying the kindness of parents. The Taoist master promised him that when the time is ripe he shall appear again to offer him the discipleship. He didn’t have to wait long as both his parents deceased when he was nineteenth years old.

He followed the Taoist Master and learned Taoist alchemy, spiritual cultivations, meditations, divination, and art of war. With the wisdom and power he possessed he begins helping numerous people, everywhere relieving them of their hardship and suffering. Her was later canonized as a deity and the founder of Taoist sect Shun Feng Tao ( 淳 風 道 ).

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Lord Guan Ti ( 關 帝 聖 君 )

Zhou Chang ( 周 倉 )              Guan Ti ( 關 帝 )                  Guan Ping ( 關 平 )


Guan Ti or Guan Yun Chang was born in Shan Xi province during the Three Kingdom (220 – 260 AD). He led a simple life and made his living as a young man by selling bean-curds, thus he is worship by bean-curd sellers as their patron god today. He has an excellent memory power that he had the ability to recite word for word the entire Classics after reading it for once.

Therefore students taking examinations usually pray to him to bless them success. He is also worshipped as the God of Literature by scholars. Some idols of Guan Ti can be found seated while holding a book.

He was known for his righteous, and justice which got Guan Yu into trouble when he interfered with a licentious and corrupt magistrate who forced a poor lady to become his concubine. The magistrate was slayed by Guan Yu. He had to flee for his life and escape to the mountain to seek refuge. As he was on his journey to the neighboring province he stops by a stream to have a wash; when to his surprise he noticed a great changed in his appearance! His facial complexion had changed from pale white to reddish tint which saved him to disguise himself and was able to walk through the sentries who was guarding the mountain pass.

When he reached Chu-Chou of the Szechuan Province he be, befriends Zhang Fei and Liu Bei who shared his noble ideals and virtues. They took the oath of brotherhood in a peach orchard, and sworn as “brothers”. Chang Fei was a butcher, became the youngest brother. He was a man of fiery temper who had an unyielding sense of justice and was well known for his immense appetite both for food and adventure. He had a black face which was full of whiskers and his formidable height of seven feet tall; very few would dare cross his path. His great love and loyalty to Guan Yu has won him a place of honor he is always seen standing beside Kuan Yu in all depictions.

Liu Bei, the elder brother who came from a distinguished but impoverished family with imperial linkage, was known to be a man of honor.  Guan Yu, a powerful figure of more than eight feet tall, possessed an enigmatic personality and integrity that won him respect of all whom he met.

Together the three sworn brothers set out and became involved in military pursuits, They displayed great military prowess and fought many battles which is recorded in details in the famous novels of “The Three Kingdoms”.  Based on the recorded history of his life Guan Yu had many occasions display his nobility, uprightness, integrity, loyalty and bravery. Despite living at a time of great distress and chaos during the Han Dynasty, he would never be tempted to acquire wealth, fame and power as he remain faithful to his oath that he had taken with his brothers at the peach orchard; “ To be loyal to each other in life and united in death”.

In the year 219 A.D. he was captured by Sun Chuan and executed. It was recorded that on the night of his death, his spirit appeared before a Buddhist monk, to seek refuge to the Buddha dharma. Based on a Buddhist account, Guan Yu manifest before the Tripitaka Master Chi Tsai, the founder of Tien Tai Buddhism, with a retinue of spiritual beings. After receiving the teachings Guan Yu requested the Five precepts and took refuge in the Buddha dharma. He vowed that he would be a dharma protector to the Buddha Dharma. Hence, his idol is usually found in the hall of most Buddhist temples. He had earned his place in both the Taoist and Buddhist  pantheon of deities. 

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Goddess of the Northern Star

( Dou Mu Yuan Jun, 斗 母 元 君 ) 

Goddess of the Northern Star ( 斗 母 元 君 ) 

Tou Mu, the Bushel Mother, or Goddess of the North Star, are worshipped by both Buddhists and Taoists. From a Taoist perspective she is a stellar divinity, her full name being Jiu Lin Tai Miao Bai Yu Gui Tai Zu Guang Jin Jing Zu Mu Yuan Jun (九 靈 太 妙 白 玉 貴 台 祖 光 金 精 祖 母 元 君 ). She is also called Du Mu Yuan Jun ( 斗 母 元 君 ).

As told in the scriptures, Madame Zi Guang went to the imperial garden for sight seeing. She was captivated by the hot spring water next to the lotus pool and took a bath there, miraculously nine lotus buds appeared and after a while the lotus blossomed and came out nine infants. After these nine children grown up, the eldest son Gou Cheng Xing ( 勾 城 星 ) became one of the heavenly gods, named North Star (Zi Wei Da Di, 紫 微 大 帝 ). The rest of the brothers were Tang Lang ( 貪 狼 ), Ju Men ( 巨门 ), Lu Cun ( 路存),  Wen Qu ( 文 曲 ), Lian Zhen         ( 廉 貞 ), Wu Qu ( 武 曲 ) and Po Jun ( 破 君 ) are the group of stars known as the Big Dipper Seven Stars.

After giving birth to nine sons Madame Zi Guang was honoured with the title Big Dipper True Holy Virtue Heavenly Queen ( 北 斗 九 真 聖 德 天 后 ).

There is another legend that states The King of Chou Yue, in the north, married her on hearing of her many virtues. They had nine sons. Yuan-shih T’ien Jun        ( 元 始 天 君 ) came to earth to invite her, her husband, and nine sons to enjoy the delights of Heaven.

The Big Dipper Seven Stars are in charge of the fate of human and earthly fate in the universe. Every star controls the earthly fate for a period of 20 years. The division of 3 yuan and 9 yun (三 云 九 運 ) of Feng shui originated from this theory.

For these who offend the Grand Duke or Tai Sui ( 太 歲 ) for the year of the Dog 2006, should pray to Tai Sui. However there is another alternative besides praying to Tai Sui, you can also pray to Goddess of the Northern Star or Dou Mu to relieve you of any difficulty, danger and bad luck. Those affected sign are Ox, Ram, Dog, Rat, Dragon and Monkey for this year 2006.

The reason is because the Goddess of the Northern Star is the mother of Nine Stars her power is inconceivable as she oversee the welfare of all beings.

She is depicted with 3 eyes on her forehead, 4 heads on shoulders, a head with 4 faces, 8 arms 2 palms clasp together, the other 6 arms holding a sun, moon, precious bell, bow and arrow, a seal of authority and halberd.  She bears a close resemblance to the Buddhist deity Marichi, Goddess of Dawn. Her features and the dharma implements she’s holding are almost identical.

Marichi, Goddess of the Dawn


Marichi, (Tibetan Buddhism : o zer chen ma, English: the One Having Light Rays), Goddess of the Dawn. Marichi is a red-coloured female yidam associated with the sun and with dawn.

Her mantra is traditionally used as protection by travelers. She has three faces, eight arms and two legs. She holds the powerful Tantric tools (in her right hands) of vajra (at the heart in the mudra of teaching), the vajra ax, the arrow, the mudra of generosity (holding a sewing needle. In her left hands: the mudra of teaching hold the stem of a healing plant, a bow, a thread, and loop with hook drawn along by seven white boars.

The goddess Marichi is the manifestation of the twenty-one forms of Tara and has the special power to avert bandits, robbers, and thieves. She is a most sublime goddess who is the ally of beings who are bereft of companionship and support and who are subject to the coercion of others more powerful than they.

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The Eight Immortals

The Chinese character 仙, which signify immortal, is composed of 人 man and 山 a mountain. It denotes the superior class of human spirits, who, having been deified, dwell in remote mountains devoid of human inhabitants. They are imbued with the power of being visible and invisible at pleasure, of raising the dead, of changing stones they touch into gold, and of effecting at pleasure various other wonderful transmutations. The Eight Immortals or Ba Xian (八仙), are legendary beings of the Taoist sect, said to have lived at various times and attained immortality through their cultivation of Tao’s or nature secret.
Their eminent position has been attained by cultivation, to which eight, including one female (He Xian Gu, 何仙姑) have risen higher than other.

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The Chief of the Eight Immortals
Zhong LiQuan, 鐘离權


In Taoism, he is known as Zheng Yang Ju Shi, 正陽袓師. Literally, the True Yang First Master. He is the Chief of the Eight Immortals, is said to have lived during the Han dynasty and have possessed the secrets of the elixir of life, and the power of transmutation. He is also known as Zhongli of Han (漢鐘離) because he was born in the Han Dynasty. He is usually depicted as a fat man exposing his bare belly, always grasping his emblem, a fan, which has the magical ability of reviving the dead. 

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Zhang GuoLao, 張果老


Elder Zhang Guo, lived during the 7th and 8th century AD is a hermit who had spiritual powers of magic, i.e. rendering himself invisible, He is accompanied by a white mule, which carried him immense distances and when not, required was transformed into a paper mule, folded up and put away in his pouch. When he wished to resume his travels, he sprinkles some water upon the paper mule revived it and the mule will appear at once. He generally rode his mule backwards. His emblem is the “Yugu” (魚故), a kind of musical instrument in the shape of bamboo tube or drum with two rods to beat it.

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Lu Dong Bin, 呂洞


He is the most widely known among the group of deities known as the Eight Immortals and hence considered by some to be the de facto leader. He was born during the Tang Dynasty (AD750). A scholar and ascetic who learnt the secrets of Taoism from Zhong LiQuan, the Chief of the Eight Immortals, and attained immortality at the age 50. He is the patron saint of barbers and is also worshipped by the sick. He is generally depicted wearing a scholar clothes and head gear, holds in his right hand a Taoist fly whisk, and his emblem, a sword, which is slung across his back. He is well known of slaying and getting rids of various forms of evil on earth for more than 400 years.

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Cao Guo Jiu, 曹國舅


He was born during the Song Dynasty (AD930-999) as the son of a military commander by the name Cao Bin 曹彬, that happens to be the brother of Empress Cao Hou 曹后. He is depicted dressed in official robes, a court headdress and he holds a pair of castanets, which is his emblem. The castanets are said to be derived from the court tablets, authorizing free access to the Imperial palace, to which he was entitled due to his birth. 

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Li TieGuai, 李铁拐


He was born during the Western Zhou period, and was originally named Li Yüan. He studied with Lao Tzu (founder of Taoism) and Goddess Hsi Wang Mu. He is said to have devoted 40 years to the practice of meditation and cultivation of Taoist esoteric practice.

Before becoming an immortal, he had a pleasant disposition. However, on one occasion his spirit traveled to celestial realm. He instructs his disciple to wait seven days for his spirit to return; but after six days the student had to return to attend his sick mother, so he cremated his body assuming that he had deceased.

Upon returning, Li was forced to enter the only body available, the corpse of a homeless beggar who had died of starvation; who unfortunately had “a long and pointed head, blackened face, woolly and disheveled beard and hair, huge eyes, and a lame leg.” His emblem is the pilgrim’s gourd which identifies him as one of the Eight Immortals, and his iron crutch.

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Han  XiangZi, 韓湘子


He is the nephew of Han Yu 韓愈, a famous scholar and statesman who lived during the Tang Dynasty (AD820). He is the disciple of Lu DongBin, he became an immortal when he fell into a supernatural peach tree. He has the ability of making flowers grow and blossom instantaneously. His emblem is the flute, and he is the patron of musicians. He wanders around, playing his flute, enticing birds and beast of prey by the sweet melodious sound of his flute. 

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Lan Caihe, 藍采和


He was from Tang Dynasty. His behavior was out of norm and known for its bizarreness. He wore only shorts and thin shirts in winter, and thick jacket and long pants in summer. He walked with one foot bare and another with shoe.
His distinctive emblem is a flower-basket, often carried slung on a hoe over his shoulder. The basket contains various flora associated with ideas of longevity.

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He Xian Gu, 何仙姑


Lived during the 7th century AD, she is the daughter of a shopkeeper of LingLing 零陵, Hunan province in the Tang Dynasty. According to one account at the age of thirteen, she often went to the mountains to collect medicinal herbs. One day, she encountered the Immortal Lu DongBin who gave her a peach and told her, “You shall become an immortal is you eat it”. She did as he said, and miraculously she, never felt hungry or thirsty, can float and jumped from one cliff to another gathering medicinal herbs to help the sick. In addition, she could predict people’s fortune.  Her emblem is the lotus, which she carries in her hand. And at times she is also depicted holding a fly whisk on the other hand.

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Er Lang Shen, 二郎神


Erlang Shen (二郎神), named Yang Jian (杨戬), is a Chinese God with a third true-seeing eye in the middle of his forehead.  According to the “Story about Li Bing and his son in harnessing the rivers”, After being appointed governor of Sichuan by King Zhao of the State of Qin. Li Bing diverts water from the two rivers of Chengdu to irrigate thousand hectares of farmlands. His son ErLang helps him to build water control systems to prevent flood. Based on a historical record says, “The Erlang Temple of Guan-Kou in Sichuan was established to commemorate LiBing’s merits in opening up wells, building bridges, irrigation of the agricultural lands, developing the Guanxian area and Chengdu plain, and increasing agricultural production.

Here is another legend about ErLang with his seven friends vanquishing an evil dragon. On their journey ErLang and his seven friends approached a thatched cottage by a river near the county town of Guanxian, they heard someone crying inside. They entered and found an elderly woman wailing for her youngest grandson who was to be taken away as a sacrificial offering for the river god-an evil dragon. Astonished, ErLang seek his father advice on how to capture the monster. LiBing taught him a strategy, on the sacrificial procession ErLang holding his three-pointed and double-edged sword in hand, went into the River God Temple with his seven friends, and hid themselves behind the altar.

After a while, the dragon descends with a gust of strong wind and torrential rain into the temple to snatch the sacrifice. ErLang and his mates jumped out immediately and fight it. Defeated the dragon flee out of the temple. As planned by LiBing the villagers beat their drums and gongs to emit loud sounds to petrify the dragon. This scared the dragon who fled into the river. ErLang and his mates pursued the dragon by diving into the river. The dragon was finally captured.

The old woman who had been grievously crying for her grandson gave ErLang a chain to express her gratitude for saving his grandson. ErLang tied the dragon to a stone post of the Vanquishing Dragon Temple and had it detained in a deep pool. From that day onwards, the area was free from flood.     
ErLang is depicted carrying a three-pointed and double edge-sword and has a Celestial Hound that follows him around


  Chinese Seals


Introduction to Chinese Seals




Chinese seal carving is not an average skill. It is indispensable to deal with the methodologies of (seal script) calligraphy, ideas, and carving. The ancient Chinese wrote according to the Six Principles to compose Chinese scripts; a minimal error or deviation results in wide divergence. If one creates new scripts without studying and obeying the principles, the writing is not considered calligraphy. As for designing the arrangement of scripts in a seal, one has to consider the disposition of strokes and the various effects. The designs are different for seals with one or several characters – their angles, roundness, and lengths differ. There always exist principles as to modify the angles, roundness and lengths. If there is a minimal incoherence, it is not a good design. As for carving, do not imitate the shapes of a sparrow’s tail or a saw’s teeth. Practicing diligently for many days and months will help the carver obtain proficiency, natural smoothness and coherence, and joyfulness. On the contrary, if one labors to copycat ancient seals without understanding, traces of incoherence will show and this is not considered good carving.

Adapted from Seal Collections of Baojin Studio by Wang Zhuan of Ching Dynasty




Chinese seal engraving can be traced back to more than 3,000 years ago to the Shang Dynasty when the inscriptions on tortoise shells and bronze were available for recording happenings and ideas of human being. The early Chinese seals were in the form of engraved pictographic characters and simple decorative patterns. From archeological finds, bronze seals engraved with pictographic characters are known to have existed in the Shang Dynasty. Some of those crudely made seals, though not matured in a high art form, are indicative of the simplicity of beauty found in early civilization of China.



Inscription of a fish-shaped character in Shang Dynasty

Chinese seals perform a simple, uniform purpose. They serve as a personal signature of their owner, or more significantly, they serve as the symbol of legitimacy for a ruler or a high social status. The use of seals in China originated during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods. There was a need for a formal system to record and preserve records of economic, military, and administrative functions. The development of Chinese seals, either from function or artistic forms, went on from craftspeople and artisans to the emperors and all walks of life.

Until the end of the Warring States Periods, there was only one way to classify seals – official and private, regardless of their use and material.

Official seals   官印

Official seals were conferred to officials to represent their rank and authority. These seals were usually small enough to be carried on the official’s belt. Regulations existed as to the material and shape of the handle of these seals. Up to the Eastern Han Dynasty, the color of ink used to affix official seals was regulated depending on the position of each official. 



Private seals   私印

Private seals were not regulated by the governments and therefore they had the largest variety in content, shape, size, material and calligraphy styles. Despite of their varied characteristics, they can still be categorized based on their uses.

Seals with names, pen names, pseudonyms, and etc on them were used as a signature by people in their private life. This is how artists signed their works and letters. Chinese literati commonly used a number of different pen names. So identifying an artist’s name from a seal can be a profound skill.



Collector’s Seals ( 收藏章 ) were mainly used for the purpose of authenticating pieces of art. Thus a seal of a famous collector or connoisseur would become an integral part of a work of art and could substantially raise its value. Thus in the course of several centuries, some Chinese paintings became covered by a dozen of different seals.



The rest of private seals can be conveniently categorized as “Leisure Seals 閑章“. The inscription on these seals is usually a short phrase quoted from a poem or saying that the seal owner thought was poetic or meaningful.



A master seal engraver must be able to write different styles of the Chinese scripts and arrange all the characters in a perfect balance. Sometimes the artist has to exaggerate the thickness or thinness of a stroke, elaborately straighten or curve it, or even deliberately deform an ideogram to create an artistic effect. Basically, a master seal engraver must also be a great Zuan Shu calligrapher.


The strokes of the Zuan Shu character in the middle were deliberately lengthened


A perfect seal also relies heavily on the engraver’s speed and strength of his wrist and finger movements as well as the particular tools used. The engraver should also be very familiar with different materials like jade, gold, brass, and stone, so that he can apply the tool with the right strength and rhythm.



Seal carving is an integration of limitation and infinity. A seal’s physical size and space are totally unproportionate to its spiritual content in a condensed art form. The meaning it intends to express is often extremely delicate and abstruse. Under the carving knives of outstanding seal engravers, dots, lines, raises, concaves, sparsity, density, punching, and cutting have all become demonstrative elements in highly abstract forms.

A good seal stamp on a Chinese calligraphy or painting work will give the artwork a new look. A good Chinese painter or seal maker must be a good Chinese calligrapher because Chinese painting and seal making both have a strong root in Chinese calligraphy. However, a good Chinese calligrapher does not necessarily need to be a painter or seal maker. Nowadays people seem to neglect the strict rules of putting seal stamps on calligraphy and painting works in appropriate positions due to lack of study.

 few days ago, we went to a consignment store in Healdsburg to get some puzzles for my sweetie’s collection. While there, I found the best seal yet. Shaped like the head of the Buddha, about 12cm tall, and very well carved; whoever made this knew what they were doing. It’s also unusually large, with an inscription nearly twice the size of any other seal I’ve ever seen.


The inscription reads “皇帝行寶” (“huáng dì xíng băo”). “皇帝” means “Emperor” (as in Qin Shi Huangdi, the name of China’s first Emperor). “行” means to walk, to travel, or a road or path, and also to act or to put into effect. “寶” means “treasure”, and was used as a term for royal and official seals (as opposed to “印”, “yìn”, which was used with personal seals).

From what I’ve been able to discern from searching on this phrase, this appears to be an official seal of some sort. It would be used on documents to give the Emperor’s authority to an official action. The inscription could be read as, roughly, “Carried out in the Emperor’s name”. The size and quality of the carving also suggest this, as official seals were made to higher standards. Seals in the shape of the Buddha’s head weren’t uncommon, either.

I’m not sure how old it is; the dealer couldn’t give me any information on that. If it’s genuine and not a modern recreation, then given the outstanding condition, it would most likely date to the later Qing dynasty–19th or early 20th century, right before the revolution that created the Republic of China. However, it’s most likely a modern imitation. At some point, I should take it to an expert to find out.

Even so, it’s beautiful, and I’m happy to have found it. (It was also an outrageous bargain!) Nothing like serendipity, eh?

Mar 30, 2011

A new hobby

art, China, Chinese, hobbies , 11 Comments

One side-effect of my learning about Chinese in this last year has been finding out about seals.

Handwritten signatures aren’t very important in China, certainly less so than here in the West. Part of the reason is, apparently, that the ideographic writing system gives less room for creativity and individuality. But, for whatever reason, signatures never developed the cachet that they did in Europe.

Instead, for millennia, the Chinese have used seals–small stamps, usually of stone (everything from soapstone to jade), with a name, a slogan, or an abstract design.

Most people in China have at least one of these, with their name, usually in a somewhat stylized script. It’s used for all kinds of daily business, in the same way that Westerners use a signature–cashing checks, signing contracts, etc. Artists and intellectuals might also have additional seals for their studios, or seals carved with inspirational sayings. They are also required for all businesses operating in China, as well as for government agencies. A special cinnabar paste is used to give that rich red color that the Chinese love so much. (Cinnabar contains mercury, but that doesn’t seem to be a major concern.)

The seal is an interesting alternate solution to the problem of identity. In many ways, it’s actually more secure than a signature. The seal is tied to a specific physical object that the person keeps in a secure location. And, since seals are mostly handmade, they all contain their own unique flaws and imperfections, which make them nearly impossible to fake without access to the original.

Seals aren’t terribly well-known over here, because they’re not used much outside mainland China. (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea also use them, but they’re not quite as important as in the PRC.) About the only place we ever see them is on Chinese artworks. Chinese artists use them to sign their works–and, interestingly, a collector will mark the work with his or her own seal. If this is tastefully done, it doesn’t harm the value of the artwork at all, and can even enhance it if the collector is important. (I’ve seen reproductions of thousand-year-old Chinese paintings with up to 30 seals from the collectors whose hands they’ve passed through.) They are also often used to mark books, in the same way we might use a book plate.

Naturally, the creation of these seals is an industry and art form all to itself. The top of a seal often has a sculpture, usually with special meaning for the owner. Another specialist carves the imprint on the bottom of the seal–or the owner may do it himself. The final product is a miniature art piece with a practical purpose.

Obviously, when I found out about these, my collector sense went off, and I knew I had to have one for myself.

You might remember when I chose the Chinese name 安彬锐 (An Binrui). To get my seal design, I started with an online generator that could create it using a traditional seal script. The result wasn’t perfect, though; it didn’t match up with images of actual seals that I had seen. So I rearranged a little, and got the above.

So far, so good; now I needed a stone. I soon found a couple in antique stores. The first one I found was this one, blank, with a nicely crafted dog for the sculpture. (My Chinese astrological sign is the Monkey, but never mind that.)

It was originally about 3/4 of an inch taller, but it had some significant damage along one edge. So I simply got out the dremel and cut off the bottom end.

Shortly after that, I found a second blank stone, not as nice, to use for practice.

I didn’t have the proper tools, but I discovered quickly that the stone is soft enough to work without too much trouble. I actually ended up doing most of the work on both with the end of a paperclip–although I had a couple of fine screwdriver blades that also worked well. An hour or so of work, a bit of polishing with the dremel, and voila.

The symbol on this one, 知, means “knowledge”. A little crude, but I still like it.

A few days later, I tackled the big one. I marked the larger stone and got to work. It wasn’t easy, I had to start over a couple of times, and my hands were sore when I was done, but I was pleased with the final result.

And, the moment of truth:

Not bad at all. It’s still crude compared to the work of professional carvers, but for an amateur like me–who had never done any stone carving at all before–it’s pretty good. If I do say so myself. And yes, there are flaws, but that just gives it authenticity, I think.

I don’t know that I’ll be making any more seals for myself, but I can totally see myself collecting them. I found a third pretty quickly–with a Chinese version of “Anna”, probably a souvenir from a Chinatown somewhere–and I’ve since seen some very beautiful ones for sale.

Not that I really need another hobby, of course…

Jul 17, 2010

By any other name

China, Chinese, personal , 2 Comments

Back in March, when I was first starting to learn Chinese, I realized early on that I wanted to make use of Chinese websites and social networks to help me learn the language. But I had a dilemma. What name to use? I use my real name pretty much everywhere online–I’ve hated cutesy handles for quite a while now–but I wanted something more appropriate for Chinese sites.

Often, Western students of Chinese receive a name early in their class, usually by choosing it with the help of the instructor; in business contexts, a name might be given by a Chinese-speaking colleague. This is because many Chinese have trouble using and remembering Western names, and also because it makes a useful exercise. But I don’t have an instructor, and so, if I wanted a Chinese name, I had to do it myself. And I quickly discovered that this is harder than you might expect, for several reasons.

First, Chinese names are structured very differently. A standard Chinese personal name consists of three characters. (There are variations–for example, some family names have two characters instead of one–but this is rare.) The first character is the family name, which for Westerners is usually drawn from the most common family names. The second is a generational name, which for native Chinese is typically the same for all children in a family in the same generation; these are chosen in advance by the family. And the third character is the true given name.

In addition to this, there is meaning to consider. In the West, we typically assign names with little thought to what the words mean; probably most people have no idea what the etymology and original meaning of their name was. (I happen to know mine; “Brian” is Celtic and means “noble”.) Chinese doesn’t work the same way; most names are made up of common words that are in wide use. So it’s very important to consider the meaning of the words when choosing a name. This is complicated by the fact that Chinese has so many homonyms; one needs to know not just what the potential name means, but all its sound-alikes as well.

Plus, numerology is important. Characters are assigned to yin or yang, depending on whether the number of strokes in the character is even or odd, and there are particular patterns of yin and yang that are favored. And, finally, there are several cultural factors and taboos; certain qualities are particular to men or women, names are supposed to be well-balanced soundwise and require few strokes to write, and while originality is valued, the name should still be made up of common words.

So, what to do? I spent a good deal of time doing research and reading everything I could find online about Chinese names. After much thinking, playing, reading, and gnashing of teeth, I came up with a name.

I am:


Or “ān bīn ruì”, also written An Binrui.

So, why these characters? Well, “ān bīn ruì” (high tone for the first two syllables, falling tone for the third) bears a little resemblance to Brian, and that’s good. Moreover:

The family name 安 (ān) is one of the 100 most common Chinese family names; it means “peaceful”, “tranquil”, or “quiet”, and also has connotations of stability, security, and honesty.

The generational name 彬 (bīn), meaning “cultivated”, reflects a respect for tradition. Also, its most common homonym, 宾, means “guest” or “visitor”, which reflects my outsider status within the culture.

(Incidentally, fans of anime will be interested to know that in Japanese, 彬 is pronounced “akira”. It has the same meaning as in Chinese.)

The given name 锐 (ruì) means “sharp”, and reflects intellect and wisdom. Besides applying well to me (heh), these are traditionally masculine qualities and are therefore appropriate for a male name. It also has a common homonym, 瑞, meaning “auspicious” or “lucky”, which is nice.

These are all common words that require few strokes to write, and the complete name is well-balanced between vowels and consonants. Also, thankfully, the name appears to be unique. I was unable to find any hits for it on Google or on its Chinese competitor Baidu. Uniqueness is very good.

I haven’t had a chance to check with a native Chinese speaker to find out if I messed up, but from everything I’ve read, I think I did okay. And I’ve been using the name on Baidu Space for four months now without comment–although I do intend to write a version of this post there to find out for certain.

So. I already had my Western name–actually, I’ve had two, since I took my spouse’s surname last year–as well as a Tibetan name (Tenzin Galpo) from a Buddhist teacher some years ago. And now I have a Chinese name as well. I wonder if I’ll be getting any more?

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Jun 27, 2010

Virtual travel

China, photos, travel, web 2.0 , 0 Comment

Last week, I was at the bookstore and came across China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford. This book, based on a series of NPR stories Gifford filed in 2004, chronicles his trip across China on Route 312, a highway stretching across the country from Shanghai to the border with Kazakhstan in the far northwest.

After I read the book, it occurred to me that I had tools for following his journey that did not exist at the time–namely, Google Earth and Panoramio. So I fired up Google Earth to see what I could find.

For those who aren’t familiar with Panoramio, it’s a photo-sharing site, owned by Google, that allows photos to be stored with geotagging information–either added automatically by the camera, or created by hand afterward. The site is loaded with millions of images from all over the world, mostly created and shared by amateurs. And many of them also find their way into Google Earth and Google Maps. So this is a marvelous way to get an idea of what a given place looks like.

Now, I wasn’t expecting to find many images outside of China’s major cities; not too many Westerners find their way into the back country, and I assumed that few Chinese out there would have the motivation and ability to share their photos. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only had some Chinese (mostly cyclists) visited these areas and posted pictures, but a few foreigners had also traveled the long and slow way.

In particular, there was a German fellow that I had already known about, who walked across China in 2007 in a project called The Longest Way. (I found out about him through an awesome video self-portrait he had posted.) So imagine my delight when I found that he had taken lots of photos all along his route–over 7000 in all–and that all of them were geotagged and placed in Panoramio.

So I got to spend several hours over three days virtually traveling Route 312, through his and others’ eyes.

It’s difficult to express how it felt to see all of these places that I probably will never visit in person. I’m not just talking about major landmarks, though those are definitely interesting. I’m much more interested in the little places.

The Emperor Of Shun


Chinese  Three

Surnamed Yao, Shun was the designated throne successor to Emperor Yao, who set great store by Shun’s moral integrity and unusual talent. Shun was also known for his filial piety.

Legend has it that Shun was born in a humble family. Although the family was descended from Emperor Zhuanxu, they were commoners for five generations, living at the lowest social stratum. Shun was frequently mistreated by the family, but he remained filial to his parents. When choosing a successor, Emperor Yao married his two daughters off to Shun in an attempt to test Shun’s morals and capabilities. Shun not only made his two wives live in harmony with the whole family, but also demonstrated exceptional talent and moral integrity in every aspect of life.

After ascending the throne, Shun made revisions to calendar systems and held various sacrificial rituals. Meanwhile, he attached great importance to connections with local authorities by calling in vassals and local officials on a regular basis as a way of strengthening the control over those areas.

According to legend, one of Shun’s state-ruling policies was “exhibiting (to the people) the statutory punishments and enacting banishment as a mitigation of the five (severe) penalties”. The five penalties were depicted on vessels as a warning and cruel penalties were replaced with banishment as a sign of leniency.

For officials, Shun stipulated that their political achievements should be assessed every three years and their promotion or demotion would be determined according to the results of three times’ assessment.

In his old age, Shun abdicated the throne in favor of Yu, who had both ability and integrity. It is said that Shun was buried in Jiuyi Mountain in the south of the Yangtze River after his death. The tomb was known as “Ling Mausoleum

star Gods 

Chinese early Republican Period, Famille Rose enameled porcelain figures of the Three Star Gods, Fu (Good Fortune), Lu (Prosperity), and Shou (Longevity) standing in elaborately embellished robes, Shou with natural hair inserts. Bases with impressed mark. Fu measures: 24.5″h. Lu measures: 27″h. Shou measures: 24″h.

Buddhist Swastika

 Chinese blue and white dish with foliate rim, Wanl


Chinese blue and white dish with foliate rim, Wanl Ref: R12
Chinese blue and white dish with foliate rim, Wanli (1573-1619), decorated with a central star containing swastika motifs, the rim with Daoist emblems; diameter: 8 in., 20.3cm ; condition: rim frits

Compare with Japanese ware




Meiji era to Showa era Japanese buddhism MANJI (swastika) ceramic plate. The swastika is a buddhist symbol that predates the Nazis by a few thousand years, so it has nothing to do with them. It was also seen as a good luck symbol in the west. Did you know t was a swastika painted in the nosecone of the Spirit of St. Louis? The plate measures approx. 5 inches in diameter. Learn more about the swastika : /wiki/Swastika Winning bidders from Italy, Latvia, Russia and China must pay extra for EMS delivery. No exceptions

CONDITION: Excellent. T is a tiny hairline on the rim only. Still beautiful

The Chinese Imperial Ceramic Artwork Found In Indonesia ( Continiu )






Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA

Private Limited E-Book In CD-Rom Edition

Special For Senior Reseacher And Collectors

Copyright @ 2013

THIS THE SAMPLE OF Dr Iwan Limited E-Book In CD-Rom with unedited non complete info illustration, the complete CD-Rom exist but only for premium member please subscribe via comment with your email address and private information same as  your ID-Card


Driwancybermuseum Homeoffice  


Nice Handmade Chinese Qing Dynasty Imperial Officer Broadsword Rare

Old Chinese Sword

A Rare Jewelled and Canton-Enamelled Gilt-Decorated Sword and Basse-Taille Scabbard with Gold Foils, Qing Dynasty, Jiaqing Period, Circa 1800<br /><br /><br />
Sotheby’s, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, Oct 5th

A Rare Jewelled and Canton-Enamelled Gilt-Decorated Sword and Basse-Taille Scabbard with Gold Foils, Qing Dynasty, Jiaqing Period, Circa 1800

 Chinese Sword Dadao 1933

info from auctions



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compare with the japanese and Korean sword

 There are seems tobe a lot of misunderstanding of what is Korean sword lookalike.
Well, tobe honest, both Japanese sword and Korean sword look very similar, many untrained eyes won’t tell them apart however, Korean sword always have shorter handle & slightly shorter than Japanese ones.

This is Japanese sword from 17th century
Posted Image

Modern Katana
Posted Image

This is what Korean sword from Joseon Dynasty
Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Korean sword is called Hwando (환도), and it’s one handed sword and about 60cm long where as Japanese Katana can be long as 80cm and heavier due to more steel was used to forged the sword.

There are Katana like Korean sword, which is called Yedo, which is often used in ceremonial event and carried by commander and can be 90cm long in length, the Hwando also have shorter handle as well, this is due to it can handled with one arm and other hand is to carry bow.

Joseon Hwando is more like these Turkish or Mughal sword
Posted Image

Here is what Korean fortress guard would carried, both bow & hwando.
Notice there are two sword types – longer one is Yedo, mostly carried by commander/cavalry, short one is Hwando, standard sword for Joseon army.
Posted Image
Illustration of Early Joseon middle army 14~15th century


 Tai Chi


What is Tai Chi?

Meditation in Motion

Today in the Western world the term “tai chi” has become recognised first and foremost as an exercise to promote health and longevity, usually practiced early in the morning by individuals or groups of middle-aged and elderly people. It is categorised by slow movements grouped into a set of martial forms, performed in what seems to be a meditative state. This is, in fact, a simplistic view of what is really a very complex art, steeped in Chinese history and tradition and encompassing several aspects such as martial arts, medical concepts, Chinese philosophy including Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and applicable not only to individual health and as a method of self-defence, but also to social and moral conduct, business management and marketing, and, importantly, to family cohesion.

The Meaning of Tai Chi

Attempts at translating the words Tai Chi, or Tai Ji (太極), are unlikely to convey the true meaning, and the term has already become commonly used in the Western world. However, an explanation of its history and concepts can perhaps enlighten those who are unfamiliar with the term.

As mentioned, for most Western people, Tai Chi is usually understood as a set of exercises or forms practiced in slow motion to enhance health and maintain youthfulness. It is often written as Tai Chi Chuan, or Tai Ji Quan (太極拳), the last character, chuan, often translated as “fist” and leading to the assumption that Tai Chi Chuan is some form of Chinese Boxing. A more precise understanding would be to take chuan to be a suffix that adds the notion of physical activity.

Tai Chi itself is a term found originally in ancient Chinese philosophy that eventually became associated with an evolving system of principles and exercises aimed at extending the length and quality of life through the study and practice of Nature and its relevance to human life. Later, this was applied to military strategy and martial arts.

tai chi symbol

The Emperor Sage Fu Hsi, or Fu Xi (伏羲), who lived around 2,400BC, is attributed as the creator of the Tai Chi symbol (see picture) and the Ba Gua (八卦) “eight trigrams” symbols. Fu Hsi studied the cyclical changes of Nature and attempted to arrange knowledge of these cycles into an organised system. The Tai Chi symbol is, as it were, a statement about the reality of Nature, a reality as a continuous flow of cyclic change and blending. The circle represents the fullness of reality, within the circle are the principles of Yin (陰), represented by the dark area, and Yang (陽),the light area. These two areas complement each other in shape yet are opposite in shade. Each contains some of the other, as seen in the two small circles. The shape of each area also conveys the notion that each flows into the other.

The Ba Gua symbol (below) consists of eight arrangements of three solid or broken lines, often arranged around the Tai Chi symbol. Each symbol represents the major phases of cycles of Nature: heaven, earth, wind, water, mountain, thunder, fire and lake. These were further expanded, such as the heavenly cycle consisting of sun, moon, star, day, night, morning, evening, wind, thunder, rain and cloud phases; and the earthly cycle consisting of mountain, river, lake, swamp, fire, water, tree, flower and grass phases. These are symbolised by various combinations of the eight trigrams into pairs to form 64 hexagrams. The I Ching, or Yi Jing (易經), known also as The Book of Changes, is a collection of principles used to interpret Nature through the trigrams and hexagrams.

bagua symbol

Tai Chi and Taoism

Taoism (pronounced. Daoism) is an inherently Chinese philosophy primarily characterised in the ancient works of Lao Zi (老子) and Zhuang Zi (莊子). ( It should not be confused with Taoism the religion which was a later development of practices and strange rituals loosely based on Taoist philosophy.) The Taoist understanding of Tai Chi is derived from the I Ching (pronounced ee jing). Sometimes translated as ‘the grand ultimate’, it means the never changing, the one, the all. Nothing lies outside of it and nothing contains all of it. Often represented by a dot “.”, Tai Chi generates the two forces of Yin and Yang. The word Tao, or Dao (道), is usually translated as the ‘Way’ or ‘Path’. All Nature is created from the Tao and when the Yin and Yang forces are balanced and in harmony together, this also represents Tao. Everything in existence possesses the complementary elements of Yin and Yang, positive and negative, active and passive, etc. Tai Chi itself is created when Wu Chi (無極), a state of ‘nothingness’, moves. This is really an ancient Chinese perception of the creation of the universe. From nothingness, or non-being, movement begets the beginning of creation, the development of the dual forces of Yin and Yang, that constantly cycle, providing an unending process of creation.

The way of the Tao lies in stillness, Nature responds spontaneously and harmoniously, not deliberately. In application, the natural way of Tai Chi is only to defend oneself with a force much smaller than that used by an opponent. Tai Chi is not intended to injure or cause pain. Only from being relaxed can a Tai Chi practitioner achieve this. The Taoist concept of action without action (無為,無不為) or from a state of nothingness, one can react, epitomises the importance of Taoist philosophy in the application of Tai Chi. This is also expressed by how the Tai Chi practitioner can obtain good health through relaxation, balance, proper breathing and good posture.


 The Great Yu the emperor of Hsia



Yellow Emperor The Chinese believe that their history goes back 4,700 years. Archeological verification of the legendary Age of Five Rulers (2700-2200 B.C.) has not been found but there is some for the legendary Xia Dynasty (2200-1700 B.C.).

Chinese civilization, as described in mythology, begins with Pangu, the creator of the universe, and a succession of legendary sage-emperors and culture heroes who taught the ancient Chinese to communicate and to find sustenance, clothing, and shelter. The first recognized dynasty—the Xia—lasted from about 2200 to 1750 B.C. and marked the transition from the late neolithic age to the Bronze Age. Until scientific excavations were made at early bronze-age sites at Anyang, Henan Province, in 1928, it was difficult to separate myth from reality in regard to the Xia. But since then, and especially in the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists have uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs that point to the existence of Xia civilization in the same locations cited in ancient Chinese historical texts. At minimum, the Xia period marked an evolutionary stage between the late neolithic cultures and the typical Chinese urban civilization of the Shang dynasty. [Source: The Library of Congress]

The Xia was the beginning of a long period of cultural development and dynastic succession that led the way to the more urbanized civilization of the Shang Dynasty (1750–1040 B.C.). Hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of North China, and Shang armies fought frequent wars against neighboring settlements and nomadic herders from the north. The Shang capitals were centers of sophisticated court life for the king, who was the shamanistic head of the ancestor- and spirit-worship cult. Intellectual life developed in significant ways during the Shang period and flourished in the next dynasty—the Zhou (1040–256 B.C.). China’s great schools of intellectual thought—Confucianism, Legalism, Daoism, Mohism, and others—all developed during the Zhou Dynasty. [Ibid]

The intersection of migration, amalgamation, and development has characterized China’s history from its earliest origins and resulted in a distinctive system of writing, philosophy, art, and social and political organization and civilization that was continuous over the past 4,000 years. Since the beginning of recorded history (at least since the Shang Dynasty), the people of China have developed a strong sense of their origins, both mythological and real, and kept voluminous records concerning both. As a result of these records, augmented by numerous archaeological discoveries in the second half of the twentieth century, information concerning the ancient past, not only of China but also of much of East, Central, and Inner Asia, has survived. [Ibid]

Important Xia, Shang and Zhou archaeological sites include the newly-discovered Shang city ruins at Yanshi and Huanbei; the excavations of the Erlitou, Yinxu and Fenghao sites; new breakthrough discoveries at the cemeteries at the Liulihe site in Beijing, Qianzhangda in Tengzhou and Dadianzi in Inner Mongolia. Excavations at Shang and Zhou imperial cities such as the Yinxu ruins in Anyang, the Changan and Fenghao ruins in modern-day Xian, and the Eastern Zhou capital Wangcheng in Luoyang, which have helped archaeologists establish a chronology for the Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties.


Good Websites and Sources on Early Chinese History: 1) Ancient China Life ; 2) Ancient China for School Kids ; 3) Oriental Style ; 4) Chinese Text Project ; 5) Minnesota State University site ; 6) ; 7) Early Medieval China Journal ; 8) History of China ; 9) U.S.C. Education Books: Cambridge History of Ancient China edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (1999, Cambridge University Press); The Culture and Civilization of China, a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); Mysteries of Ancient China: New Discoveries from the Early Dynasties by Jessica Rawson (British Museum, 1996)

Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland ; 2) Brooklyn College site ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge ; 5) China History Forum ; 6) e-book ; 7 ) WWW VL: History China

Age of Five Rulers (2700-2200 B.C.)

According to legend, the ancient Chinese were savages until a sage taught them how to build shelters. Later other sages taught them, in succession, about fire, music and the cultivation of crops. The last of these sages was the Yellow Emperor.

The legendary Xia dynasty was preceded by three sovereigns (two male rulers and the wife of one ruler) and three emperors. The first sovereign, Fuxi, married his dragon-tailed sister the goddess Nügua, who is credited with creating the institution of marriage and molding the first human beings from clay. Fuxi bestowed the gifts of hunting, fishing and animal husbandry on humanity. His successor, the ox-headed Shennong, gave humanity agriculture and knowledge of medicinal plants.

The three emperors also bestowed gifts in humanity. The first emperor, Huangdi (Huang Di) is said to have given humanity agricultural calendars, boats, armor and pottery. He invented mathematics, medicine, the civil service, and the use of fire in cooking, and used his knowledge to unite the Chinese tribes. His wife, Lei Zu is credited with discovering how to weave silk from silk worm cocoons (See Silk, Economics). A tomb in Huang Lin, a small town Shaanxi province, about 200 kilometers north of Xian, is said to contain Huang di’s remains. “Huang Lin” literally means “Huang’s Tomb.”

The period is called the Age of the Rulers because Fuxi’s wife Nugua didn’t count. Szu, the second emperor and forth ruler, dammed 233,559 streams and built mountains in the four corners of the kingdom to halt flooding; and Emperor Shun, the last of the five, was the hero of the Great Flood and father of writing.

Xia Dynasty (2200-1700 B.C.) and the Legendary Yellow Emperor of China

Emperor Shun The Xia (Hsia) dynasty began when Shun abdicated in favor of Emperor Yu,the legendary Yellow Emperor of China, from whom all other Chinese are believed to have descended. Venerated as the first emperor of China, Yu had thousands of concubines because he believed the more sex partners he had the longer he would live. He reputedly became immortal after he made love to a thousand young virgins. Yao, another mythical emperor who followed Yu, was famous for his benevolent rule and lifestyle of a simple farmer.

The oldest bronze vessels date back to the Xia dynasty. According to legend bronze was first cast 5,000 years ago by the Yellow Emperor, who cast nine bronze tripods to symbolize the nine provinces in his empire. Bronze metallurgy in China dates back to 2000 B.C., significantly later than in southeastern Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where it developed around 3600 B.C. to 3000 B.C.

Chinese astronomers in the Xia era were among the first to chart constellations and record supernovas. In 2296 B.C., Chinese astronomers observed a comet. They also developed a system of observation based on the equator and the poles that was not adopted by Europe until 4000 years later.

For a long time it was thought the Xia dynasty was legendary but in the last couple of decades evidence has surfaced that it really existed. A site near Erlitou in Henan Province dated to 2200 to 1700 B.C. is believed to have been a Xia capital. Archaeologists working there have found tombs filled with pottery, ornamental jade, clay irrigation pipes, and the world’s oldest ritual bronze vessels.

Xia Dynasty Archaeological Sites

Described by some as a Xia dynasty Tomb
but actually from a
A.D. 10th century Xia dynasty The Erlitou site near Yanshi city in Henan Province is thought by some historians and archeologists to have been the capital of the Xia dynasty. Excavations there have revealed palace building and tombs containing musical instruments and bronzes.

One of the most important finds from Erlitou is the Bronze Ornamental Plaque , a cast bronze and turquoise inlay that was unearthed in a tomb dated to 17th or 16th century B.C. Now housed in the Luoyang Museum, it features a foxlike animals that is thought to be a representation of a deity. Some speculate may have been worn as a breast plate and a symbol of divine authority.

Important Xia, Shang and Zhou archaeological sites include the newly-discovered Shang city ruins at Yanshi and Huanbei; the excavations of the Erlitou, Yinxu and Fenghao sites; new breakthrough discoveries at the cemeteries at the Liulihe site in Beijing, Qianzhangda in Tengzhou and Dadianzi in Inner Mongolia. Excavations at Shang and Zhou imperial cities such as the Yinxu ruins in Anyang, the Changan and Fenghao ruins in modern-day Xian, and the Eastern Zhou capital Wangcheng in Luoyang, which have helped archaeologists establish a chronology for the Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties.

SHANG DYNASTY (1700-1100 B.C.)

The Shang dynasty, China’s first true dynasty, ruled over the Yellow River Plain in the present-day provinces of Shandong, Henan, Shanxi and Hebei in northeastern China from 1554 to 1045 B.C. or from 1700 to 1100 B.C., depending on the source. China’s recorded history, begins with the Shang, who came into existence as a political and military force when Shang tribes overpowered tribes living on the Yellow River Plain. [Source: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, July 2003]

The Shang were a Bronze Age culture that appear to have taken over a pre-existing culture in northern China rather than create a culture of their own. There is some debate as to their origin. Some say they arrived from western Asia on chariots. Others say they developed from people that had been living for centuries along the Yellow River. The Shang were ancestor worshipers who read the future from oracle bones and produced wonderful bronze vessels with finely detailed linear designs. Inscriptions indicate they hunted from chariots, killing game as big as tigers and wild oxen with composite bows, and practiced human sacrifice. Anyang in Henan Province is regarded as the capital the Shang dynasty.

Thousands of archaeological finds in the Huang He Valley–the apparent cradle of Chinese civilization—provide evidence about the Shang dynasty. The Shang dynasty (also called the Yin dynasty in its later stages) is believed to have been founded by a rebel leader who overthrew the last Xia ruler. Its civilization was based on agriculture, augmented by hunting and animal husbandry. Two important events of the period were the development of a writing system, as revealed in archaic Chinese inscriptions found on tortoise shells and flat cattle bones (commonly called oracle bones), and the use of bronze metallurgy. A number of ceremonial bronze vessels with inscriptions date from the Shang period; the workmanship on the bronzes attests to a high level of civilization. [Source: The Library of Congress]

Book: Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present by Peter Hessler (HarperCollins, 2004)

Shang Dynasty Rule

Shang tomb guard A line of hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of northern China, and Shang troops fought frequent wars with neighboring settlements and nomadic herdsmen from the inner Asian steppes. The capitals, one of which was at the site of the modern city of Anyang, were centers of glittering court life. Court rituals to propitiate spirits and to honor sacred ancestors were highly developed. In addition to his secular position, the king was the head of the ancestor- and spirit-worship cult. Evidence from the royal tombs indicates that royal personages were buried with articles of value, presumably for use in the afterlife. Perhaps for the same reason, hundreds of commoners, who may have been slaves, were buried alive with the royal corpse. [Source: The Library of Congress]

The Shang are credited by some scholars with creating the world’s first state. They were governed by a caste of high priests, who called themselves Sons of Heaven and presided over human and animal sacrifices that honored ancestors and natural spirits. Under their leadership, urban craftsmen created fine ceramic and jade products. After 1500 B.C., bronze casting in China was the most advanced in the world. Shang kings ruled with absolute authority. The first Shang king, Tang, is said to have told his soldiers before battle: “If you do not obey…I will put your children to death with you”

The geographical extent of Shang rule has been debated. Objects with Shang markings have been found over a large area but is not clear whether the Shang ruled these areas or merely influenced their culture or traded there. Some scholars believe that the area controlled by the Shang was relatively small and the term dynasty should not even be used for them.

Shang Dynasty Military

Shang dynasty armies used chariots around 1700 B.C., around the same time that Semitic tribes and mountain people on chariots invaded the Nile Valley and infiltrated Mesopotamia. Some 200 years later Aryan charioteers from the steppes of northern Iran conquered India .

Dagger axes, battle-axes and spears have been found in Shang burials. The tomb of one Shang soldier contained the remains of 15 people, 15 dogs, numerous jade objects and a bronze hand, suggesting that soldiers enjoyed high status.

The Shang used compound bows as did as did other steppe horsemen. Early versions of these weapons were made of slender strips of wood with elastic animal tendons glued to the outside and compressible animal horn glued on the inside. Tendons are strongest when they are stretched, and bone and horn are strongest when compressed. Early glues were made from boiled cattle tendons and fish skin and were applied in a very precise and controlled manner, sometimes requiring a year to dry properly.

There was no evidence of slavery in China until the Shang period. It was customary for charioteers to sell captives and prisoners at fairs, which some scholars have suggested were the first slave markets.

First Horse-Pulled Chariots

Shang chariot Chariots preceded mounted riders by at least 1,000 years. This was so in part because early domesticated horses were small and not strong enough to support men on their backs. The first chariots were probably used by shepherds to help them hunt wolves, leopards and bears that threatened their flocks and were later adapted for warfare.

Chariots are thought to have evolved from ox carts. Because oxen were better suited for pulling plows and heavy loads, horses were attached to lighter vehicles that evolved into chariots. Lightweight chariots, employing technology similar to that used to make racing bicycles light, could move quite fast. Ancient Egyptian chariots, pulled by a pair of horses and weighing only 17 pounds, could easily reach speeds of 20 miles per hour. A cart pulled by oxen, by contrast, rarely exceeded two miles per hour.

The important parts of a chariot were the wheels, chassis, draught pole and metal fittings. Advancements in metallurgy, woodworking, tanning, leatherworking, and the uses of glues, bone and sinew all made the construction of improved chariots possible. But the most important developments were improvements in the strength and physique of horses that pulled chariots.

Chariots and Early Conquerors

The development of the chariot had a profound impact on history. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Aryrans, Indus Valley people and ancient Chinese all had them. Chariots have been around much longer than many people think. They had been in use for almost 2,000 years when the sport of chariot racing was at its peak in ancient Rome.

According to historian John Keegan “charioteers were the first great aggressors in human history.” “About 1700 B.C.,” he wrote, “Semitic tribes known as the Hykos, invaded the Nile Valley, and mountain people infiltrated Mesopotamia. Both invaders had chariots. The Hykos introduced their technology to the ancient Egyptians. Around 1500 BC, Aryan charioteers from the steppes of northern Iran conquered India and later moved on to Greece. ” [Source: “History of Warfare” by John Keegan, Vintage Books]

Fighting chariots often accommodated two people—one rider and one archer. Early charioteers often swept down out of the mountains, encircled their flat-footed and unarmored foes, and picked them off from 100 or 200 yards away with arrows fired from sophisticated bows.

Charioteers ruled the world until teh 4th century B.C. when foot soldiers in Alexander the Great’s army learned to withstand chariot advances by aiming their weapons at the horses first; wearing arrow-proof armor and shields; and organizing themselves into tight chariot-proof ranks.

Shang Burial Practices

Shang altar The Shang were buried with bronze ritual vessels, weapons and jade. Bronze vessels were often filled with food and wine to nourish the dead on their trip to the afterlife. All in all, though, the number of funeral objects found in Shang tombs was considerably less than those found in tombs of other civilizations.

The tomb of Lady Hao, the consort of Wu Ding, a Shang military ruler that once led a force of 13,000 men in battle, is one of the most important Shang discoveries. One of the few undisturbed Shang tomb found, it is is 25 feet deep, 18 feet long and 13 feet wide with various niches and ledges containing 16 sacrificed men, women and children, and six dogs. The tomb is located in Yinxu, near Anyang. It was excavated in 1976. Only a few fragments of the lacquered coffin remained.

Among the 1,900 objects found in the tomb of Lady Hao were 195 bronze ritual vessels, of which over 100 were marked with Lady Hao’s name; 250 bronze bells, knives and weapons and other objects; 755 jade objects; 6,900 cowries shells, stone sculptures and ivory carvings. The bronze objects alone weighed 3,500 pounds.

Shang Human Sacrifices

Peter Hessler wrote in National Geographic,“Many oracle bones refer to human sacrifices meant to appease these spirits. At one complex of tombs in Henan Province, excavations have uncovered more than 1,200 sacrificial pits, most of which contain human victims. An archaeologist once told me that he had counted 60 different ways a person could be killed during a Shang ceremony. But he also reminded me that these were rituals, not murder and mayhem. From the Shang perspective, human sacrifice was simply part of a remarkably well organized system. The Shang kept a strict calendar, with certain sacrificial days devoted to certain ancestors. They were meticulous almost to the point of scientific inquiry. In one instance, a diviner patiently made 70 individual oracle-bone cracks in order to determine which ancestor was responsible for a living king’s toothache.” [Source: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, January 2010]

The Shang routinely sacrificed humans. Some graves are filled with the bones of human sacrifices. The oracle bones describe burials with hundreds of sacrifices. By one count more than 13,000 people were sacrificed in the last 250 years of the Shang Dynasty alone. The victims were probably slaves but may have been prisoners of war.

At the funerals of great leaders, dogs, horses, men and women were killed and buried with rulers. The more important the ruler generally the more people that were buried with him. According to legend the last Shang emperor died after throwing himself into his burning palace and was buried with much of his court.

Excavations at the Shang site of Xiaotun have revealed nine massive tombs thought to belong to the final Shang kings. All the tombs have been looted. Still, archeologists have found lots of evidence of sacrifices. One tomb contained 74 beheaded skeletons. Another contained 37 horses. In others were monkeys, dogs, cattle and birds. Some of the victims showed signs of struggle which suggests they were buried alive.

One explanation for the slaughter of real people as opposed to the manufacturing of life-size terra-cotta figures like those buried in Xian centuries later, is that the Shang believed only dead people and animals could accompany dead leaders to the afterlife. Sacrificed women thought to be concubines were killed by strangulation and not beheaded presumably so they would remain whole in the afterlife. Another explanation for human sacrifices associated with rulers is that by having their lives bound with their master, wives, bodyguards, and servants were less likely to plot against the ruler and more likely to do what ever they could do to make sure he stayed alive. A third explanation is that the sacrifices were simply offereings to ancestors, deities or spirits.

Some inscribed oracle bones dating to the Shang period (1766-1050 B.C.) mention the rite of ning, which involved dismembering a dog to honor the winds.

Shang Oracle Bones

Shang priests practiced an unusual form of divination that involved placing heated rods in grooves carved into specially-prepared ox scapulae (shoulder bones) and turtle plastrons (the undesides of turtle shells). The ensuing cracks were read by fortunetellers for “auspicious” and “inauspicious signs” and messages from natural spirits and ancestors The predictions, often made by the king rather than the diviner, and answers were engraved on the bones. Over 100,000 “oracle bones” have been found, mostly in storage pits in Xiaotun in Henan.

Oracle bones appear to have held a high place in Shang culture and this would lead one to conclude that superstition held a very high place in the lives of the ancient Chinese. Animism (the worship of natural spirits), fertility rites, cults and ancestor worship were also present in the Shang dynasty. Some of these practices still have enthusiastic followings in China today. Scientists and scholars have devoted a lot of time to the study of Taoism and Confucianism, but Chinese superstition and everyday spiritual life remain little studied.

Inscriptions on the Oracle Bones

Users of oracle bone divinations sought advice and predictions on matters such as raising of crops, the outcome of battles, illness, and childbirth. They also sought advise from the dead, the meaning of dreams, and suggestions on how many people to sacrifice. One inscription proposed sacrificing prisoners to an ancestor. Possibly after a divination was another inscription that recommended five prisoners.

The oracle bones were seen as a medium of communications between diviners and ancestors, with the latter regarded as the sources of the information. David N. Keightley, an expert on oracle bones at the University of California at Berkeley, told National Geographic, “When it cracked, the ancestors were responding to the diviner’s statement. The diviners wanted to capture this moment.”

In an article in the New Yorker Peter Hessler described a rubbing of an oracle bone that Keightley studied on which a Shang king sought out an unhappy ancestor the king though was responsible for a tooth ache he was experiencing, Four names are listed “Father Jia, Father Geng, Father Xin, Father Yi”— the king’s dead uncle and three dead generals. For each ancestor there were multiple divinations. One inscription read: “Offer a dog to Father Geng…I think it was Father Geng who was causing the illness.”

Shang Oracle Bones and Writing

The oracle bones unearthed in Xiaotun also provided some of the earliest evidence of Chinese writing and the first examples of writing in East Asia. They recorded harvests, childbirths and wars, detailed accomplishments of kings, described human sacrifices, plagues, natural disasters, enemy tribes and the ailments of kings. Some 3000 different Chinese characters—most of them pictograms—were used during the Shang dynasty.

Messages recorded on the oracle bones included: “Lady Hao’s childbearing will be good”; “After 31 days” Lady Hao “gave birth, it was not good, it was a girl”; “In the next ten days there will be no disasters;” “If we raise 3,000 men and call on them to attack the Gofang, we will receive abundant assistance.” Some of the messages could even be poetic. One goes: “In the afternoon a rainbow also came out of the north and drank in the Yellow River.” [Source: National Geographic]

Oracle bones were also a means of communicating with the unseen world, including passing messages to ancestors of the royal family. “We ritually report the king’s sick eyes to Grandfather Ding.” “As to the coming of the Shaofang [an enemy], we make ritual-report to Father Ding.” David N. Keightley, a historian at the University of California, Berkeley, told me that he’s particularly struck by how oracle-bone inscriptions convey a sense of hierarchy and order. “The more recently dead deal with the small things; the ones who have been dead for longer deal with the bigger things,” he said. “This is a way to organize the world.”[Source: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, January 2010]

Shang Dynasty Technology and Art

Bronze technology, the chariot and writing were probably developed with foreign influences by teh Shang, but were given distinctly Chinese elements.

By around 1200 B.C. artisans were able to cast large bronze pieces, technology that wasn’t achieved in the Mediterranean for another thousand years. The Shang added lead to the mixture of tin and copper and developed a sophisticated casting process that allowed them to cast bigger and bigger bronze objects. The largest Shang vessel ever discovered weighed 1,900 pounds.

According the Oxford University scholar Jessica Rawson, “the diversity of decorative motives on the bronzes indicated that influence of or manufacture by neighboring, contemporary societies of some sophistication.”

The Shang monopolized the use of bronze tools and weapons while their farmer subjects used only implements made from stone.

During the Shang dynasty and Zhou dynasties jade objects were important objects in ceremonies and rituals. Shang Dynasty circular jades were generally similar to northwestern circular jades. Late Shang pieces featured raised inner rims and thin outer edges, sets of carved concentric circles and images of curling dragons, fish, tigers and birds. The Shang also made monster-face amulets with turquoise-inlay mosaics of swirls and eyes and part-tiger-part-human marble monsters.

Shang Ritual Bronzes

Some of the oldest works of art from China are bronze vessels. The oldest ones date back to the Xia dynasty (2200 to 1766 B.C), when the legendary Yellow Emperor is said to have cast nine bronze tripods to symbolize the nine provinces in his empire.

Most ritual bronze vessels date back to the Shang Dynasty and the Zhou Dynasty (1122-221 B.C). These bronze vessels included elaborately-decorated caldrons, wine jars and water vessels that were used to offer food and drink to spirits, gods and deceased ancestors in political and spiritual ceremonies and rituals. Shang ritual vessels including ding caldrons, used to ritually prepare food for royal ancestors; Lei, large elaborately decorated vessels used to store wine; and yu basins, which may have been used to boil water or steam food.

Bronze vessels symbolized rank and often contained references to ancient imperial ethos, culture and music. One of the National Palace Museum’s most prized bronze pieces is a yu wine container from the 11th century B.C. Another beautiful bronze piece is an 8th century B.C. water vessel, used for ritual offerings, with animal-shaped handles and legs in the form of human figures. Scholars believe the bronze vessels were likely copies of ceramic vessels. A fine white pottery was made during the Shang Dynasty. Many ceramic vessels were similar in size and shape to bronze vessels made during the same period.

Bronze vessels often bore inscriptions that said “This container has been made to commemorate” so and so and were often given as presents to officials from leaders as rewards. Many ancient bronzes were removed from China, especially in the early 20th century, and few have been given back or carefully studied.

Bronze vessels and figures were generally made using the lost wax casting technique, which worked as follows: 1) A form was made of wax molded around a piece of clay. 2) The form was enclosed in a clay mold with pins used to stabilize the form. 3) The mold was fired in a kiln. The mold hardened into a ceramic and the wax burned and melted leaving behind a cavity in the shape of the original form. 4) Metal was poured into the cavity of the mold. A metal sculpture was created and removed by breaking the clay when it was sufficiently cool.

Shang Bronze Decorations and Figures

Most Shang vessels were decorated with taotie, face-like symbols with “eyes” composed of swirling lines. These designs have been used by archeologists to determine the spread of Shang culture. At the bottom of one yu basin is an arrangement of flower stems encircled by dragon heads with holes from which steam escaped from the vessel.

Three-legged bronze vessels from the 12th century B.C. contain images of bears, wolves and tigers. Soldiers from this period wore bronze chest plates engraved with attacking leopards with huge claws, birds with wolf ears and eagle beaks, hawks grabbing bear cubs, tigers leaping on antelopes, and dragons

Other interesting bronze art from the Shang Dynasty includes bronze masks that look like bizarre Halloween masks and may have been used by shamans; and a slender nine-foot-high-tall figure with stylized shamanist-style head and enormous hands that once held an elephant tusk.

Shang bronzes fetch high prices at international art auctions and are sought after by looters. A 12th century B.C. Shang owl was sold for around $3 million at an auction in 2000.

Life in the Shang Dynasty

Most ordinary Shang lived in thatched roof huts with pounded earth foundations, supported by wooden poles placed in stoned-filled trenches. Excavations of Shang villages show a large number of pits which could have been used for storage or as underground dwellings.

Shang jade ox Cowrie shells were used as currency. They most likely originated in the Indian Ocean. Wheat, millet and rice were cultivated by farmers. Analysis of 3,000-year-old bronze vessels revealed that the Shang drank rice and millet wines flavored with herbs, flowers and tree resins.

Many Chinese scholars have claimed that the Shang practiced slavery but this may be based more on making data fit the Marxist model of evolution than on hard evidence. In the tens of thousands of oracle bones there are no references to slavery or the purchase of people.

Discovery of the Oracle Bones

The first oracle bones were discovered in 1899. According to legend a member of the family of scholar Wang Yirong came down with malaria and was prescribed ground up turtle shells as a treatment. The shells arrived pre-ground. Wang noticed that some of them had scratchings on them that looked like Chinese writing. After that he began collected shells and bones with similar scratchings—oracle bones—and analyzing them and writing about his findings. His research came to a sudden end when he committed suicide by taking poison and jumping down a well during the Boxer Rebellion.

The source of the oracle bones was an area near a small village called Xiaotun near Anyang. Dealers in “dragon bones” kept the site secret to maintain their monopoly. When archeologist finally discovered the site they began doing serious excavations, unearthing more than 100,000 inscribed fragments in the 1920s

When the Oracles bones were discovered scholars were able to decipher some of them immediately. The oracle bones were the first hard archeological evidence of the Shang dynasty’s existence. There were historical documents that referred to the Shang but many Western scholars dismissed them as mythical.

Shang Excavations

A number of excavations were carried out around Anyang in Henan Province in the 1920s and 30s by Li Ji, a Harvard PhD who introduced rigorous scientific method to the study of ancient China. Excavations of the Shang capital, known as Yinxu, near Anyang, began before World War II. Archaeologists explored more than 11 royal tombs and 1,000 other graves and found the foundations of temples, palaces and shrines.

Lady Hao’s tomb was excavated in 1976 under less than ideal conditions. The pit filled in with water as it was being excavated, because archeologists did not have access to pumps, and peasants groped for relics in the muck while they drank shots of grain alcohol to stay warm. After the excavation was completed a study session was held in which Lady Lao was scolded for accumulating wealth by taking advantage of workers.

Huanbei is a Shang site dated to the 14th century B.C. and discovered in 1996. Mapping of the area has revealed an entire city, with walls that enclosed nearly two square miles

It is believed that the Shang took their name from the first capital city they occupied. Archeologists are currently searching for this city. According to historical sources the Shang dynasty rulers were buried and a royal house of worship was erected in their first capital. Chinese-born, retired Harvard archeologist K.C. Lang believes this city is in Shangqiu (literally the “mound of Shang”) in Henan province.

Excavation of the Tomb of Fu Mao

Shang and America Connection?

Chinese Shang scholar Han Ping Chen believes that the founders of the Olmec civilization in Mexico—which emerged suddenly in 1,200 B.C. and influenced the Maya and Aztec civilizations—was influenced by the Shang dynasty. He bases his theory on the fact that Mesoamerican jade blades, called celts, have markings that are almost identical to Shang-era Chinese characters.

After examining six polished celts on a trip to the United States in 1996, Han exclaimed, “I can read this easily. Clearly, these are Chinese characters.” He also asserted that achievements made by early New World civilization was made with help from the same people who introduced the Chinese characters. [Source: U.S. News and World Report]

Other similarities between Chinese and ancient Mesoamerican cultures include the resemblance of the Aztec board game atolli and the Asian game parcheesi; the custom of placing jade beads in the mouthes of the deceased; and the fact that important religious deities were inspired by tigers-jaguars and dragonlike creatures.

It is not impossible for an ancient vessel to have been blown off course across the Pacific to America. Ancient Chinese mariners were highly skilled. Some anthropologist believe they sailed to Indonesia and islands in the Pacific 2,000 years ago. It also quite possible that the ancient Mesoamerican cultures independently developed stuff that was similar to Chinese stuff.

End of Shang Dynasty

Weakened by corruption and decay, the Shang dynasty was overpowered in 1050-25 BC by the Zhou, a Chinese dynasty to the west that also knew how to effectively use horses, chariots and compound bows.

The 29th and final Shang king, Di Xin, was known for his indulgences, appetites and whims. He reportedly hosted orgiastic parties around a palace pool filled with wine and ordered those who displeased him to be taken away and executed. Historians doubt the veracity these tales, namely because they come from Zhou and Han dynasty sources, which likely portrayed dynasties before them as evil to make themselves look good.

Sanxingdui Culture

The Sanxingdui were contemporaries of the Shang that lived in a fertile area watered by Yangtze tributaries in what is now southwestern Sichuan Province. Thus far two main Sanxingdui sites have been found: one near the Sichuan village of Sanxingdui, after which the culture is named, and another about 50 miles away in Jinsha. Sanxingdui is about 70 miles away from the Shang heartland.

The Sanxingdui culture was discovered in 1986, when stunning bronzes–radically different from anything found at the Shang sites and dated to around 1200 B.C.–were unearthed near Sanxingdui. It is unlikely the Sanxingdui and the Shang had much contact because of large mountains that divided them. There is no mention of Sichuan area in the oracle bones but excavations in Sanxingdui have revealed large numbers of cowrie shells like this found in the Shang areas. Jinsha is a suburb of Chengdu. The site was discovered by construction workers. Among the relic that were unearthed were gold headgear, a gold mask, jewelry and elephant tusks.

The Sanxingdui culture had no writing. They buried their dead with valuable objects but didn’t appear to have practiced human sacrifice. Their custom of burying the dead with bronze heads and figures suggested they may have been human substitutes.

The remains of other cultures have been found which have led archaeologists and historians to theorize that perhaps the Shang were not as dominant in their area as once thought and were one of many cultures that existed at that time. Princeton University historian Robert Bagley told National Geographic, “What is certain at the moment is only that early Bronze Age China was a more complicated place than we used to suppose.”

Sanxingdui Art

The Sanxingdui sites have yielded elephant tusks, gold objects, bronze masks, jade pieces, gold pieces, a 13-foot-high bronze tree that looks an upside down candelabra, heads and figures with slender heads, slanted eyes, grim expressions and protruding eyeballs. A totem to a god or king features a bronze head covered by a gilded mask that looks like a space alien. The most famous Sanxingduipiece is an 8½-foot-tall human figure that also has an otherworldly alien look.

At one site hundreds of jade, bronze gold and stone artifacts, collectively weighing more than a ton, were found burned or broken and then buried in two pits. The first pit was mostly filled with pig, sheep, cattle and buffalo bones. Most of the objects of value were found in the second pit, which was topped by 67 elephant tusks. Scholars have speculated that the objects were either offerings or valuables destroyed to keep them out of the hands of an approaching enemy.

The pits were part of tomb of Emperor Wen, the Tuskman of Sanxingdui. It was built in 1200 B.C., more than a thousand years before the terra cotta army of Emperor Qin.