CHINESE MYTHOLOGY

The Gods and Spirits of the Middle Kingdom...

The Gods Of Chinese Mythology


Introduction

China — the Middle Kingdom — is an ancient country full of mystery and paradox. Although hard-working and down-to-earth, the Chinese people have always had a streak of poetry in their souls. Only the Chinese could mix sublime philosophy and mindless paperwork and get away with it.

With a recorded history reaching back practically to the Big Bang, China has had plenty of time to perfect its pantheons. Over the aeons, primitive folk religion absorbed sophisticated ideas — the common sense of Confucious (Kongzi), the ritual and magic of Daoism, the sublime spirituality of Buddhism — to produce a stir-fry mix of Gods for all occasions. You certainly get value for money with China.

One thing we love about Chinese mythology is its sense of humor. For every starched civil servant in Heaven there's a mocking fable or unexpected pun. Most Chinese Gods and Goddesses are deified humans — which means they're as prone to mistakes as we are. But rather than airbrush out the embarrassments, China revels in them. We suspect that even the JADE-EMPEROR, the stern-faced Ruler of Heaven, sometimes has trouble keeping a straight face.

What makes Chinese Gods more inscrutable than most to the Western eye is the transliteration problem. Written Chinese consists of symbols; little pictures illustrating an idea or a thing. One Chinese character can mean a whole phrase in English. This presents a problem for Westerners. (How do you pronounce a picture of a tree?)

For most of the 20th Century, Chinese was translated into english using the Wade-Giles system. This was a reasonable attempt to transcribe Chinese sounds into english words - but had a number of peculiarities. For example, the sound 'dao' is spelt tao, and 'tao' is spelt t'ao. Omitting that little apostrophe causes much confusion.

The Wade-Giles system has now been officially replaced by Pinyin, which represents the sounds somewhat more accurately. However the old spellings are still very much alive, so we have included these as variants to make it easier for you to track down those elusive Gods. We have also added a pronunciation guide to Chinese names — a Godchecker exclusive.

Add to all this confusion the bureaucracy of Heaven, the legions of civil servant Gods, and more esoteric philosophy than you can fit in a wok, and you have a pantheon you can really get your teeth into. Enjoy!


REGIONS COVERED: China. And that is a very big place to cover.

Many Gods are spread across different regions, cultures and tribes. We've tried to pin them down to a particular area if possible. But corrections are always welcome, especially from people with first-hand knowledge. So if you know the region and would like to comment, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us here.

TRIBES, CULTURES AND PEOPLES COVERED: The Chinese people, including Daoist, Buddhist and folk religions.

The Gods told us to do it. Go to top

INTRO
Introduction to the Chinese section

EXPLORE
Browse our entries on Chinese mythology

FIND GODS
Search the Holy Database of All Known Gods

A-Z INDEX
List of names from Chinese mythology