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The Gods Of Chinese Mythology

Chinese Mythology
The current top ten:


1st : MONKEY
2nd : GUAN-YU
3rd : JADE-EMPEROR
4th : HE-BO
5th : YEN-LO-WANG
6th : EIGHT-IMMORTALS
7th : GUAN-YIN
8th : NU-GUA
9th : LONG-WANG
10th : AO-CHIN

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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 word can mean a whole sentence in English. Each of the four hundred basic characters contains a concept, and by putting them together, more complex words are formed. ('fly' + 'machine' = 'aeroplane', 'small' + 'heart' = 'beware').

This presents a problem for Westerners, who are used to looking at marks on pieces of paper and knowing what they sound like. (How do you pronounce a picture of a tree?)

For most of the 20th Century, Chinese was romanized using the Wade-Giles system. This was a reasonable attempt to transcribe Chinese sounds into English - but, being created mostly for linguists and not the general public, has 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. Unfortunately 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 complete pronunciation guide to Chinese God names - available nowhere else on the net!

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 amendments and corrections are always welcome, especially from people with first-hand knowledge. So if you live in 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.
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THE A-Z OF CHINESE GODS
The Complete List of CHINESE GODS...

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