We apply the word 'Hindu' to the population resulting from the mixture or propinquity of the

different races of India; and the name 'Hinduism' is given to the social, religious, and mythological

mixture produced by the interpenetration of the most divergent rites, beliefs and superstition. This

syncretism occurred under the aegis of Brahmanism, because the Brahmans remained the most

educated caste, destined to maintain the inheritance of Vedic tradition. But the history of

Hinduism is that of the concessions which orthodoxy was forced to make to new or foreign beliefs

and practices, since orthodoxy could only survive by giving its blessing to what it was unable to



The Vishnu of Hinduism adds a large number of fantastic developments to the comparatively

little personified Vishnu of the Vedic age, the principle of light 'penetrating', vich, the whole

universe, which he crossed with three steps. The later epochs represented this god as dark blue,

dressed in yellow, riding an eagle, Garuda, while his four arms carried a mace, a sea-shell, a disk

and a lotus. The Vaikuntha heaven over which he reigns is made of gold and its palaces of

precious stones. The crystal waters of the Ganges fall on the head of Druva and then on the seven

Rishis, and so make their way to the sea. Vishnu is seated on white lotus flowers, having on his

right his wife, the brilliant and perfumed Lakshmi, born from the churning of the sea and

sprinkled with the Ganges by elephants with golden ewers, thus associating the ideal of love and

beauty with the prestige of the supreme god. Here are some of the names or epithets of this first

principle: Svayambhu who exists of himself, Ananta the infinite, Yajnesvara

the lord of sacrifice, Hari the abducter who carries off souls to save them. Janarddana who

captivates peoples' adoration, Mukunda the liberator, Madhava made of honey, Kesava the hairy

whose hairs were the solar rays-, Narauana, the source and refuge of beings. The variety of these

forms is explicable historically by the fusion of different gods and demi-gods into a single figure

under the action of a particular sentiment, a king of piety quite unknown to primitive

Brahmanism, and called by the Hindus Bhakti made up of confidence, love, and the gift of self to

the divinity.

The Avatars of Vishnu. In the intervals of successive creations, Vishnu sleeps on the cosmic

waters, lying on the snake Sesha whose seven heads spread like a fan make a canopy for him. This

slumber is not death but a state in which the god's virtuality slowly ripens to unfold again in

another universe. These alternations of rest and activity, although each of them lasts for thousands

of millions of centuries, are as regular and certain as an organic rhythm - India thinks of them as

the god's in-breathing and out-breathing. To each cycle of creation there corresponds an 'avatar',

literally 'a descent', of the god Vishnu. These avatars theoretically number ten, but the wealth of

popular imagination has greatly increased the number. The lion avatar, Narasimha, has appeared

in the story of Hiranyakasipu, and Vamana the dwarf in that of Bali.

Avatar of the Fish, Matsya. This implies ancient traditions to do with a flood. One day when the

wise Manu was making his ablutions he found in the hollow of his hand a tiny little fish, which

begged him to allow it to live. So he put it in a jar, but next day it

iviiiiiaLUie ironi me r^aipa^uiru, oujerai, iineenin ueniury t\.u.

was so much bigger that he had to carry it to a lake. Soon the lake was too small. Throw me into

the sea,' said the fish, 'and I shall be more comfortable.' Then he warned Manu of a coming deluge.

He sent him a large ship, with orders to load it with two of every living species and the seeds of

every plant, and then to go on board himself. Manu had only just carried out these orders when

the ocean submerged everything, and nothing was to be seen but Vishnu in the form of a huge

one-horned fish with golden scales. Manu moored his ship to the horn of the fish, using the large

snake Vasuki as a rope. Thus mankind, the animals and the plants were saved from destruction.

Avatar of the Wild Boar, Varahavatara. When the earth was submerged by the deluge it was

captured by demons. Vishnu in the form of a wild boar dashed across heaven and dived into the

waters, where he tracked down the earth by his sense of smell. He killed the demon who held it

prisoner, and came up to the surface of the water, bringing with him the earth which he lifted

from the abyss on his tusks. The sculptors represented the Varahavatara in the form of a giant

with the head of a wild boar, holding in his arms the goddess of Earth.

Avatar of the Turtle. This is connected with the episode of 'the churning of the sea', one of the

most popular legends of Indian mythology.

Long ago Indra, king of the gods, was cursed by a great rishi named Durvasas. Thereafter Indra

and the three worlds began to lose their first vigour. Vishnu appeared smiling and said: 'I will

give you back your power. This is what you must do. Take mount Mandara as a stick and the

snake Vasuki as a rope and churn the sea of milk, and you will see it produces the liquid of

immortality and other wonderful presents. But you must have the help of the demons. Make an

alliance with them and tell them that you will share with them the fruits of your common labour. I

shall myself take care that they don't get their share of ambrosia.'

So the gods made an alliance with the Asuras, and having taken mount Mandara as the stick and

the snake Vasuki as the rope, they began their work. By its violent motions the mountain did great

damage to the inhabitants of the ocean, and the heat created by its rotation destroyed the animals

and birds living on its slopes. In fact the whole mountain would have been destroyed if Indra had

not sent heavy rains down from heaven, to quench the flames and comfort the inhabitants. But

owing to its weight and rapid motion the mountain bored into the earth and threatened to break

through it. Vishnu, again invoked, assumed the form of a gigantic turtle, got beneath the

mountain, and became its pivot. The churning went on faster than ever. So great is the power of

Vishnu, and so numerous the forms that he is able to assume, that even while he supported the

mountain he was also present, though invisible, among the gods and demons hauling at the rope.

His energy also sustained Vasuki, king of the snakes, while everyone saw him seated in glory on

the peak of Mandara.

The Snake suffered from this painful labour. While the gods pulled him by the tail and the

demons by the head, torrents of venom escaped from his jaws and poured down on earth in a vast

river which threatened to destrqy gods, demons, men and animals. In their distress they called

upon Siva, and Vishnu joined in their entreaties. Siva heard them and drank the poison to save the

world from destruction, but it burnt his throat, and his neck still bears a

blue mark which gave him the name of 'Nilakantha', blue throat.

At last the persevering efforts of gods and demons received their reward. First of all their eyes

beheld Surabhi, the marvellous cow. mother and nurse of all living things. Then came Varuni

goddess of wine, Parijata the tree of paradise, the delight of the nymphs of heaven, scenting the

whole earth with the perfume of its flowers, and then all the Apsaras with their grace and

enchanting beauty.

Then appeared the Moon which Siva grasped to wear on his forehead, and Lakshimi, the goddess

of fortune, Vishnu's joy, seated radiant on a wide-open lotus. The heavenly musicians and the

great sages began to sing her praises. The sacred rivers asked her to bathe in their waters. The sea

of milk gave her a crown of immortal flowers. The great sacred elephants who support the world

poured on her the holy water of the Ganges from golden ewers. As she was Vishnu's wife she sat

on his knees, and refused to look at the demons who coveted the goddess of prosperity.

Among other products of the sea of milk must be mentioned Dhanvantari, doctor of the gods, and

inventor of the Ayur-Vedic system of medicine; a miraculous horse, a sort of Pegasus; and a

marvellous jewel which Vishnu placed on his breast.

The doctor of the gods was the last to appear, holding in his hand the cup which contained the

liquid of immortality. The furious and impatient Asuras snatched it from him and fled. But

Vishnu assumed the form of a most lovely woman, fascinated them by the illusion, and while the

demons were arguing with each other, he took the ambrosia and brought it back to the gods.

When they had drunk of it they regained their vigour and drove away the Asuras.

Krishna. Krishna is the most charming and human of Vishnu's incarnations.

He was born at Mathura, between Delhi and Agra. His mother

M i i

was Devaki, a sister of king Kamsa, who killed all her children as soon as they were born, since it

had been predicted that he would be assassinated by one of them. Krishna owed his life to a ruse

of his parents, who exchanged him for the daughter of a poor cowherd, in order to hide him from

his uncle's anger. Krishna therefore spent his youth among keepers of herds, in the company of his

brother Balarama.

Soon after his birth Krishna.was already full of vigour, and sometimes of malice, and started his

series of mighty deeds. He overthrew a cart, pulled up two trees together by the roots, fought

successfully with a big water snake, and helped his brother Balarama to destroy a dangerous


He played tricks on Indra himself. Once when the herdsmen were preparing to pay homage to the

dispenser of rains, he advised them rather to honour the mountain which fed their herds, and the

cattle who gave them milk. Krishna in this way appropriated to himself the cult devoted to Indra,

for he appeared on the top of the mountain, saying: 'I am the mountain!' and took the first fruits of

the offerings to himself. Indra was furious, and poured down cataracts of rain to drown the

herdsmen and their cattle, but Krishna lifted the mountain and held it in the air with one finger,

and thus protected his friends from the storm for seven days and nights. Indra was amazed, and

came down from heaven with his wife Indrani, and they both begged his friendship for their son


In time Krishna became an adolescent. One day some shepherdesses went bathing in the Yamuna,

and hearing their bursts of laughter he came up softly and stole their clothes, hiding with them in

a neighbouring tree. When the shepherdesses came out of the water and could not find their

clothes on the bank they did not know where to turn, and their trouble was increased when they

noticed Krishna in the tree looking and laughing at them. Going back into the water they begged

him to have pity on them, but he would not return their clothes except on the condition that they

came to look for them one by one, with their hands folded in the attitude of prayer.

This incident is merely an introduction to many others like it. The herdsmen's wives and

daughters, forgetting their customary reserve and modesty, left their work and their houses to

follow Krishna into the forest, as soon as they heard the sound of his flute. The Bhagavata

sometimes gently scolded them, but he also told them that through him they would obtain

salvation. However Krishna is approached he gives liberation. Some knew and sought him as a

son, some as a friend, some as a lover, or even as an enemy, but all received his blessing and


The shepherdesses in love with Krishna became so numerous that they could not all hold his hand

when he danced with them, so he multiplied himself into many forms, and each girl had the

illusion that she was holding Krishna's hand in hers.

The erotic mysticism of the Hindu 'Song of Songs', the Gila-Govinda, was the delight of

innumerable souls:

'Krishna enchanted the women by the pleasures he lavished on them. The contact of his limbs, soft

and dark as a garland of lotus flowers, created amorous delight in them, while the women of the

heifer-park kissed him as much as they desired. . .

'May those learned spirits who seek ecstasy in Vishnu derive from the song of Govinda the

essence of love!"

When he was adult Krishna left the herdsmen and returned to Mathura. He killed Kamsa and a

certain number of other evil-doers.

And then the Mahabharata allots him an important part in the famous war launched by the five

sons of Pandu against their hundred cousins, the Kurus. Krishna was the friend and adviser of the

Pandavas, and even became Arjuna's divine charioteer.

Arjuna hesitated to take part in the war, deploring the useless slaughter. Why kill one's friends

and relations? Krishna, however, reminds him that he belongs to the caste of the warriors. He

cannot go to heaven if he displays such cowardice. Besides they only kill and are killed in

appearance. In reality the soul is eternal. All those on the battlefield nave always existed and will

never cease to exist.

These remarks induce Arjuna to ask Krishna a number of questions, and their dialogue forms the

splendid philosophical poem, the Bhaguvad-Giia.

After many hard fights the war ends with the total destruction of both armies. There are four

survivors of the Kurus, and seven of the Pandavas including the god Krishna.

Soon after, Krishna himself accidentally dies, although he had

foreseen his fate. Seated in the forest, in meditation, with his legs crossed, he exposed the soles of

his feet. And the wise Durvasas had once cursed him in a moment of anger, saying that he would

die from a wound in his foot. A hunter at a distance mistook Krishna for a deer he was following,

and let fly a shaft which hit him in his one vulnerable place, the god's left heel. The hunter came

up and was in despair at his mistake, but Krishna told him to fear nothing and not to grieve. These

words of consolation were the last he spoke on this earth. Then, all radiant, he rose up into

heaven, and the gods greeted him. Shadow then fell upon the earth.

Rama. 'The hero created by Valmiki', says Sylvain Levi, 'still remains for contemporary India the

most perfect model of humanity. Rama's peaceable courage, always at the service of virtue, his

passionate devotion to duty, his fine delicate sensibility, his filial piety, his conjugal tenderness,

the communion of his spirit with all Nature, are traits of eternal beauty which time can neither


Rama was the son of king Dasaratha of Ayodhya, but was forced to renounce the throne and to go

into exile by the intrigues of his step-mother. When he is leaving he advises his wife, the beautiful

Sita, to stay in the palace. The life of the forest would be too rough and dangerous for her:

'You hear the dreadful roaring oflions mingled with the rushing of cataracts. There is not enough

water, you walk along very difficult paths tangled with lianas and undergrowth, you sleep on

beds of dead leaves, or on the bare earth, night after night, when you are worn out with fatigue.

You have to be satisfied with fallen fruits, and sometimes to fast to the verge of extinction. Snakes

with winding coils, like the streams in which they hide, boldly traverse the paths. It is the realm of

wind, darkness, hunger, and the great terrors.'

But Sita insisted. She knew she had the right, for a wife's first duty is to share her husband's lot.

'Whether it is in asceticism, a hermitage, or in'heaven, I want

nor weaken.' (From Abbe Roussel's translation of the Ramayana.) to be with you.

as Skanda. Chola style bronze, sixteenth century A.D.

'I can never be tired walking after you. The reeds, the grass, the thorny bushes on the way will

seem to me in your company as soft to the touch as a lawn or the skin of an antelope.

'The dust thrown up by the wind to cover me will seem, dear husband, rich sandal-wood powder.

'With you it is heaven, away from you hell. So it is. Be certain of it, O Rama, and be perfectly

happy with me.'

Rama let himself be moved, and Sita followed him into exile along with his brother Lakshmana.

But Ravana, the king of the Rakshasas, desires Sita. He succeeds in drawing Rama away in pursuit

of a magical gazelle, and carries off Sita by force in his aerial chariot. He keeps her a captive

among his women in the kingdom of Lanka (Ceylon).

Rama, wild with despair and grief, looks madly for his wife, and vows to annihilate her abductor.

An eagle among his friends indicates the trail, and a whole nation of monkeys put themselves at

his service. Hanuman, one of the monkeys, is agile enough to clear the wall by an immense leap,

and brings the hero back news of Sita whom he has cheered. Rama is sure of winning, but how can

he take his army over the sea? He decides to ask the help of Ocean.

So, having formed a bed of the plant Kusa, Rama lay down on it, face to the East, and lifted his

clasped hands to the sea, saying: The Ocean will yield, or I shall die.' Rama then remained there

silent for three days with his spirit concentrated on the Ocean, but

it made no answer. Then the hero became angry. He stood up, grasped his bow, tried to dry up the

sea. He shot terrible arrows which pierced the waves, stirred up powerful storms and frightened

the snakes and dolphins of the sea - and the gods shouted from heaven: 'Alas!' and 'Enough!'

But Ocean did not appear. Then having threatened him Rama fitted to his bow-string an arrow

tipped with a charm given by Brahma, and shot. Darkness fell on heaven and earth, all creatures

were seized with terror, the mountains trembled, and the depths of the sea were violently

troubled. Then Ocean himself emerged from the waters, as the sun rises over mount Meru.

Wearing a crown and spangled with glittering gems he was followed by the great rivers, the

Ganga, the Sindhu, and others. He came to Rama with clasped hands, saying:

'O Rama, you know that each element possesses its own qualities. Mine are to be without bottom

and difficult to cross. Neither love nor fear can give me the power to stay the eternal movement of

the waters. But you can cross me, thanks to a bridge which I promise to uphold firmly. Secure the

help of Nala, the son of Visvakarma (the smith of the gods). He is full of energy and as skilful as

his father.' Having spoken, Ocean returned beneath his waves.

Thereupon, obeying Nala's orders, all the monkeys collected trees and rocks, carried them from

the forest to the shore, and placed them on the sea. Some carried beams, some measured them,

others rolled along enormous boulders. The rocks as they leaped into the

sea made a noise like thunder. And at the end of five days a wide strong bridge was built. From a

distance it looked on Ocean's head like the parting which divides the hair on a woman's head.

Rama and Lakshmana then started to cross the bridge with the army of monkeys. Other monkeys

came swimming, and still others bounded through the air. The noise of this army overbore that of

the waves and of Ocean.

Rama with his army soon reached the walls of Lanka, and a terrible battle began. It was at the

expense of prodigies of valour that the hero's troops gradually overcame Ravana's.

After purification, and singing the hymn to the Sun, Rama in person had to fight, for Ravana came

to attack him. They were like two fiery lions. One by one Rama with his arrows cut down the

monster's ten heads, but fresh ones always sprang up. He then took a weapon which Agastya had

given him - its wings were moved by the wind, its point was made of sunlight and fire, and it was

as heavy as the mountains Meru and Mandara. After blessing this shaft with Vedic 'mantras'

(sacred formulas) Rama fitted it to his bow and shot it. The shaft flew straight to its aim, pierced

Ravana's chest and then, covered with blood, returned humbly to the hero's quiver.

Thus died the king of the Rakshasas. The gods rained down flowers on Rama's chariot, and sang

hymns of praise, for the purpose which had caused Vishnu to assume human form was now


Rama at first refused to receive the liberated Sita, for he wished to prove to everyone that in spite

of her sojourn with Ravana his wife had remained unsullied. In despair at this repudiation Sita

longed only for death, and had a funeral pyre built. She mounted it, and approaching the fire with

clasped hands exclaimed: 'As my heart was never taken from Rama, so you, O Fire, the universal

witness, will never take from me your protection!' Then she bravely entered the flames. While all

the onlookers were uttering cries and lamentations, the fire was seen to rise up holding on its

knees Sita who looked radiant as the morning sun. They cried out that it was a miracle, and Rama

opened his arms to the Irreproachable, saying: 'I knew Sita's virtue, but I wished it to be justified

before all the people. Without this test they would have said that Dasarath's son has yielded to

desire and despises the traditional laws. But now all will know that she is truly mine, as the rays

of the sun belong to their source.'

Rama then asked Indra to resurrect all his companions who had fallen on the battlefield, and then

returned to Ayodhya, where he took in hand the government of the kingdom.

To close this series of Vishnu's avatars, let us mention Kalkin who, like Maitreya the future

Buddha, has not yet appeared. The Kalki-Purana tells us what to expect from his beneficent

intervention when his hour arrives. He will close the iron age, and annihilate the wicked. He will

appear in the form of a giant with a horse's head. When his work is finished he will be re-absorbed

in Vishnu until creation starts again, this time with a development opposite to the degeneration

we now witness.

The elasticity of the 'avatar' system may be judged by the fact that Buddha himself was considered

to be a form of Vishnu. Obviously it is an artificial interpretation, and yet contains a profound

truth, since - as Senart has definitely proved - Sakyamuni belongs to the same solar myth which is

implicit in all Vishnu's incarnations.


Vishnu is characterised by a tender devotion, and the religion of Siva is founded rather on

asceticism. The god Siva is not a Bhagavat, but an Isvara, a Lord and Master. Although he wears

the Brahman cord, he is the head of people without status like vampires and demons, as he is the

head of those who have repudiated society, the ascetics. He is referred to by the same epithet as

one of the Jam sects, 'digambara', naked 'clothed with space'. His chest is sometimes decked with a

necklace of skulls. The question of his origin and his relations with the god Rudra have already

been discussed (page 356).

Hindu art represents Siva in many very different forms. In his anthropomorphic aspect he usually

has four arms - the two upper hands hold a drum and a doe, and the two others respectively make

the gestures of giving and of reassuring. His forehead is sometimes marked by three horizontal

stripes, and in the centre is a third eye.

The god is dressed in a tiger-skin, with a snake for throat ornament, another for the sacred cord,

while still others are coiled round his arms as bracelets. His hair is either tangled or braided and

often stands erect with the high knot of the ascetic, decorated with a crescent moon and a trident.

Sometimes amid the god's hair one can see the fifth head of Brahma or the goddess Ganga

(Ganges). These different attributes correspond to episodes in his legend. He rides on the bull

Nandi. Siva's personality swarms with contrasts. He destroys like time itself, and is also merciful.

He is indifferent to pleasures, yet everywhere worshipped as the principle of generation under the

symbol of the lingam (phallus). His whole activity points to the conviction, common to both

Hinduism and Buddhism, that the same principle must be at the origin of good and of evil, of

wretchedness and of salvation.

The philosophy of Sivaism is destructive of illusions, but leads neither to inaction nor to

pessimism. On the contrary, its wisdom allows it to enter harmoniously into the great 'game', lila,

of life, to take part in it by dancing with all one's heart and all one's joy.

Siva indeed is often represented under the form of Nataraja, the king of dancing. The halo fringed

with fire which surrounds him then symbolises the whole cosmos.

A legend tells us that the god paid a visit to ten thousand Rishis who were heretics, in order to

teach them the truth. But the Rishis received him with curses. As these had no effect they called up

a terrible tiger which rushed at Siva to devour him. The smiling god took the skin off the tiger

with the nail of his little finger, and hung it round himself like a shawl. Then the Rishis brought

forth a horrible snake, and Siva hung it round his neck like a garland. Then appeared a demon

dwarf, entirely black, armed with a mace. Siva set foot on his back and began to dance. Wearied

by their efforts the hermits gazed at him in silence, captivated by the rapidity and dazzling

splendour of the marvellous rhythm. Suddenly the heretics saw the heavens opened and the gods

assembled to watch the dancer, and threw themselves at Siva's feet to worship him.

There are many other legends of Siva's dancing. The god destroys and creates in the dance

'Tandava', by which at the end of a cosmic period the world of appearances disappears but

actually is reintegrated in the absolute. Siva has the genial intoxication and mystic fervour of

Dionysus, with whom the Indo-Greeks confused him.

Siva's dance symbolises divine activity as the source of movement in the universe, particularly

under the aspect of the cosmic functions of creation - conservation, destruction, incarnation and

liberation. Its object is to rid men of illusion. When the god dances in cremation places, which are

impure and full of fearful monsters, he is terrifying, the destroyer, and doubtless represents some

pre-Aryan demon. It is also a way of showing that the demons are drawn into the dance of this

universal god, and that in this way their evil powers are neutralised.

The place of cremation also symbolises the disciple's heart, where the self and its deeds are

consumed, where everything has to disappear except the divine Dancer himself with whom the

soul at last is identified. The supreme and perfect rhythm of this dynamic and triumphant joy is

better expressed by dancing than by words. 'Ho whom no sign can describe is made known to us

by his mystic dance,' says a poet of Southern India, a disciple of Siva.

Sivaism provides us with a magnificent cosmic synthesis where life and death continually give

birth to one another, but where both are constantly dominated by a clear serene vision.

Siva Episodes. Siva's life abounds in instances of devotion and in earlier pages we saw how he

swallowed the poison which threatened to destroy the world during the churning of the sea (page


When the gods consented to the descent of Ganga (the Ganges), the heavenly river, the weight of

this mass of water would have engulfed the earth, if the god with the trident had not offered

himself to lessen the shock. Falling into his tangled hair, the heavenly Ganga wandered about the

god's head for several years without finding an outlet. Finally Siva had to divide her into seven

streams so that she could descend on earth without causing a catastrophe.

As they fell the waters made a noise like thunder, while fish and turtles fell with them. The Devas,

the Rishis, the Gandharvas and the Yakshas, seated on their elephants or their horses or their

chariots were amazed at the sight. All creatures rejoiced. The shining of the Devas and their jewels

lighted up the whole sky like a hundred suns, the turtles and fish crossing it looked like flashes

of lightning, and the pale foam flakes flew away like white birds. The waters poured on

inexhaustibly, from heaven on to Siva's head and from Siva's head on to the earth; and there they

split up into brooks and streams, climbing mountains and falling back into the valleys.

Parvati. The feminine divinity which personifies the 'power' (Sakti) of Siva is Parvati, daughter of

the Himalayas, also named Uma, the gracious, and Bhairavi, the terrible, Ambika the generatrix,

Sati the good wif?, Gauri the brilliant, Kali the black, Durga the inaccessible. We have already had

glimpses of this goddess's terrible aspects in dealing with her battles against demons.

According to the legend the appearance of Siva's third eye was caused by a frolic of his wife's.

While he was meditating on the mountain, Uma imitating her husband observed a similar

discipline, but one day she stole up mischievously behind her husband and covered his eyes with

her lovely hands. Immediately the light of

the world went out, the sun grew pallid and every creature trembled with fear. And then

suddenly the darkness was dispelled, for a flaming eye had opened on Siva's forehead, a third eye

like the sun, from which sprang flames which kindled all the Himalayas. The daughter of the

mountain, grief-stricken and supplicating, displayed so much pain that with a kindly thought the

god restored the mountains in all their splendour with their exuberant animals and plants.

Parvati often wearied of her husband's perpetual asceticism. In vain she waited patiently beside

him in adoration; plunged in his meditations he did not even notice her presence.

To tear Siva away from his contemplations the gods one spring day sent him Love (Kamadeva)

and his wife, Pleasure. Choosing the moment when Parvati was approaching her husband to

worship him, Love drew his bow, but at the very moment when he was about to loose the shaft

Siva saw him. and with a burning flash of his third eye consumed Love, who thereafter bore the

name of Ananga, deprived of his limbs. While Pleasure mourned over him who, as

she believed, was for ever lost, a voice spoke to her saying: 'Your husband will return. When Siva

weds Parvati he will give back Love's body to his soul.'

Parvati, weary of the god's indifference, had entered upon the life of a hermit. One day she was

visited by a young Brahman who praised her for her faithful devotion, but tried to persuade her to

return to the world. As she became angry the young man revealed that he was Siva himself. He

promised her his love, but Parvati asked that first he should return the body of Kamadeva to his

wife Pleasure. Siva agreed, and having taken Parvati to mount Kailasa at last consented to yield to

her desire. Their embrace made the whole world tremble.


Ganesa. Ganesa is one of the most popular Hindu divinities. He was made by Parvati from the

dew of her body mingled with dust, and acts as guardian to the goddess's gate. One day in an

excess of zeal he tried to prevent Siva from entering, and for this he had his head cut off. But the

indulgent Siva ordered that he should be brought the. head of the first animal which happened to

come along. Chance brought an elephant, and the resurrected son of Parvati received a new


Small and stocky with a fat stomach he has four arms, and carries in his hands an elephant-goad, a

rosary, and an alms-bowl. His steed is nothing but a rat, a contemptuous form bestowed by him

on a demon he had vanquished.

Ganesa's fat belly is the sign of his insatiable gluttony. They relate that one day after gorging

himself with offerings he decided to take a ride to stir up his digestion. Mounted on his rat he was

ambling along in the moonlight when a huge snake barred his way. The rat was frightened and

leaped to one side, and Ganesa rebounded from earth so violently that he burst his belly!

To compel the snake to repair the damage he had caused, Ganesa took hold of him and rolled him

round his damaged stomach. Recovering from the emotions of his accident the god was preparing

to continue on his way when suddenly he heard great shouts of laughter ringing across the sky. It

was the moon jeering at him! In a rage Ganesa broke off one his tusks and threw it in the mocker's

face with a curse which periodically deprived the moon of his light, and lasts to this day.

Another version says that Ganesa tore out his tusk in a burst of enthusiasm to write down the

Mahabharata from the dictation of the wise Vyasa. And in fact, despite the grotesque features of

his legend, the elephant-headed god is the patron of literature. This should not surprise us, for

Ganesa partakes of the natures of the two most intelligent beings, man and the elephant.

However he is above all a popular deity. Gentle, calm, propitious, he loves men and is loved by

them. His good sense and friendliness are equally famous. He bestows riches, and assures the

success of every undertaking. Nothing should be begun, not even the worship of another god,

without first honouring Ganesa. He is particularly revered by the shop-keeping class. Even today

if a bank fails the statues of Ganesa in the offices are turned round.

Karrtikeya or Skanda. He is a war-god and was created by Siva at the request of the other gods to

rid them of a demon. Siva directed the fire of his third eye on a lake, and instantly there emerged

six children, who were suckled by the wives of Rishis. But one day when Parvati was cuddling

them she squeezed so hard that they formed a single body. However, the six heads remained, and

are figured in most statues of Karttikeya. This war god rides on a peacock, and carries a cock as his


Kubera or Kuvera. He is a god of wealth, and also Siva's son. He hides, like his treasures, in the

depths of the earth, listening to the music of artistic and horse-riding genii, like the Gandharvas

and Kinnaras.

The Trimurti. Ingenious attempts were made to identify the two great sectarian gods, Vishnu and

Siva, in the name of the idea that terror and love must have the same principle and the same end.

For its part the Brahman caste altered its prototype of the absolute, brahman (neuter), a ritual

formula, into a personal god, Brahma, masculine, who could be the equivalent of either Vishnu or


and consequently bring them together. The representation of this Trimurti, triple aspect, is rather

rare in sculpture.

Hinduism moreover has given birth to other composite deities. Hari-Hara is partly Vishnu and

partly Siva, and is represented as divided into two halves by a vertical line, the right side bearing

the attributes of Siva - the ascetic's hair-knot, the trident, the tiger-skin - and on the left Vishnu's

tiara, disk and draped garment.

A curious figure is Ardhanarisvara (the god one half woman) considered however as solely an

aspect of Siva - one half the statue represents the god, and the other half his 'Sakti', the

manifestation of his energy in the feminine mode.

Far too often the Trimurti is used to suggest that India possessed a sort of Trinity with three equal

figures. There is really only a rather artificial syncretism. Brahma, who personifies an abstraction,

plays a very humble religious part in comparison with Vishnu and Siva, who for more than two

thousand years have ruled the souls of Indians. However, the orthodoxy which was a possession

of the priestly caste was preserved, thanks to the wholesale annexation of the sectarian cults. Once

the Trimurti was formed, it received an adequate interpretation in each sect. Here is how Sivaism

accepted it - the story is told by Brahma to the gods Rishis:

'In the night of Brahma when all beings were confounded in the same silent immobility, I

observed the great Narayana, the soul of the universe with a thousand omniscient eyes, at once

being and not-being, brooding over the waters without form, supported by the thousand-headed

snake of the Infinite. Blinded by the shining I touched the eternal being and asked: "Who are you?

Speak." Then lifting towards me his eyes like still sleepy lotus flowers he stood up, smiled, and

said: "Welcome, my child, splendid Lord!" I was offended and replied: "How can you, a sinless

god, treat me as a master treats a pupil, and call me child, I who am the cause of creation and of

destruction, the creator of a thousand universes, the source of all that exists?" Vishnu replied: "Do

you not know that I am Narayana, creator, preserver and destroyer of worlds, the eternal male,

immortal source and centre of the universe? Even you were born from my imperishable body."

'And we argued together sharply over the sea without form, when to our eyes there appeared a

glorious shining lingam, a pillar flaming with the light of a hundred fires able to destroy the

universe, without beginning, without middle, without end, incomparable, indescribable. The great

Vishnu was disturbed by these thousands of flames as I was, and said: "We must seek the source

of this fire. I will descend, and you will ascend with all your strength." Then he took the form of a

wild boar, like a mountain of blue collyrium, with sharp tusks, a long snout, a deep grunt, short

strong feet, vigorous, irresistible. He descended for a thousand years but could not reach the base

of the lingam. Meanwhile I had changed into a swan, entirely white, with burning eyes, wide

wings, and my flight was as swift as the wind and thought itself. For a thousand years I flew up

trying to reach the top of the pillar, but I could not reach it. When I returned I found the Vishnu

had already returned weary.

'Then Siva appeared before us, and tamed by his magic we bowed before him. On all sides rose up

his Om, eternal and clear. Vishnu said to him: "Our discussion has been fortunate, O god of gods,

since you have appeared to put an end to it." And Siva replied: "In truth you are the creator, the

preserver and the destroyer of worlds. My child, maintain both inertia and movement in the

world. For I, the supreme indivisible Lord am three - Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; I create, I

maintain, I destroy."'

The very variety of these combinations, their almost interchangeable character, show that in the

end the gods are reducible to one another, according to the point of view adopted by the


Under the swarming polytheism which animates Hindu mythology is hidden a profound doctrine

of unity. 'God is One', says the Rig-Veda, 'but the sages, vipra, give him many names.'


While the mythology of the Little Vehicle conquered Indo-China, and that of the Great Vehicle

Tibet, China, Japan, and the Indonesian archipelago, the mythology of Hinduism was exported to

Cambodia and Java. Angkor-Wat, for instance, bears magnificent witness to it. There would

scarcely exist an Indian statuary, either in the metropolis or the colonies, if mythology had not

made the towering flight which we have tried to sketch the main lines.



Constitutive elements of Chinese mythology

It is well known that in China three different religions co-exist - Buddhism, Taoism and

Confucianism, the two first of which have their own temples and priests: the Bonzes and Tao-shih,

while the last has temples without priests. Chinese mythology has been formed from a mixture of

elements belonging to these three religions, but these elements were not taken over intact. They

suffered changes, sometimes rather profound changes, especially through the influence of plays

and novels.

From early times and in the first years even of the Chinese Republic the official religion remained

Confucianism. Every year the Emperor, followed by his courtiers, in spring and autumn made

sacrifices to Heaven, the Sun, the Moon, the Soil, the god of War, Confucius, and the Ancestors, in

each of their respective temples. Apart from that there was no special religious cult, except

perhaps of Confucius himself. Some of these divinities were retained by the people in their

mythology, but entirely changed their personality.

The same thing happened with the two other religions. Thus, certain Buddhist divinities may

often be found under other names in mythology, while Taoism, to which Chinese mythology owes

the greatest debt, was completely overturned and changed even to the personality of Lao-tzu, who

is called its founder. In reality Lao-tzu was nearly a contemporary of Confucius (he is said to have

lived in the sixth century B.C.) and like him was a philosopher. But popular legends endowed him

with immortality and the power of conquering demons, claiming that he was the incarnation of

the Celestial Master of the First Origin, one of the members of the Taoist supreme triad. After

having spread his teaching and bestowed on his disciple, Yin Hsi, the Tao-te Ching or 'Book of the

First Principle and its Virtue' he mounted a green ox and disappeared towards the West. He was

never seen again.

The true founder of existing Taoism, which we shall call popular Taoism, was Chang Tao-ling

who lived in the second century of our era and was deified in the eighth century. He received

various revelations and, it seems, succeeded in preparing the drug of immortality. He fought with

eight King-demons and conquered them thanks to his magic powers and his talismans; and finally

after numerous exploits he ascended into heaven with his wife and two disciples, but not until he

had passed on his various secret powers to his son.

Chang Tao-ling had bestowed on himself the title of Celestial-Master (T'ien-shih). His title passed

from generation to generation of his descendants, and the writer recollects that at the beginning of

the Republic the Celestial-Master of the epoch, a boy of about twelve, came to Peking to seek an

audience of the president of the Republic, Yuan Shih-k'ai, who received him with great ceremony

and confirmed him in his title.

Most of the divinities of Chinese mythology are of Taoist origin, and it should be added that many

of them were made popular by two novels - Travels in the West, and Romance of the Investiture

.of the Gods, both dating from the Ming epoch, about the fifteenth century.

Characteristics of the Chinese Pantheon

Perhaps the most curious fact about the Chinese Pantheon is that it is arranged in imitation of

earthly organisation. It appears as a vast government administration, or, still more precisely, as a

series of government departments, each one with its Minister and its personnel. The different gods

are positive bureaucrats with a strict hierarchy of rank and with clearly defined powers. They

keep registers, make reports, issue directives, with a regard for formalities and a superabundance

of papers which the most pedantic administration on earth might well envy.

Every month they furnish a detailed report to their immediate superiors, and they every year give

an account of their administration to the sovereign god, the August Personage of Jade, who then

distributes his praise and his censure. The gods, according to circumstances, are then promoted or

lowered in rank, and they may even be dismissed.

This is one of the most original characteristics of all Chinese

mythology, for the gods are not immutable. Only function persists -the functionary changes. New

gods take the place of the old. And these changes do not only occur in time, but in space. By that

we must understand that in different regions the same powers are in many instances allotted to

quite a varying number of different personages.

The explanation is that most Chinese gods are not in origin divine, but human; they are men who

have been deified after their death.

These different facts explain the large number of divinities which inhabit Chinese mythology. It

would be too long and too tedious to look over all of them in these pages and we shall deal only

with the most important or most popular gods, referring those interested to Father Dore's

Recherches sur les Superstitions en Chine, and to the chapter devoted to Chinese mythology by H.

Maspero in the Mythologie asiatique illustree. I make a point of stressing how much the present

study owes to that work.


Heaven is the dwelling of sidereal divinities, but they do not live together. Each god has his own

palace, and moreover Heaven is divided into different levels, some say nine and others thirtythree.

The gods with the highest seniority in office are the most important and live on the top


The August Personage of Jade

On the topmost level surrounded with his Court lives the August Personage of Jade (Yu-ti) also

known as the August Supreme Emperor of Jade (Yu-huang-shang- ti) or again and most usually

Father-Heaven (Lao-tien-yeh). They say he was one of the first gods who existed and that he

created human beings - such at least is the tradition in Northern China. They add that Father-

Heaven made human beings by modelling them in clay, and when his task was ended he put his

statuettes to dry in the sun. At this moment a heavy shower of rain fell and

Father-Heaven hastened to put his statuettes in shelter. But some of them were damaged by the

rain, and they constitute the sick living on earth, while the healthy whose limbs are whole and

complete are the statuettes which were not damaged.

Although recognised as the greatest of the gods, the August Personage of Jade is only the second

person of the supreme triad, which includes the Heavenly Master of the First Origin, who

preceded the August Personage of Jade, and the Heavenly Master of the Dawn of Jade of the

Golden Door, who one day will succeed him.

The August Personage of Jade lives in a palace exactly similar to that of the Emperor who reigns

over human beings. The doorway of this palace is guarded by Wang, a transcendental bureaucrat,

who is armed with a stick and clad in armour and does duty as door-keeper. There the August

Personage of Jade grants many audiences, for his Court is exactly like that of the human Emperor -

he has his Ministers and his officers, represented by secondary

gods, and he has an army of heavenly soldiers to fight the rebel Spirits when necessary. He has a

family - a wife, sisters, daughters, nephews. Among the last-named we must note the Second Lord

(Erh-lang) who drives away evil spirits, helped by the Celestial Dog (T'ien-kou). He is a god said

to know seventy-two ways of transforming himself. He is much respected, and has numerous

temples dedicated to him.

The wife of the August Personage of Jade, the Queen Mother Wang (Wang-mu niang-niang), is no

doubt a popular corruption of the elderly character, the Lady-Queen of the West, who is spoken of

in the Romance of the Emperor Mu (found in a tomb and dating from the fourth century). The

ancient legends represent her as wife of the Lord-King of the East, dwelling on the K'un-lun

mountains, which is the abode of the Immortals; the popular legends present her as the wife of the

August Personage of Jade, living on the highest level of Heaven with her attendants. However, in

spite of this transformation, she keeps her ancient attributes. She presides over the banquets of

immortality which she gives to the gods, banquets mainly furnished with the peaches of

immortality, P'an-t'ao, which ripen once every three thousand years on the peach-trees of the

imperial orchard - which is why in China the peach is the symbol of longevity.

The August Personage of Jade is always represented wearing the high ceremonial costume,

Chinese style, of the Emperor (note that the gods are always represented in Chinese and never in

Manchu costume), with embroidered dragons on his robe. He wears on his head the headdress of

the Emperors, formed by a flat board from which hang, in front and behind, thirteen pendants of

coloured pearls on red strings, and his crossed hands hold the Imperial book of etiquette. He is

seated on a throne, sometimes with secondary

gods, his attendants, beside him, but more often alone. And like all gods who are supposed to

have reached middle age, he wears long whiskers and a tuft of beard.

As to the Queen Mother Wang, she is usually represented as a beautiful young woman also in

ceremonial dress, sometimes alone but sometimes with a peacock or surrounded by her ladies in


During the monarchy the Emperor every year made two solemn sacrifices to the August

Personage of Jade, one in the winter solstice and one in spring. They were both celebrated in the

huge Temple of Heaven situated in the south suburb of Peking. The Emperor was carried to the

Temple in a monumental chair, accompanied by an imposing procession of princes, dignitaries,

soldiers, and imposing procession of princes, dignitaries, soldiers, and dancers. He went up the

three stages of the altar of Heaven, an enormous mound encircled with marble balustrades, bowed

to the ground before the fire lighted in the god's honour, and made his offerings, which consisted

of rolls of silk, disks of jade, various meats and many other libations.


Sun and Moon. We have already noted that the Sun and Moon were the objects of an official cult,

but the people's worship was quite different. For them the Sun is a god who originally lived in the

form of a cock but by following the Path obtained a human face. In the ordinary way he was only

offered one sacrifice at the beginning of the year and another on his birthday, and that was all.

There were very few Temples dedicated to him. The same is true of the Moon, except that it

received more sacrifices. The festival

of the Moon is one of the three great annual Chinese feasts, and takes place on the fifteenth day of

the eighth month, at the full moon of the autumn equinox. It is especially a festival for women and

children, who buy little figures representing either a white rabbit or a helmeted soldier dressed in

his armour with a face like a hare, and make them a sacrifice consisting chiefly of fruit. They offer

a sacrifice directly to the Moon when it has risen a little above the house-tops. In some families the

sacrifice is made before a large paper panel with a representation of the Moon's palace with its

inhabitant the Hare who makes the drug of immortality. The sacrifice consists of fruit, sweet cakes

which are specially made and sold for the occasion, and a sprig of red amaranth. Men never take

part in this ceremony, for in the popular mind the hare is the symbol of inverts - nobody knows

why - and is considered their patron.

The Moon is also inhabited by a personage who is considered the Moon goddess, Ch'ang-o or

Heng-o. She is the wife of I, the Excellent Archer, a mythological personage who brought down

nine suns with his arrows, one day when the ten suns of primitive times took it into their heads to

rise together and threatened to shrivel up the world. The gods had given him the drug of

immortality and one day he returned home to find that she had drunk it. He was so angry she fled

to the Moon, her husband in hot pursuit. She asked protection of the Hare, who fought with I and

made him give up his intention of punishing his wife, who henceforth has lived in the Moon. She

is represented as a very beautiful young woman, and her name is often mentioned in novels and

poems for it is said currently of a pretty woman that she is as 'beautiful, as if Ch'ang-o had come

down from the Moon'.

Rain, Thunder, Wind. Although Taoist religion includes a whole Ministry of Thunder made up of

several divinities, the people recognise only one Thunder god called My Lord Thunder, Lei-kung.

He is represented as a man of repulsive ugliness, with a body blue all over, furnished with wings

and claws. He wears nothing but a loin-cloth, with one or more drums hanging at his side, and his

hands hold a mallet and a chisel. There is general agreement that the chisel is used to strike the

guilty whom the Thunder is ordered to punish, but there is less agreement about the uses of the

mallet. Some say it is used to strike the drums to produce the rolls of thunder, but others think it is

used to drive in the chisel.

By orders of Heaven, the Thunder punishes human beings guilty of some great crime which has

remained undetected or which human laws do not touch (usually some act which has directly or

indirectly caused somebody's death); it also punishes evil spirits who by practising Tao doctrine

have succeeded in gaining personality and make use of it to harm mankind, etc. However, he is

not always able to achieve this by himself, and he sometimes needs human help.

One day a hunter in pursuit of game had ventured far into a thick forest and was surprised by a

violent storm. Flashes of lightning and thunder were continuous, and seemed to hover over a tree

which lifted its tall branches not far from where the hunter stood. Looking up he saw a child

holding in its hands a flag roughly made from a piece of cloth tied to a bit of wood. When the

Thunder approached the child waved its flag, and the Thunder immediately retreated. It is well

known that Thunder, like all the gods, dislikes unclean things and especially the blood of black

dogs, and the hunter at once realised that the child was an evil spirit pursued by the Thunder and

that his flag was made of some unclean material. By way of helping on the divine work, he loaded

his gun and shot down the flag. The Thunder at once struck the tree, but the hunter who was too

close to it was also touched and fainted away. When he recovered he found a little roll of paper on

his body containing the words: 'Life prolonged for twelve years, for helping on the work of

Heaven', while at the foot of the shattered tree he found the corpse of a huge lizard, the real form

of the child with the flag.

Thunder has no Temple of his own - at least, it is very rare to meet with one. Moreover the most

worshipped gods are those who can give something, such as happiness, wealth, children, etc., so it

is not surprising that nobody comes to ask anything from a god who can give nothing but a death

entailing infamy; and yet there are some people who apply to him. Usually they are persons who

have to complain of somebody else, and not being able to revenge themselves entrust their

vengeance to the god. begging him to strike their enemies dead.

During storms, Thunder, who can only make a noise, is helped by several other divinities. The

flashes of lightning are produced by Mother-Lightning (Tien Mu) with the help of the mirrors she

holds in her hands; the rain is produced by the Master of Rain (Yu-tzu) who with his sword

sprinkles water from the pot he holds; the clouds are piled up by the Little Boy of the Clouds

(Yun-t'ung); and the wind comes out of a kind of goatskin bottle carried by the Earl of Wind

(Feng-po). Later on this last god was replaced by a goddess, an old woman named Mrs Wind

(Feng-p'o-p'o). She may sometimes be seen moving among the clouds, riding on a tiger.

The Dragon-Kings: Lung-Wang. However, for the people these divinities are subordinate to the

Dragon-Kings who depend directly on the August Personage of Jade, from whom they receive the

order to distribute a certain amount of rain to a given region. There are four Dragon-Kings of

importance, each of whom rules one of the four seas of which the earth is the centre, and they are


known to the people as four brothers under the names they have in Travels in the West, which

differ from those given them by the Taoists. They are Ao Kuang, Ao Jun, Ao Shun and Ao Ch'in.

Each lives in a palace called the Crystal Palace, and has his Ministers, his army consisting offish,

crabs and crayfish, and watchmen who see to the policing of the sea-bottom. These four Dragon-

Kings are not much worshipped, although they have quite a lot of temples, because the local

Dragon-Kings are much more respected. Indeed, every watercourse and every well has its

Dragon-King. In northern China beside every well there is a tiny temple with the statue of its god,

represented as a mandarin in ceremonial costume, and on the first and fifteenth of each month the

owner of the well makes it a rudimentary sacrifice of three joss-sticks.

The Dragon-Kings bring rain, and so are resorted to in droughts. The ceremonies vary with the

locality. In the big towns a procession is often organised, with the effigy of a dragon in cloth which

serves specially for this event. The effigy is taken through the main streets

of the town, preceded by a band and persons dancing. In the villages they don't do this. During

bad droughts the village people go and ask for rain from the Dragon-Kings in the most important

temple and offer an ample sacrifice. If at the end of a few days their prayers are not answered, the

god's statue is taken out of the temple and left beside the road, for they rightly suppose that this

treatment will cause suffering to a god who lives in the depths of waters, and that he will hasten to

ask the August Personage of Jade for permission to send rain. On the other hand if after the

sacrifice or the exposure of the stature it happens that enough rain falls to save the crops, the

rejoicing is universal. A new sacrifice is made by the whole village, and important places may

honour the god by giving a theatrical performance which lasts three days. Sometimes a number of

neighbouring villages will club together to do the thing more handsomely. Naturally, if it rains too

much or there is a threat ui rtoods, the Dragon-Kings are again approached, but this time with a

view to stopping the rain.

The God of Literature, Wen Ch'ang, and the God of Examinations, K'uei-hsing. The god of

Examinations is the god of the four stars which form the waggon of Charles's Wain. He is a

follower of the god of Literature, Wen Ch'ang. Only after he had lived through seventeen

successive lives, filled with prodigious events, was Wen Ch'ang invested by the August Personage

of Jade with the functions of Grand Emperor of Literature. He is usually represented sitting down,

dressed as a mandarin, and holding a sceptre. Although his cult goes back to a very ancient epoch,

Wen Ch'ang is less popular than his assistant, K'uei-hsing. Before the 1912 revolution, when the

Imperial examinations took place regularly, there was a tablet or image of K'uei-hsing in every

literary family. In some wealthy families it was not uncommon to see a little kiosk especially

devoted to his cult, for he presides over examinations and chooses the person who is to come out


Like the god of Thunder, the god of Examinations is one of the ugliest in existence. He is usually

represented making a grimace, standing on the head of a turtle Ao (which many people think is a

fish) in an attitude resembling that of the genius of the Bastille, bending forward, with his left leg

raised behind as if he is running. In his left hand he holds a bushel-basket and in his right a

paintbrush. When the list of candidates is placed before the August Personage of Jade he indicates

the name of the first successful candidate. He uses his brush to put a mark under the name of the

lucky candidate, and uses his bushel to measure the talents of them all. They say also that the

bushel is the distinctive sign of the god, since in China Charles's Wain or the Great Bear is called

The Northern Bushel. There are two explanations of the turtle's head which he tramples under his

foot. Some say that during his life on earth he came out first in the examination for his doctorate,

but that when the reigning Emperor saw how ugly he was he refused to ratify the choice of the

examiners. In his despair he tried to drown himself, but when he threw himself into the water, the

turtle Ao received him on its head and took him back to land. The other explanation is less

miraculous. The stairways of the imperial palace are all divided down the centre by a paved space

on which is carved the head of the turtle Ao emerging from the water. When the Emperor gave an

audience to the scholars who had passed their doctorate examinations the first was naturally

placed jiM above this piece of carving. Hence it happened that each candidate received the wish

'may you alone stand on the head of Ao', and that is why the god of examinations was represented

in this posture, as an omen of good luck.

Another of Wen Ch'ang's assistants is 'Red Jacket' who protects candidates who are not very well

prepared. Thanks to him some of them sometimes succeed; but in spite of his goodwill, it is better

to work hard and thus obtain the favour of K'uei-hsing or Wen Ch'ang, who never fail a deserving


A young student who had worked conscientiously returned home after the examination,

dissatisfied with his essay. Fearing failure, he invoked Wen Ch'ang and begged him to intervene.

While he was asleep the god appeared to him. The student saw him throwing a number of essays

into a stove, and among them the candidate recognised his own. The god crumbled them to pieces

and then took them out entirely altered. Wen Ch'ang handed the young man the corrected essay,

and he learnt it by heart. When he awoke the candidate heard that during the night a fire had

destroyed the building where the essays had been stored, so that the examinations had to be

repeated. He did the work again, taking care to make use of the god's advice, and of course


Gods of Happiness. The first of these gods is the god of Long Life, Shou-hsing. He is the star

Canopus in the ship Argo. He is one of the easiest gods to recognise, for he has the face of an old

man with pure white beard and eyebrows, and is especially noteworthy for an enormous bald

head. He is usual'y represented standing, leaning on a large rough stick, with the peach of

Immortality in one hand. He is often accompanied by a stork or a turtle, animals which were

supposed to live to a great age, and thus became symbols of longevity. In China, as is well known,

old age is considered a great blessing. So, although there is no regular worship of this god, who

indeed has no temples, he is very much honoured. When there is a birthday celebration for an

aged person (someone at least fifty) the image of the god, usually embroidered in silk, is hung up

in a place of honour. Food and fruit are placed in front of it

with two large red lighted candles. The person whose birthday it is salutes the image by bowing

low thrice before it, and throughout the day visitors first address their congratulations to the god's


Shou-hsing decides the date of everyone's death. He writes it beforehand on his tablets, and from

that moment fate is unchangeable. And yet the god can change his mind, by juggling with the

writing. Thus the death of a certain young man had been fixed for the age of nineteen. But then

Shou-hsing, wanting to thank him for the gift of a jar of wine he had offered, just reversed the

numbers one and nine, so that instead of 19 years he had 91 - which is what the change makes in


The god of Long Life is one of a triad, which also includes the god of Happiness, Fu-hsing, and the

god of Salaries, Lu-hsing. Both are historical persons divinised after their death. It seems that the

god of Happiness in his life-time was a mandarin who lived at Tao-chou in the sixth century,

though others see in him a general who saved the T'ang dynasty in the eighth century. The god of

Salaries, or god of Functionaries, was a person who served the founder of the Han dynasty, in the

third century before our era. Space is lacking to describe these divinities in more detail. We must

limit ourselves to saying that these three gods often represented together either in human form -

the gods of Happiness and of Salaries dressed in the robes of a mandarin - or in the form of

symbols - bats for Happiness (in Chinese the word for bat is pronounced 'Fu', like happiness), a

deer, called Lu, for the god of Salaries, and a stork or a peach or sometimes a pine for the god of

Long Life.

The Heavenly Spinster, Chih-nii

Although she is a divinity and a daughter of the August Personage of Jade, so they say, there is no

worship of the Heavenly Spinster, the goddess of the star Alpha in the Lyre. But she is the heroine

of a pretty popular legend, and her name is often mentioned in Chinese folklore.

The goddess was continually spinning robes for the August Personage of Jade, robes of brocade

and clouds which have no seams. To reward her for this work her father, taking pity on her

loneliness, married her to the Heavenly Cow-herd (the Beta and Gamma stars in Aquila) but after

her marriage the Spinster was so much absorbed in her love that she neglected her work. The

August Personage of Jade lost his temper, and separated the couple by putting one of them to the

right and the other to the left of the Heavenly River (the Milky Way) with permission to see each

other once a year.

That, so to speak, is the goddess's official history. The people took it up and enlivened it, and this

is what they relate.

The Cow-herd was a mere mortal, a little simple minded, whose father had bequeathed him a little

bit of land and an ox to plough it. When he had reached a marriageable age his ox (who was a

genius in disguise) said to him: 'Master, if you want a pretty wife without having to spend

anything, go on a certain day to the river, and you will see all the girls bathing. Their clothes will

be on the bank. Pick up a bundle and come back quickly. Hide them somewhere, and I promise

you shall have a pretty wife.' The Cow-herd did as the ox suggested, and when he got home threw

the clothes down an old well behind the house, and waited. Very soon their owner came along to

ask for them. It was the Heavenly Spinster who for amusement had come down to earth with a

few friends and had wanted to bathe, but now could not return to Heaven without her clothes.

The Cow-herd therefore detained and married her. After several years he had a son by her and

then a daughter, and one day his wife said to him: 'Now that we have been married so long and

have children, tell me where you hid my heavenly clothes.' The unsuspicious Cow-herd showed

her the hiding place. The Spinster hastened to take them out, dressed in them, and and returned to

Heaven. The Cow-herd was in despair, especially as the children cried aloud for their mother; so

he went and asked the advice of his ox. And the ox said: 'Master, put each of your children in a

basket, and tie them to the ends of a pole which you can balance on your shoulders. Then lake

hold of my tail, shut your eyes, and I will take you to Heaven to rejoin your wife.' And this was

done. When they got to Heaven, the Cow-herd requested an audience of the August Personage of

Jade and demanded his wife. The August Personage of Jade sent for the Spinster, and having

discovered that the facts alleged by the Cow-herd were true, he made him immortal, and

appointed him to be god of a star to the west of the River, while the Spinster was to the East, with

permission to meet once every seven days. But the couple misunderstood him, and thought they

could meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month, and that is what they have

done ever since. As they cannot cross the River without a bridge, on that day all the magpies fly

up to Heaven with the twig of a tree and make a foot-bridge for them to be able to meet.

This legend is spread all over China, and many poetic works refer to it. Moreover in northern

China they say that on the seventh day of the seventh month it is bound to rain, at least in the

morning (it falls by the way in the middle of the rainy season) because the Cowherd and the

Spinster weep for joy at seeing each other again, and their tears fall down on the earth.


The Great Emperor of the Eastern Peak, T'ai-yueh-ta-ti or Tung-yueh-ta-ti

Although the August Personage of Jade is interested in everything that goes on in heaven and

earth, he can't look after it all himself. So he detailed a god to look after mankind - he is the Great

Emperor of the Eastern Peak, the god of the mountain T'ai-shan, in Shantung. This divinity is

directly responsible to the August Personage of Jade, and has a large staff under his orders, for he

presides over the life of men from their birth to their death, arranging their fate and determining

their fortunes, honours, posterity, etc. Even the animals come under his jurisdiction. So he is

widely worshipped. There is always a crowd in all his sanctuaries, and his temple in Peking,

Tung-yueh-miao, was one of the richest. It is also one of the largest, for there are represented

in it over eighty offices dependent on the god - offices of birth, of death, offices for the

determination of social position, of wealth, of the number of children. There are also offices which

keep registers of good and bad actions, and those for the retribution of these actions, etc. The

personnel of the offices is recruited from the souls of the dead. In his temple the Emperor of the

Eastern Peak is represented sitting down, wearing the costume of an Emperor, in a shape similar

to that of the August Personage of Jade. Indeed, it would be very difficult to distinguish one from

the other, if they were taken out of their surroundings. He is too important a god for his statue or

picture to appear in family households. His devotees go to the temple to pay him their respects,

and they go there when they have any request to make to the god.

The Emperor of the Eastern Peak has a daughter, the Princess of streaked Clouds, Pi-hsia-yuanchun,

also known as the Holy-Mother, Sheng-mu. She protects women and children, and usually

presides over births. According to tradition, her husband is either the son of the western sea, or

Mao Ying, who anciently attained immortality. The goddess, greatly venerated throughout China,

is usually represented sitting, and with a headdress of three birds with outstretched wings. Her

assistants are the Eady of Good Sight, who preserves children from eye maladies, and the Eady

whose function it is to bring children.

The Princess of streaked Clouds has a Buddhist double in the person of the goddess Kuan-yin,

who has in addition the surname of Sung-tzu niang-niang, the Eady who brings children. Draped

in a large white veil, she sits on a lotus flower, and holds a child in her arms. Kuan-yin, goddess of

fecundity, is equally expert in treating all sicknesses. So she is very popular, and her image is to be

found in nearly every home. Every year long lines of pilgrims visit her Temple of Miao Feng Shan

(the Mountain of the Wondrous Peak), situated about forty miles from Peking. Sick persons of all

kinds come to implore the goddess to heal them, among the smoke of joss-sticks, the popping of

crackers, and the creaking of rattles, which are supposed to win the favour of Kuan-yin.

Gods of Walls and Ditches, Ch'eng-huang and Gods of the Locality, T'u-ti. Every administrative

area, town, or large village, has a god who protects it and takes care of the inhabitants, called the

God of Walls and Ditches; and these gods are appointed by the August Personage of Jade. They

are invariably divinised human beings, either heroes or mandarins of integrity, generally speaking

persons who in their lifetime served and protected the people. After their death they are not

reincarnated but are nominated as Ch'eng-huang of such and such a place, so that they can

continue to protect the people. Chinese folklore contains a great many legends about these gods.

The main outline changes very little. The inhabitants of a place are warned in a dream that on a

certain date a person named Ch'eng-huang of the town will come to occupy his post; and on the

date specified the noise of a procession and band is heard in the streets - the new god has arrived.

Next day the inhabitants hasten to offer him a big arrival sacrifice. Very often, if the god is

someone well known, they recast the statue in the temple consecrated to him and give it this

person's head. Some legends say that when there is a vacancy for the post of god of Walls and

Ditches, the gods arrange a competition for the candidates who are chosen from among living

scholars. Such is the story of 'The Examination for God of Walls and Ditches' contained in the

famous collection, Tales of the Studio of Joy.

In the popular mind the Ch'eng-huang plays the part of protector and governor to the place of

which he is the god. His rank varies in accordance with the importance of the place he governs.

Sometimes he corresponds only to a sub-prefect among human beings, sometimes to a prefect,

while the Ch'eng-huang of Peking was the equal of the governor of the town. Human magistrates

were far from disdaining them, and during the Empire sub-prefects were known to have asked

their advice and help when a crime had been committed on their territory. With this in view they

fasted for at least a day, offered a sacrifice to the god, and then slept that night in the temple. In

their dreams the god pointed out the guilty party, usually by means of Sybilline poems. Needless

to say, this custom has long since disappeared.

In the times before the Republic the festival of Ch'eng-huang took place in the spring of every

year. The god's statue was carried round the town with great pomp, and this was called 'My Eord

Ch'eng-huang's tour of inspection'. At the head of the procession went the God of the Place,

represented either by his statue or by a notable in disguise. Following in his tracks they purified

the streets with vinegar, and then came Ch'eng-huang's assistants, among them Mr White and Mr

Black, who watch over the town, one by day and one by night; and Ox-Head and Horse-Face, who

carry out the god's orders. Around these divinities marched groups of demons with hideous

masks and penitents in the red robes of those to be tortured, amid a great waving of banners and a

deafening noise of gongs. Finally came the statue of Ch'eng-huang carried in a rich palanquin and

religiously escorted by the city dignitaries. As may be guessed, this ceremony occasioned great

popular rejoicings.

The gods of Walls and Ditches only exist in administrative areas, in towns surrounded by walls

(whence the name). This is not the case with the gods of Place (T'u-ti), who are less important gods

but more popular. Each town, whether fortified or not, and every village, has one. There is a Place

god for every street, every temple; every public building has one, and so it is with every dwelling.

According to the legends they are sometimes famous persons who have been appointed to this

work after their death, but as a rule they are anonymous. They are represented in the form of an

old man with white beard, in ordinary clothes, carrying a long knotty stick, while his wife - who is

always shown with him - is represented as a kindly old woman. Naturally the personality of the

gods varies with the kind of place they look after. In the towns the Place god is a citizen, but in the

country a peasant.

The Place god has very modest functions. He acts as a sort of

policeman to his territory, and in the country he has to scare off robbers and animals which raid

the poultry yard, etc; but in recompense his cult is very wide-spread, and every family has a statue

of him before which three joss-sticks are burned every morning and evening.

The Hearth god, Tsao-wang. The Hearth god is obviously domestic. He witnesses the acts and

even words of every member of the family with which he lives, and keeps a record of them. Every

year, on the twenty-third day of the twelfth month, he ascends into heaven to make his report to

the August Personage of Jade, who on the basis of this report allots the family happiness or

misfortune during the coming year.

The Hearth god is not represented by a statue but by a picture on paper - it will be seen why, later

on. This image, coarsely printed and coloured, is placed in a sort of little wooden temple just over

the hearth, or in some other part of the kitchen. It is essential that the image should face south. In

the picture the god's wife, Tsao-wang nai-nai, is beside him, for she aids him in his duties by also

keeping a record of the women's sayings and doings.

Apart from the three joss-sticks every morning, the family makes only two sacrifices a year to this

god. The first takes place on the twenty-fourth day of the twelfth month when he has gone up to

heaven to make his report to the August Personage of Jade. Among other offerings this sacrifice

includes sweets which are specially made for the purpose and only sold at this time, as well as

straw for the god's horse. After the sacrifice his picture is taken down from its niche and burned

over a little fire of pine twigs to the noise of fire-crackers, but before starting the fire they are

careful to put a bit of a sweet on his mouth so that he will 'speak sweet words' to the August

Personage of Jade about the family he has just left. The Hearth god returns from Heaven on the

first day of the new year. Another sacrifice is then offered up, always with firecrackers,

and they hang up his picture in the kitchen, in the place it will occupy throughout the year.

There is an explanation of the fire-crackers set off during these sacrifices. They are special firecrackers

which bang off high in the air, and they say that this is to help the god up during his

ascension, while on his return the fire-crackers show the god which house he must re-enter. Then,

there is another custom, which is not to light a fire in the kitchen while the Hearth god is absent in

Heaven, but this is observed less and less. During the god's absence, you can do anything you like,

for the god is not there to record bad actions. But then it is also a time when the house, lacking its

protector, is liable to all kinds of woes and calamities.

Door gods, Men-shen. On the outer doors of Chinese houses, which have two leaves, you often see

represented two armed soldiers, stuck or painted on each of the leaves. One of them has a red or

black face, and the other a white face - they are the Door gods. Originally these duties were

entrusted to two mythical beings, Shen-t'u and Yu-lu, who in ancient mythology were supposed to

prevent the spirits of the dead from escaping out of hell to disturb the peace of the living. The

Ghosts' Door was placed between the branches of an enormous peach-tree planted on the top of a

mountain. As soon as a malevolent soul appeared the two guards seized on him and threw him as

food to the tigers. The figures of Shen-t'u and Yu-lu were later reproduced on the doors of houses

to keep away evil spirits.

Later on, these two divinities were replaced by historical personages who had been promoted to

the rank of gods - Yu-ch'ih Ching-te, and Ch'in Shu-pao. They had both been generals of the

Emperor T'ai-tsung of the T'ang dynasty, and lived at the beginning of the seventh century. The

explanation of why they were chosen as Door gods is to be fund in the Travels in the Wesi. In the

sixth chapter of that novel we are told that the Emperor T'ai-tsung, in spite of

A figure from Te-hua, Fukien, depicting a Lo-han with a tiger seated beside him in a peaceful

attitude. The original disciples of Buddha were called Lo-hans by the Chinese, who received the

doctrines in the first century A. D. However, the Chinese modified the teachings to such a degree

that a different form was created. Late seventeenth century porcelain. Victoria and Albert


his promise, was unable to save a Dragon-King who had made a mistake in distributing rain and

was condemned to have his head cut off by the August Personage of Jade. The spirit of this

Dragon-King held that the Emperor was responsible for his death, and every night came and

created a disturbance at the palace door. In consequence the Emperor fell sick, and his two

generals, Yu-ch'ih Ching-te and Ch'in Shupao, suggested that they should keep guard over the

palace door. The spirit of the Dragon-King was thus driven away, but he went off and created a

disturbance at the back door, a door with only one leaf, and was driven away by T'ai-tsung's

Minister, Wei Cheng. The Emperor therefore had these three personages painted on all doors, and

the tradition lasted until our own time, although it is rather uncommon to see a painting of Wei

Cheng, but then doors with one leaf are not very numerous in China.

The Door gods are painted directly on to the doors of great houses, whereas humbler houses and

those in the country simply have their printed and coloured images stuck on. They are

represented in military dress, holding in one hand a long-handled mace, with a bow and arrows

slung at their side. They keep away evil spirits and prevent them from entering the house they are

guarding, and there are quantities of legends about their good services. In spite of which

absolutely nothing is done in their worship.

And then it must be noted that in recent times they lost a great deal of their religious character.

Except among the people, usually extremely superstitious, they had come to be considered rather

as themes for decoration than as divinities, and they are on the way to disappearing completely.

None are to be seen, for instance, on the doors of houses in Peking.

In Buddhist Temples, the Door gods are not Ch'in Shu-pao and Yu-ch'ih Ching-te, but are

represented by different persons -the Sniffing General and the Puffing General (Heng-Ha-erh-

Chiang) or else by the Heavenly Kings (T'ien Wang), the four brothers Mo-li. They are all

represented by colossal grimacing figures placed in the first building of the temples. At first there

were only the two generals, Sniffer and Puffer, one of whom has his mouth shut while the other

has his mouth open. They are so called because during their lifetime it appears that one of them

had the power of emitting from his nostrils jets of white light which mortals breathed in, while the

other puffed fatal gases out of his mouth. Little by little in the course of ages these two personages

have been replaced by the Celestial Kings.

When you enter a Buddhist temple you come into the inner hall, a kind of vestibule divided by a

courtyard from the great hall, and there you see four enormous statues ranged along the walls.

They represent soldiers with grimacing countenances, respectively holding a sword, an umbrella,

a guitar and a striped marten - sometimes replaced by a snake. They are the Celestial Kings,

guardians of the four directions.

Originally these personages were Buddhist divinities, named Vaisravana, Dhrtarastra, Virudhaka

and Virupaksa. In course of time their personality changed under the influence of the novel, Royal

Investiture. They are now considered to be the four brothers Mo-li, who were once generals

famous for their deeds. The attributes they hold in their hands are simply the talismans by means

of which they conquered their enemies during their mortal life. When the first flourished his

sword he raised terrific whirlwinds which swept everything before them. The second merely had

to open his umbrella and the sun was obscured, plunging the earth into deepest darkness while it

poured with rain. The third controlled the direction of the winds by playing on his guitar. And the

last annihilated his enemies by loosing his striped marten, who ate them up.

Like the Celestial Kings, the Sniffing and Puffing Generals were also once Buddhist divinities.

In these same outer halls may also be seen the statue of a young soldier, clad in shining armour

and holding a knotty stick in his hands. This is Wei-t'o, chief of the thirty-two heavenly generals,

and also assigned to guard doors.


The God of Wealth, Ts'ai-shen

This god has certainly had more success than any of them. Not only do the people never fail to

offer up a sacrifice to him on his birthday, but even persons who

claim to be unbelievers and pay no sort of cult to other gods, salute this god with great respect on

the appointed day.

The God of Wealth's anniversary is on the fifth day of the first month. On New Year's Day in

Peking, the day on which all the gods descend on earth to make a tour of general inspection, the

children run about the streets at night, shouting: 'We come to bring you the God of Wealth!' Each

person hastens to buy one, and when other sellers appear the answer is: 'We already have one,' for

it would not be in good taste to say: 'We don't want any more/ After it is purchased the image is

placed beside that of other gods (the Star gods, the Hearth gods, etc.) and then they wait for the

fifth day of the following month. On this day they sacrifice to the god a cock and a living carp

specially reserved for this occasion, and then the image is burned on a fire of pine twigs

accompanied by many fire-crackers, while the master of the house and all who live in it, without

distinction of age or sex, come in succession to bow before the little fire.

The Taoists made the god of Wealth the head of a Ministry of Wealth with offices and a string of

subordinates, such as the Celestial and Venerable Discoverer of Treasures, the Celestial and

Venerable Bringer of Treasures, the Immortal of commercial profits, etc. But the people like to

simplify, and usually they take one of these gods - in Peking the best known is the god of Wealth

who increases Happiness, Tseng-fu-ts'ai-shen. The novel, the Investiture of the Gods, identified

him with the wise man, Pi Kan, who lived towards the end of the Yin dynasty, and was put to

death by order of the Emperor who wanted to find out if it is true, as people say, that the heart of a

wise man is pierced with seven openings. Elsewhere general Chao of the dark Terrace is revered

as the god of Wealth.

The Agent of Heaven, T'ien-Kuan, is another god who bestows happiness, and is one of a triad

made up in addition to the Agent of the Earth, Ti-Kuan, who grants remission of sins and the

Agent of Water, Shui-kuan, who averts evil. As M. Maspero has rightly pointed out, these three

gods are the personification of the ancient Taoist ritual which insisted on a confession of sins

written in triplicate, of which one was burned for Heaven, one buried for Earth, and the third sunk

for Water. These three gods received twice a month an offering of cakes in the form of tortoises

and chain-links, but the only one at all well known in our time is the Agent of Heaven, and that

mainly thanks to the theatre, for it is the custom to begin every theatrical performance with a

pantomime called 'the Agent of Heaven brings happiness', T'ien-kuan-ssu-fu. He appears in the

form of a mandarin wearing ceremonial costume, with a smiling mask fringed with whiskers and

a beard-tuft, does a sort of dance on the stage, carries rolled-up wishes for happiness which he

unrolls as he presents them to the spectators. It is to be noted that this is one of the very rare

occasions when a mask is used on the Chinese stage. The pantomime is also called 'the dance of

the Agent who confers promotion', T'iao-chia-kuan; and formerly in public theatres, and still to

this day in private performances given for some family rejoicing (birthday, birth of a child, etc.),

the play is stopped and this pantomime is repeated as a sign of welcome to each distinguished

guest as he arrives.

The Emperor Kuan, Kuan-ti. The worship of this god does not date from very far back. He

receives two sorts of cult, one from official religion and the other from the people. For scholars

Kuan-ti is god of War, in opposition to Confucius, the god of Literature, and as such he receives

two sacrifices, in the spring and autumn of each year. This tradition was maintained even by the

Republic, at least until the time of the nationalist government of Nanking; and the successive

presidents as well as the last dictator, Chang-Tso-lin, officially offered sacrifices to him with great

pomp. For the crowd Kuan-ti is a Taoist god, governor and protector of the people, mainly playing

the part of judge. So the people appeal to him every time they have something to complain of,

whether it is spirits (demons, illness, etc.) or human beings (unfriendly bureaucrats, brigands,

cheats, etc.) and Kuan-ti sends his equerry Shou-ts'ang to punish them, or makes an appeal to the

Thunder god or some other god to do it.

Kuan-ti is also famous for predicting the future. In most of the temples consecrated to him the

necessary equipment may be found, consisting of eighty-one or sixty-four numbered slips, placed

in a holder made from a hollow bamboo with a plug at one end. The suppliant wishing to know

the future - the result of a relative's

illness, success of a journey, a marriage, a birth, or anything else, bows down before the god's

statue, and then taking the holder in his hand shakes it until one of the slips falls out. There is also

a register where against each number of the slips stands the prediction, usually written in rude

poetry of the Sybilline style, and this register is consulted under the number of the fallen slip to

find out the god's opinion. In some temples the predictions are printed on separate sheets of

paper, and the priest in charge hands the suppliant the sheet corresponding to his number.

Needless to say all this involves the payment of a small sum of money, euphemistically called

Hsiang-huo-ch'ien, 'money to keep the incense burning'.

Kuan-ti was a general of the Han country in the epoch of the Three Kingdoms, renowned for his

integrity and fidelity, and his real name was Kuan Yu. He died in 220, having been taken prisoner

and beheaded by the rival country of Wu. He became famous mainly through the Romance of the

Three Kingdoms, which relates his wonderful adventures, and through the plays derived from the

novel. He is always presented as he is described there - dressed in green with a face as red as a

jujube fruit. Almost invariably he is accompanied by his equerry, Shou-ts'ang, and his son Kuan

P'ing, who stand beside him, and very often in the Temples the statue of his horse is to be seen too.

Another exorcist of demons and evil spirits is the Supreme Lord of the Dark Heaven (Hsuan-t'ien

Shang-ti) who is also the Regent of Water. He appeared once to the Emperor Hui-tsung in the

aspect of a man of colossal height, with loose hair, dressed in a black robe and a golden breastplate.

His naked feet rested on a turtle encircled by a snake. He is still represented with these

features o-day.

The Eight Immortals, Pa-hsien. The eight Immortals are not, strictly speaking, gods. They are

legendary personages who became immortal through the practice of Taoist doctrine, and who

have the right to be present at the banquets given by the Lady Wang, wife of the August

Personage of Jade.

These eight characters have nothing in common, and it is hard to say how the Taoists came to

make them into an almost inseparable group. Their name does not appear in folklore until the

Yuan dynasty, also called the Mongol dynasty, about the 13th or 14th century, and it was spread,

we believe, thanks to the stage. The eight Immortals often accompany the effigy of the god of Long

Life. They are:

Han Chung-li, usually represented as a man of ripe age with a slight corporation and a careless

air. His name is supposed to have been Chung-li and he was believed to have lived in the time of

the Han dynasty. His present name is made up of these different elements.

Chang-kuo Lao, an old man, known only by his miraculous donkey which could travel several

dozens of thousands of leagues in a day, and when at rest could be folded up like a piece of paper.

Lan Ts'ai-ho, a street-singer, who, dressed in rags, with one foot bare and the other shod, goes

round the streets singing. One day he was carried up to heaven by a stork.

T'ieh-kuai Li (Li with the Iron Crutch) was an ascetic instructed by Lao-tzu and another immortal,

Master Wang-kiu. One day when he should have gone to Lao-tzu, only his soul went, after he had

warned his disciple to watch over his body for seven days, and then to burn it if he did not return.

*>/n the sixth day the disciple's mother fell ill, and in his haste to go to her the disciple burnt his

master's body. When Li's soul returned there was no longer a body for it to dwell in, so it entered

the body of a beggar who had died of hunger. The God is represented as a beggar carrying a large

calabash on his back and leaning on an iron crutch.

Han Hsiang-tzu was initiated into the doctrine by Lu Tung-pin who is mentioned below. Ts'ao

Kuo-chiu converted by Han Chung-li and Lu Tung-pin, Ho Hsien-ku the Immortal Damsel Ho,

who went to heaven in full daylight, are represented respectively as a young man in rich clothes

with the little headdress of young lords, a man in the costume of a mandarin, and a girl wearing a

lotus flower on her shoulder.

The last of the eight Immortals, Lu Tung-pin has the greatest number of legends attached to him.

They say he likes to walk about among men looking like some ordinary person, and takes the

opportunity to punish the wicked and reward the good. Among legends about him the bestknown

is that of his conversion.

Huang-liangmeng, meaning the Dream of the Yellow Sorghum, which also furnished the plot for a

play. When he was still only a student Lu Tung-pin stopped at an inn and met an Immortal in

disguise with whom he talked for a moment. Then he went to sleep and saw the whole of his

future life in a dream. At first he had numerous successes and was loaded with honours, but in the

end he endured the worst misfortunes and perished miserably, killed by a brigand. When he

awoke Lu Tung-pin decided to renounce the world.

Another equally well-known legend tells how he converted the girl-singer, White Peony, after

three successive attempts in each of which he came to her in a different form. This Immortal is

represented in the dress of a man of letters, carrying a fly-chaser and a sword, the Flying Sword,

used by him to kill the Yellow Dragon which he carries on his back.


In addition to the gods we have been studying which are the objects of general worship, the

Chinese pantheon also included a large number of divinities peculiar to each social class and to

each profession. They are innumerable, and it is impossible to mention them all. Following M.

Maspero, let us limit ourselves to mentioning a few.

Divinities of artisans. Artisans usually choose as their patrons those who are supposed to have

been inventors in the different industries. Thus, general Sun Pin, who lived in the fourth century

B.C., had his toes cut off, and to hide this deformity hid his feet in sheaths of leather, and thereby

became the god of cobblers. Ts'ai Lun, who is supposed to have invented paper in the first century

of our era is the god of stationers. A similar honour fell to I-ti who was the first maker of wine, to

general Meng T'ien who invented the paint-brush, and to Ts'ang Chieh, who invented writing and

is therefore adopted by the public tale-tellers.

Others are chosen because they distinguished themselves in their profession, or simply because

they practised it. Thus Fan K'uei, who practised the humble occupation of a dog-skinner before he

became the right arm of the founder of the Han dynasty, was adopted as their patron by the

butchers. The carpenters have a cult for Lu Pan who, so they say, made a marvellous falcon which

was able to fly. The thieves chose Sung Chiang, a famous brigand of the twelfth century. Even the

prostitutes took it into their heads to look for a patron. And in some parts of China they found one

in the person of P'an Chin-lien, a dissipated widow whose father-in-law murdered her in order to

end her disorderly behaviour.

And then very often artisans content themselves with an anonymous deity, such as the god of the

Shuttle for weavers, and the god of Garden Trees for gardeners.

Sea gods. Like the rest of the universe, the sea is subject to the supreme authority of the August

Personage of Jade, but the Chinese did not make it a divinity, any more than the other elements of

Nature. However, they do recognise tutelary gods who protect navigators. The most popular as

well as the highest in dignity is the Empress of Heaven, T'ien Hou, who must not be confused

with the Queen-Mother Wang, wife of the August Personage of Jade.

Before she was promoted to her immortal destiny T'ien Hou was a girl in the island of Mei-chou

which was famous for its piety. She had four brothers, all sailors, who sailed on different ships.

One day when they were absent at sea the girl fainted and remained a long time unconscious. It

was thought she was dead. With the aid of powerful stimulants she was brought back to life, but

as soon as she emerged from her lethargy she complained that she had been awakened too soon.

A little later three of her brothers returned, and related that they had been attacked by a violent

storm during their voyage, and had been saved by their sister who appeared to them during the

tempest and saved them from the danger. Only the fourth brother never came home - the girl had

been revived before she had time to go to his aid.

After her death, which occurred very soon after this miracle, the girl of Mei-chou frequently

showed the value of her intervention, either by helping sailors in peril or by helping to capture


or even by ending dangerous droughts. For which reason her cult continued to spread. She was

first promoted to the title of Princess of Supernatural Favour, then in the sixteenth century was

raised to the dignity of Queen, and in the eighteenth century received her definite title of Empress

of Heaven.

She is represented as a woman sometimes seated on a lotus and sometimes on a throne. She wears

the Imperial head dress, and holds either a sceptre or a tablet.

Country gods. According to the rites of Confucius, the Chinese recognise a god of the Soil, with

whom they associate a god of Ploughing and a god of Harvests. They are impersonal deities, and

have no mythic character. Formerly they were solemnly invoked at different periods of the year.

The sacrifice which the Emperor offered up to the god of the Soil in spring and autumn was

marked by the same pomp as that devoted to the god of Heaven. During the festival of the god of

Ploughing the Emperor himself set his hand to the plough, and drew the first furrow.

Side by side with these official gods, the peasants venerate other deities of a more popular kind.

Prince Millet, Hou Chi, the old god of cereals, has been supplanted by the Celestial Prince Liu,

appointed to the functions of superintendent of the Five Cereals. The god Hu-shen is invoked as a

protection against hail, since as he wishes he can send or withhold the disaster. Against locusts

they call on the Great General Pa-cha, who is represented as a man with a bird's beak and feet,

while his hands are tipped with claws and he wears a petticoat. Cattle are under the protection of

the god of Cattle-breeding, aided by the King-of-Oxen and the Transcendent Pig. During their

lifetime they were both dangerous giants. The King-of-Oxen, who terrified his enemies by his

enormous horns and buffalo ears, was yet tamed by the lady Nu-kua, who threaded a miraculous

rope through his nose. Equally ferocious and hideous, with his black face, the Transcendent Pig

had the impudence to swallow Erh-lang, the nephew of the August Personage of Jade himself, but

he regretted it, for Erh-lang slew him. The breeding of silk-worms is under the protection of Lady

Horse-head about whom there is a curious legend. Her father was kidnapped by pirates, which

grieved her so much she refused to eat. Seeing the girl was in a decline, her mother vowed to

marry her to the man who would bring back her husband. She spoke the vow aloud, and it was

heard by the horse who was in love with his young mistress. The horse thereupon went off to look

for the missing man, found him at last, and brought him home on his back. When he demanded

his reward, the father flew into a violent rage, slew the poor animal, skinned him and put the skin

to dry in the sun. A few days later as the girl passed it the skin leaped at her and carried her off.

But the August Personage of Jade was on the watch. He changed the girl into a silk-worm and

soon after took her up to Heaven. Since then the Lady Horse-head ranks among the Sovereign

god's concubines.


Like all Chinese mythology, Hell is due to a mixture of Taoism and Buddhism, with a special

preponderance given to the peculiarities of the Buddhist Hell.

The notion of Hell as it exists to-day among the people was, we believe, mainly disseminated by

certain passages in novels, among them the Travels in the West, and the Life of Yueh Fei, a general

of the Sung epoch, who was assassinated by order of the prime minister, Ch'in Kuei. In the first of

these books, the Emperor T'ai-tsung of the T'ang dynasty was wrongly accused of killing the

Dragon-King, descended into Hell, and before returning to life on earth passed through certain

parts of the dark empire. In the

other book a young scholar addresses a complaint to the gods, accusing them of lacking justice

because of the death of Yueh Fei. He was summoned before the King of Hell, who showed him

round his dominions to prove that there the wicked are punished and the good rewarded.

The Yama-Kings, Yen-wang. According to the most wide-spread version there are eighteen Hells,

distributed among ten law-courts to which they are attached. These courts are presided over by

the Shih-tien Yen-wang, the Kings of the Ten Law-Courts (the word Yen comes from Yama, the

Indo-Iranian god of Death), while each Hell is reserved for the tortures which punish well-defined


The first of the Yama-Kings is the supreme master of the world of Hell as well as head of the first

Law-Court. He is directly under the August Personage of Jade and the Great Emperor of the

Southern Peak. He is popularly known as Yen-wang-yeh (the Lord Yama-King) although in reality

the real Yama-King was dismissed by the August Personage of Jade for being too charitable and

merciful, and was sent down to head the Fifth Law-Court. The first Yama-King receives the souls

of the dead, investigates their actions during their past life, and if necessary sends them to other

Kings to be punished. As to the nine others, eight of them are commissioned to punish criminal

souls - thus the second King punishes dishonest male and female intermediaries and ignorant

doctors, the third punishes bad mandarins, forgers, and back-biters, the fourth punishes misers,

coiners, dishonest tradesmen and blasphemers, the fifth punishes murderers, unbelievers and the

lustful, the sixth punishes sacrilege, the seventh is reserved for those who violated graves and sold

or ate human flesh, the eighth punishes those who were lacking in filial piety, the ninth punishes

arson and has for an annexe the Town of those Dying in Accidents, and finally the tenth King is

entrusted with the Wheel of Transmigration, and takes care that the soul about to be reincarnated

fits properly into the body assigned.

Another version says that each of the kings in turn judges the souls which go before each Law-

Court, while the King of the Wheel of Transmigration decides on the form in which the soul just

judged shall be re-born.

Naturally the tortures used in Hell are many and varied, so that each crime has its appropriate

punishment, sometimes in a very logical way. Thus, blasphemers have their tongues torn out;

misers and lying mandarins are compelled to swallow melted gold and silver, while still more

guilty souls are flung on to mountains bristling with swords or plunged into boiling oil, or bound

to a large red-hot hollow iron beam, or ground in mills or sawed in halves or cut into little pieces,


The Kings of Hell have crowds of satellites to carry out their orders. These satellites are

represented as stripped to the waist, with two lumps on their foreheads (which lumps are really

meant for horns) and armed with a mace bearing iron spikes or with a trident. The Yama-Kings

are represented in the dress of the Emperors, just like the August Personage of Jade and the

Emperor of the Eastern Peak. On the images in books of piety they can only be distinguished by

the inscription under each of them.

The Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha: Ti-tsang Wang-p'u-sa. In this Hell which is peopled by implacable

ministers of justice, is there room for mercy? Yes, for the various regions of hell are continually

visited by a compassionate and merciful deity, the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha (in Chinese, Ti-tsang

Wang-p'u-sa) whose occupation is to save the souls which come to him. In his human life Ti-tsang

was a young Brahman who made a vow to save all souls engulfed in sin. To this end he devoted

his successive existences, which were innumerable, and acquired such merit by his spirit of selfsacrifice

that in the end Buddha entrusted to him the masses of gods and men 'so that he would

not allow them for one day or one night to fall into evil birth'. In China this god is always invoked

when somebody dies, so that he can come to the help of the dead person. His name Ti-tsang is a

translation of the Sanskrit Ksitigarbha. The images of him show him as a bonze, sometimes with a

shaved head like the Hindu bonzes, and sometimes wearing a ceremonial wreath such as is worn

by Chinese bonzes. He holds in his right hand the metal wand hung with musical rings such as

Chinese monks carry, and his left hand holds the precious pearl which lights the paths of Hell

with its glow.

Life of the dead in Hell. When the registers of Death and Life kept by the Yama-King show that a

man has reached the end of his earthly existence, the Yama-King sends two of his satellites to seize

the man's soul and bring it before the infernal Law Courts. These satellites are named Ox-Head

and Horse-Face, Niu-t'ou and Ma-mien, and they are represented with the head of the animal

whose name they bear. They make their way to the man's house and take him off. And here comes

out the value of the Door gods, for it is their duty to see that the warrant of arrest is authentic, and

not until that is done will they allow Ox-Head and Horse-Face to enter.

They also say that these two satellites are not sent by the Yama-King but by the god of Walls and

Ditches, who keeps a register of all the inhabitants in his area. And then again they say, for all the

mythology of Hell is rather confused, that the persons charged to bring in the dead are the two

Without-Duration, Wu-ch'ang, one of whom is white and the other black, who are called 'the

Messengers who seize souls', Kou-hun-shih-che. Their statues are


sometimes to be seen in the temples, and these two personages are represented wearing a long

black or white robe which reaches to their feet, a tall pointed hat, a rope round their necks, and

their tongues hanging out.

But whoever comes for them the souls (which retain their appearance for some time after leaving

their robe of flesh) are taken first before the god of Walls and Ditches who puts them through a

first series of questions and holds them for forty-nine days, either at liberty, or punishing them

with the pillory or beating, according to what the dead person did in his lifetime. Sometimes it

happens that owing to a similarity of name or some other error, the wrong soul is brought along;

in which case the god allows it to return to earth and to re-enter the body in which it lived. This is

perhaps the reason why the Chinese keep the bodies of the dead for several days before they are

buried - at least seven, with a maximum of forty-nine.

After forty-nine days the god of Walls and Ditches hands over the soul to the Yama-King. He acts

as judge, by consulting the

register which records all the good or evil actions of this soul, and if necessary sends it before

whichever of the Yama-Kings is appointed to punish the crime of which the soul is guilty. As to

those souls which have done good deeds, such as those of good sons, of good subjects, believers,

and charitable persons etc., they either go to Buddha in the Land of Extreme Felicity in the West,

or to the Mountain K'un-lun, the dwelling-place of the Immortals, or else they go straight to the

tenth Yama-King to be re-born to another existence.

But let us return to the souls of sinners. They go before each of the Yama-Kings in turn, who

punishes them for the crime under his jurisdiction. The people believe that persons who have

committed very great crimes find that their souls must endure all the tortures of hell without

distinction. Such, they say, was the case with the Minister Ch'in Kuei, already mentioned, and

doubtless in this way the people work off the hatred they feel for some especially detested

personage. After each torture the soul returns to its original form to undergo another. Thus, if it

has been cut into little pieces, the pieces all join up again; and if it has been thrown in a cauldron

of boiling oil, it becomes living as soon as it is taken out. When the soul has suffered all the

punishments due for its sins, it finally goes before the tenth Yama-King who decides in what form,

human or animal, it shall be re-born. The Buddhists believe there are six ways of re-birth - three of

them are good, birth as a god, as a human being, or as an asura (a kind of demon); and three are

bad, birth in hell, birth as a starving demon, birth as an animal. But people believe that birth as a

human being is not necessarily a reward, for a man's soul may be condemned to re-birth in the

body of a woman (in ancient times women were considered less honourable than men) or in the

body of an invalid or a beggar, etc., while at other times a soul may be re-born an animal without

having sinned. There are numerous tales on this theme. One of them relates that a man who had

borrowed money from someone, died before he could pay his debt. After his death he asked

permission of the Yama-King to be re-born as a colt in his creditor's family. Soon after his birth his

master sold him for exactly the sum which was owing. The colt died soon after he was sold, and

the soul which occupied it returned again to the Law-Courts of Hell to be judged. Another tale,

which resembles the 'Dream of the Yellow Sorghum' mentioned in connection with the Immortal

Lu Tung-pin, relates that a scholar who had just passed the Imperial examinations was walking in

a Temple, and went into the room of a bonze to rest. There he fell asleep, and dreamed that he

became a high dignitary and grew rich through telling lies. He then dreamed that he died, and

was condemned to drink a quantity of molten gold equivalent to that which he had got unjustly.

After this he dreamed that he was re-born in a family of beggars as a girl, and as she grew up was

sold to be a scholar's concubine. He did not awake until he had dreamed that he had died a second

time. Realising the vanity of this world's honours he retired to the mountain to seek the Path.

Souls re-incarnated in an animal do not thereby lose their human feelings. Whether born in the

form of a cock or a pig, the soul will feel with human sensibilities all the suffering the animal feels

when its throat is cut, and will even suffer from every slice of the knife which cuts it up. But it

cannot express its anguish in human language, of which it has lost the use thanks to the Broth of

Oblivion, Mi-hun-t'ang. This broth is compounded by the Lady Meng, who lives in a house built

just inside the exit from Hell. All souls which pass her door on their way to the Wheel of

Transmigration have to drink it willy-nilly. Under its influence the souls forget their former life,

their existence in Hell and even their speech. There are legends relating to miraculous births - a

child is able to speak as soon as born because the soul inhabiting its body had been successful in

escaping the vigilance of the guardians of Hell, and had avoided drinking the Broth of Oblivion.

If after drinking this broth a soul is to be re-born in the form of an animal, the satellites of the Law

Courts throw on his shoulders


the skin of the species of animal to which he will belong, and he is then taken to the Bridge of Pain,

K'u-ch'u-ch'iao, which crosses a river of red water. He is thrown off the bridge into the water, and

it carries him to his new destiny. They say also that the soul climbs on to the Wheel of Life and

Death, which as it turns sends him down to earth. The tale just mentioned says: 'After walking a

few paces he saw on a stand a beam of iron several feet in circumference, supporting a great wheel

whose dimensions were an unknown number of leagues. Flames of five colours sprang from it,

and their glow lit up heaven. He was struck by demons who compelled him to get on the wheel.

He had scarcely jumped on it with his eyes shut when the wheel turned under his feet and he felt

as if he were falling; he felt coolness all over his body, and opening his eyes he saw that he already

had the body of a baby.

Another tale, translated by Father Wieger, mentions another case: 'Everything was a confusion to

him. His body was buffeted by the wind. Suddenly as he crossed a red bridge he dropped into a

lake ten thousand fathoms deep. He felt no pain, but his body became narrow and small and was

no longer the same. When he stopped falling his eyes were closed and would not open, and in his

ears he heard what seemed to be the sound of the voices of his father and mother. He seemed to be

the plaything of a dream.' In this case, as in the tale before, the soul is being born in the body of a

child; but of course the impression is quite different and much more unpleasant if it is the body of

an animal.

Some details of Hell. Hell is a world on its own, with its own towns and country-side. The chief

town is Feng-tu, which is entered by the souls of the dead through a big gate called the Gate of

Demons, Kuei-men-kuan. The town contains the palaces of the Yama-Kings, the Law Courts, the

places set aside for torture as well as the dwellings of the functionaries, the infernal satellites, and

the souls waiting to be re-born. On the side opposite the Gate of Demons the town abuts on a river

called the River How Nai-ho, crossed by three bridges. One bridge is in gold for the gods, one in

silver for the souls of virtuous men, and the last for undeserving or criminal souls. This bridge is

several leagues long, but has only three spans, and no rails. Criminal souls of certain categories,

such as those who during their life-time profaned clothes of a purple colour, or women who lived

dissipated lives, on trying to cross the bridge inevitably fall into the water rushing beneath. They

then are preyed upon by bronze snakes and iron dogs who bite them and tear them to pieces.

The souls of the dead are not only responsible for their actions in the life they have just left, but

also for those of their life before that, if for some reason they have not received punishment for

them. Since these souls cannot remember their actions, owing to the Broth of Oblivion which they

all drink on passing through Hell, they are when necessary placed in front of a huge mirror, the

Mirror of the Wicked, Nieh-ching-t'ai, set up in the Court of the first Yama-King. In this mirror the

souls see themselves with the appearance they had in their former life, and so perceive the crime

they committed. The Yama-King bases the judgment he gives on this appearance.

Not far from the town of Feng-tu is the town of Those who Died in Accidents, Wang-ssu-ch'eng. It

is under the ninth Yama-King. Everyone is sent there who dies before the date set down in the

Registers of Life and Death, no matter whether they committed

suicide or died by accident. The souls of these dead are condemned to live here like starving

demons, with no hope of being re-born unless they can find someone to replace them. Thus the

soul of a hanged man must bring the soul of another hanged man, and so with a drowned man. To

allow them to find a replacement, these souls after three years in Hell are allowed to return freely

to earth, to the place where they left their mortal bodies, and there they do all they can to arrange

that men passing near the place shall die in the same way. For this reason the Chinese carefully

avoid places where there has been a murder, a suicide, or an accident causing a human death, for

fear of being made use of by the soul of the dead person.

The Chinese Paradise. As we have seen, when the souls of the just are not sent back immediately

to a new life by the tenth Yama-King, they go either to the K'un-lun Mountain, the dwelling place

of the Immortals, or to the Amitabha Buddha in the Land of Extreme Felicity in the West.

The K'un-lun Mountain has a close resemblance to the Olympus of the Greeks, but while the latter

situated the dwelling place of their gods in a mountain of their own country, the Chinese placed

theirs on a fabulous mountain far away from their land and at the earth's centre.

The ruler of this region is no other than the Lady Queen of the West, the Queen-Mother Wang,

wife of the August Personage of Jade. The palace is built on the top of the mountain, it has nine

storeys and is built entirely of jade. Around the palace are magnificent gardens in which grows the

Peach-tree of Immortality. The Immortals live there, in an endless series of amusements and

banquets. The only human beings allowed there are those permitted by the gods, as a reward for

their virtues, to eat the marvellous fruit of the Peach-tree of Immortality during their earthly life.

The other just men admitted to the felicities of eternal life go to the Land of Extreme Felicity in the

West. This land, which lies in the fathest west portion of the universe is separated from us by an

infinity of worlds like our own. It is a place of all delights, closed in on all sides and embellished

by seven rows of terraces with seven rows of trees whose branches are formed of precious stones

sounding musically when the wind stirs them. There may be found lakes flowering with lotuses,

with a floor of gold sand and banks paved with seven precious stones. Birds with many-coloured

plumage and divine voices praise in their songs the five Virtues and the excellent Doctrines.

Showers of blossom fall on the ground. In this Eden the righteous pass a life which is piously

ordered: 'Every morning at dawn they go to offer flowers to all the Buddhas of other worlds, and

they return to their world for meals.' Everything they hear - the song of the birds, the music of the

wind in the trees of precious stones - makes them think of Buddha, the Law, and the Community.

Their perilous transmigrations are over.

Happy are they, who in their life-time fervently called upon Amitabha. At the hour of their death

their hearts will not be troubled, for Buddha himself will appear to them. He will receive their

souls and place them in the lotuses of the lakes, in which they will remain enclosed until the day

comes when, being cleansed from all impurities, they will escape from the opening flower and will

go to mingle with the just who inhabit the Land of Extreme Felicity in the West.



Sources of Japanese Mythology

When the ancestors of the Japanese, coming probably from Korea, settled in Japan, they met and

made war upon the Ainus whom they drove into the north, while in the southern islands,

especially Kyushu, they came upon various tribes whom they subdued and assimilated. They

lived in tribes, each one of which had a chief, who, as we shall see later, was often a woman—a

characteristic which struck the Chinese when they came into contact with the Japanese, probably

about the beginning of our era. Besides China, Japan was also in touch with Korea, and these

ancient relations with the Asiatic continent had their influence on the minds of the Japanese

people. They also left distinct traces in their mythological tales. The southern tribes, living their

seafaring life, also had a share in building up Japanese mythology, and so had the local traditions

peculiar to each of the different regions.

Oral traditions

The interlacing of local myths with foreign legend constitutes the mythology as it has been

transmitted to us in the texts, and this is what makes the study such a delicate one. The difficulty

is increased by the fact that the mythological tales were closely connected with the origins of the

Japanese royal family, and therefore native scholars must not criticise or explain them in too

rationalist a way. These myths were preserved by oral tradition, thanks to the Katari-be, a

corporation of 'reciters' whose function was to recite these ancient legends during the great Shinto

festivals. Japanese scholars believe that this corporation of reciters was closely linked with the

priests and priestesses who, during the religious service, related ancient legends about the gods,

the tribe or the district.

'The Katari-be seem to have sung their songs at the banquets of the Imperial Court or of the great

families, and no doubt the poems described the origin of the gods and the ancestors.' (p. 5, N.

Matsumoto, Essai sur la Mythologie Japonaise, Paris, 1928). hi the beginning of the eighth century

these tales were used to compile the old histories of Japan, and will be discussed later on. As we

have seen, relations between Japan and China and Korea existed at the beginning of our era, as the

facts of archaeology testify. We also know that Chinese learning and its form of writing were

officially established in the year 405, when the learned Korean Wani arrived.

Buddhism was introduced around 522 and after various vicissitudes became the official religion.

The Emperor Yomei (585—587) was the first sovereign to accept this foreign religion. In 592 the

Empress Suiko came to the throne, and the regent Prince Shotoku was a devout Buddhist. Foreign

customs influenced Japanese life so much that during a Shinto ceremony the descendants of the

Koreans uttered the words in Chinese. It is natural to assume that the scholars who had to

compose the history of Japan and the scribes who had to write it in Chinese must, under the

influence of their Chinese education, have modified and embellished the ancient traditions in

accordance with Chinese ideas.

Written sources. What are these written sources? First of all we have the Kojiki, the book of ancient

things or of ancient words. The Emperor Temmu (672—686) realised that the ancient families in

their contentions were changing the old traditions in order to provide more support for their

rights and privileges. These alterations threatened to harm the reigning family. So in 681 he set up

a Committee to put the old traditions into writing, but his death stopped the work. He had also

given orders to Hieda-no-Are, one of his attendant ladies who had a very good memory, to learn

all the old legends by heart. In 711 the Empress Gemmyo (707—715) ordered O no Yasumaro to

collect the stories of Hieda-no-Are, to make a selection, and to set down the ancient traditions in

the form of a book. In 712 the work was completed and presented to the Empress under the title of

Kojiki. It is curious to find that O no Yasumaro was uncertain how to write the book. He would

not write it entirely in Chinese for fear of distorting the character of the tales. But the Japanese

syllabary was not then in existence, so like a good Japanese he made a compromise, sometimes

writing in Chinese, sometimes using Chinese characters as the phonetic

equivalents of Japanese syllables - which caused difficulties in reading the text. It must not be

forgotten that the Kojiki was composed partly to settle the Imperial genealogy definitively and to

place it above all controversy; and partly to do the same for the Shinto legends, source of the ritual

and foundation of the state. In short, 'it was not so much a matter of writing a history as of

establishing an orthodoxy.' (Cl. Maitre, La Litterature historique du Japan des origines aux

Ashikaga, p. 53, B.E. F.E.O. October — December 1903.)

In 714 the same Empress also ordered a national history. Five years later, during the reign of the

Emperor Gensho (715 — 726) Prince Toneri and O no Yasumaro compiled in Chinese the annals of

Japan, Nihon shoki, (also called Nihongi) and presented them to the Emperor in 720. The first part

of these annals, entitled Jindaiki, 'records of the age of the gods', deals with mythological legends

and gives the different versions which existed at that time.

In 807 Imibe no Hironari wrote and presented to the throne the Kogoshui, 'gleanings of ancient

words', to protest against the injuries caused by the Nakatomi family to the Imibe family in the

protocol of religious services. Hironari relates several myths to show that the ancient traditions

were well kept up in his family which therefore take precedence over the Nakatomi family. These

myths are the same as those in the Nihon shoki and the Kojiki.

Tales and mythological information are also contained in the liturgical prayers, norito, included in

927 in the eighth volume of Ceremonial, Engishiki, which gives a great deal of information about

Shinto matters. Following the Chinese custom, the Japanese government in 713 ordered the local

authorities to draw up descriptions of their areas. These books were called Fudoki, but by far the

greater number of these monographs have disappeared, and there remain only five Fudoki and

fragments of others. They are a valuable source since they give local traditions which are a help to

understanding the ancient myths. Mythological tales are also to be found in the Manyoshu, the

first great anthology of Japanese poetry, compiled in the eighth century. In the Shojiroku, written

in 814, and containing genealogies of the old nobility, there are traces of ancient traditions also.

To these written sources must be added the studies in Japanese folklore which during the past

thirty years have been carried on with great energy. The numerous publications dealing with local

traditions have enabled us to understand the old stories a little better. The studies of folklore in the

Ryukyu islands have done much towards our understanding of the part played by women in the

ancient traditions (N. Matsumoto 'L'etat actuel des etudes de folklore au Japon' p. 228, No 10.

Japan et Extreme Orient, Paris, 1924). These folklore studies are especially interesting for the

primitive religion of Japan, for in the course of history official Shinto has been influenced by

foreign ideas, and has undergone certain modifications in consequence.


The Kami. The Japanese deified the forces of Nature because they felt they were more powerful

than themselves, and venerated them under the name Kami. High mountains, tall and ancient

trees, rivers, were Kami and so, too, were great men. The word Kami means 'beings more highly

placed', those who are venerated, and does not have the meaning of our word, god. The Japanese

Kami are often characterised by the epithet chihaya-buru, which may be translated 'powerful'. The

gods of Japanese mythology have bodies like those of human beings, and are endowed with all

human qualities and defects. The myths speak perfectly frankly of certain exploits of the gods,

which English translators prefer to give in Latin. Traditions tell us that the gods possessed two

souls, one gentle, nigi-mi-tama, and one violent, ara-mi-tama. The Kami reacted according to the

activity of one or the other. At times this soul can leave the body and manifest itself in an object.

But the Kami of Japan are not omniscient. Those who live in Heaven do not know what is going

on down in the world, and have to send messengers to find out. And they make use of divination

to predict the future. The different gods can do good or do evil, but there are no essentially wicked

Kami among them. True, when the god Izanagi (of whom we shall speak again) returns from Hell

to earth

and washes off its impurities, the infernal mud gives birth to Yaso-Maga-Tsu-Bi, the god of

multiple calamities; but then there appears Kamu-Nahobi, the god who puts things right again.

All wicked things live in Hell, which is under the earth and these demons particularly represent

the sicknesses and epidemics and calamities which, afflict the inhabitants of Japan. But they are far

less powerful than the Kami, who by the power of magic can conquer them or prevent them from

coming out from under the earth.

Heaven, Earth, Hell. Japanese mythology divides the Kami into gods of Heaven, Ama-Tsu-Kami,

and gods of Earth, Kuni-Tsu-Kami, the latter of which are more numerous and live in the islands

of Japan. Still, some divinities rise up frorh earth to heaven, and on the other hand others come

down to settle on earth. Heaven, which the Japanese describe by the word Ama, is not a far-off

and inaccessible place. Its landscape is the same as Japan's, and it is crossed by the heavenly river,

Ama no Gawa, which like Japanese rivers has a very wide bed covered with pebbles. Formerly

earth was linked with heaven by a sort of bridge, Ama

no Hashidate, which allowed the gods to go to and fro. According to the Tango-fudoki, one day

when the gods were all asleep this bridge or stairway collapsed into the sea. This formed the

prolonged isthmus situated to the west of Kyoto in the sub-prefecture of Yosa, which is well

known as one of the three most beautiful places in Japan.

Under the earth lies the kingdom of the dead, which is called 'land of darkness', Yomi-tsu-kuni, or

'land of roots', Ne no Kuni, and also 'the deep land', Soko no Kuni. There are two ways of entering

Hell. There is a sloping and very winding road which begins in Izumo province and leads under

ground; and the other is situated on the sea shore. It is a bottomless abyss which engulfs all the

waters of the sea, and here on the day of grand purification all sins and all impurities are swept

down with the waters. Palaces and cottages are built in this subterranean kingdom, the homes of

male and female demons—the females are called shiko-me, ugly women, or hisa-me, frowning

women. This kingdom of the dead is seldom mentioned in myths, but it is named notably when

after the death of his wife Izanagi, the god Izanami goes down under the

earth to try to bring her back. Hell is also mentioned in a myth of Izumo province, where it is told

how the god O-Kuni-Nushi went down there to consult Susanoo.

Japanese mythological traditions have not handed down to us the ancient beliefs about death.

'Probably', says Professor Florenz (Lehrbuch der Religionsgesi'hichte, begrundet von Chantepic de

la Saussaye, Verlag von J. C. B. Mohr, 4th new edition, Vol i. article Die Japaner, p. 267), 'the

Shintoists felt a horror for everything which concerned death and corpses.' The idea of rewards

and punishments after death came into Japan with Buddhist beliefs, but there is no mention of the

topic in the old Shinto texts.

Origin of the gods and of the world. Japanese mythology tells us that 'at the time when heaven

and earth began, three divinities were formed in the plain of high heaven'. They were born of

themselves, and then hid. 'Later, when the earth was young and like floating oil. moving like a

jelly-fish, from something which sprang up like the shoot of a reed there were born two divinities,

and they too hid.' After that came seven generations of gods, and the last couple were called

Izanagi and Izanami.

It is very probable that these beginnings of Japanese mythology, which show the influence of

Chinese ideas, were set down by the compilers to act as an introduction to national traditions.

Izanagi and Izanami. Izanagi and Izanami received the order to consolidate and fertilise the

moving earth. Standing on the 'floating bridge of heaven' they stirred up the waters of the sea with

a lance which the gods had given them. When the water began to coagulate they withdrew the

lance, and the drop which fell from its point formed the island of Onokoro, a word which means



coagulated'. The two deities then came down on this island, and created a column and a home.

Having looked well at one another Izanagi and Izanami decided to come together in order to

beget countries.

They then walked round the column, Izanagi going round from the left and Izanami from the

right. When they met the goddess Izanami exclaimed: 'What a pleasure to meet such a handsome

young man!' But the god Izanagi was displeased with this exclamation, for the first words should

have been spoken by him since he was the man. From this primordial union there was born 'a

leech-child' whom his parents were unwilling to own. So they put him on a raft of reeds and set

him adrift. Then the island of Awa was born, but they also refused to recognise it as their child.

They went off and consulted the gods, who explained to them that these unfortunate births were

the result of Izanami's mistake in speaking first to her future husband and that they must walk

round the column again and carry out the rite correctly. This the god Izanagi and the goddess

Izanami did, and so gave birth to the many islands which constitute Japan as well as numerous

gods the god of Wind, of Trees, of Mountains etc. The last-born was the god of Fire, whose birth

burned the goddess Izanami and caused her dreadful suffering. From her vomit, her urine, and

her excrement other gods were born; and then she died. Izanagi lamented, and his tears gave birth

to the goddess, Moaning-river. Furious with the baby who had caused the goddess's death,

Izanagi picked up his sword and cut off the child's head. Drops of his blood, trickling down the

blade, fell on the ground, and gave birth to eight different gods; and eight other deities

symbolising different mountains came from various parts of the body.

Izanagi's descent into Hell. Izanagi was inconsolable for his wife's death, and went down to Hell

and his wife came to meet him, but refused to return with him because she had already tasted the

food of Hell. She suggested that she should go and discuss the question with the god of Hell, and

begged her husband not to look inside the house. But the god became impatient and took the risk

of following her. He broke off the 'made tooth' of his comb, that is. one of the two at the end of a

comb, lighted it for a torch, and went into the palace. He found Izanami's body decomposing and

full of worms, and watched over by eight Thunders. He fled in horror. Izanami called after him,

'You have humiliated me!' and set the ugly-girls-of-hell at him. Izanagi defended himself with

various magical methods. So the goddess then sent eight Thunder gods and the soldiers of Hell.

When he reached the end of the slope to Hell, Izanagi picked three peaches and threw them at the

soldiers of Hell, who fled, and then blocked the entrance to Hell with a huge boulder. Izanami had

pursued him, and found herself on the other side of the bouider. The two gods swore they would

divorce, and so parted. The god Izanagi felt sullied by this contact with the world of the dead, and

went off to the island of Tsukiji where he purified himself at the mouth of the little river Tachibana

in Hyuga province. He threw away his stick, and from this stick was born the God-set-up-at-crossroads.

Then he took off his clothes and threw them away, each one of them producing a deity. He

then dived into the river, and the impurities he had brought back from Hell gave birth to two gods

of different ills. To cure these ills Izanagi gave birth to two gods who set the ills right, and to the

'sacred goddess'. Izanagi then dived into the sea, and from this bath arc derived all the various sea

gods. He washed his left eye, and so gave birth to the great goddess Amaterasu, goddess of the

Sun; he then washed his right eye and brought into the world the goddess of the Moon,

Tsukiyomi. Then he washed his nose, and gave birth to the god Susanoo. Izanagi ordered his elder

daughter Amaterasu to rule the plain of Heaven, giving her his necklace of jewels. To the god of

the Moon he entrusted the kingdom of night, and to the god Susanoo the plain of the seas. The

goddess of the Sun and the god of the Moon obeyed the order of their father Izanagi, and took

possession of Heaven and of the kingdom of night. Susanoo alone did not leave, and stayed where

he was, weeping and groaning. Izanagi asked him the reason for these laments, and Susanoo said

he wanted to go to the kingdom of his dead mother. The god Izanagi grew angry and drove him

away, and Susanoo then said he wanted to say farewell to his elder sister before going down to the

world underground.

Scholars who make a study of mythology have found certain

resemblances between- the myths about Izanagi and Izanami and those of Polynesia, for instance.

Also it is highly probable that the Chinese legend of Pan-Ku, whose left eye became the sun and

his right eye the moon, was grafted on to an ancient tradition by the authors of the Kojiki and the

Nihon shoki. As Mr N. Matsumoto has very rightly pointed out in his Essai sur la Mythologie

Japonaise, the whole collection of these ancient traditions indicates that Susanoo represents the

gods of Izumo province, and Amaterasu those of Yamato. The two tribes of these regions were

enemies. The Imperial family, as we shall see later on, had the Sun goddess as an ancestor, and by

recording the ancient traditions hoped to establish the supremacy of Yamato, which at the time

when these

texts were put down was already a historical fact. By a comparison of ancient texts and from the

study of folklore, not only of Japan proper but of the Ryukyu islands, we observe that although

Amaterasu was the Sun goddess she also has the character of a priestess, which is very

understandable seeing that in ancient Japan 'the notions of god and priest were confounded', and

consequently the lives of priests and priestesses influenced the building up of the myths. We shall

see in myths to follow that Amaterasu, though ; Sun goddess, wove the gods' clothes, and we

know that the Shinto f priestesses were employed in weaving garments before the great

ceremonies. The myths which tell us of the struggle between Amaterasu and her brother Susanoo

probably are a reflection of the

rivalry between a brother and his priestess-queen sister. On this rivalry we have the testimony of

the Chinese historians who, in the annals of the Wei dynasty (220—264), relate that after the death

of the priestess-queen Himeko of the kingdom of Yamato, a younger brother who had helped her

was put on the throne, and that this succession led to civil wars. Peace was not restored until the

eldest daughter of the dead queen ascended the throne.

Susanoo and Amaterasu. Let us return to the mythological stories of the Kojiki and Nihon shoki.

Susanoo went up to Heaven to see his elder sister, but he made such a noise, shaking the

mountains and rivers and making the earth quake, that the goddess thought it as well to take

precautions in meeting him. So she slung a quiver on her back, and placed before her a bow whose

string she vibrated. When she asked him why he had come, he said he had no evil intent, and had

come simply to say good-bye to her before going to the distant land where his mother was.

The Sun goddess asked her brother for proofs of his goodwill. Susanoo proposed that each of

them should create children — his would be boys and that would prove the sincerity of his

intentions. Amaterasu took her brother's sword, broke it in three pieces and, after having chewed

them, blew a light mist from her mouth which gave birth to three goddesses. Susanoo asked his

sister for the five strings of jewels she was wearing and, after cracking them between his teeth,

blew a light mist from his mouth and gave birth to five masculine deities. Amaterasu declared

they were her children because they had been created from jewels which belonged to her.

It is interesting to note that in the historic epoch the eight children of Amaterasu and Susanoo

were venerated as the eight 'princes' and considered as ancestors. The eldest male was the

ancestor of the Emperors, and the others of the great families.

Susanoo was so pleased with his success that he lost all self-control. In the impetuosity of his

victory he destroyed the rice-fields prepared by Amaterasu, filled in the irrigation ditches, and

deposited excrement in the Temples built for the festival of First-fruits. The Sun goddess made

excuses for her brother's misdeeds, but he continued them. One day when the goddess Amaterasu

was weaving the gods' clothes in the sacred house Susanoo made a hole in the roof of the house,

and threw down a piebald horse which he had already flayed. This terrible and unexpected

apparition caused such a disturbance that one of the weaving women pricked herself with the

shuttle and fell dead. The goddess Amaterasu was terrified and hid in a rocky cave of Heaven,

blocking the entrance with a boulder. The world was plunged into darkness.

Some scholars have interpreted this disappearance of the sun as an allusion to an eclipse, but we

are in agreement with Mr N. Matsumoto in his interpretation of the myth as the beginning of

winter, since that event takes place after the festival of First-fruits.

Amaterasu's return. The darkness which covered the world greatly aided the wicked gods in their

doings, and caused consternation among the good gods. The eight hundred myriads of gods all

assembled in the dry bed of a river, to decide on what measures should be taken to bring back the

Sun goddess. They approached the god 'Hoard-thoughts', and in accordance with his advice they

collected cocks whose crow precedes the dawn. They gave orders for the making of a mirror and

strings of jewels, which they hung on the branches of the Sakaki tree (Cleyera japonica) which

they also decorated with cloth streamers. They uttered the ritual words. The goddess Ama no

Uzume decked herself out with different plants, gathered some bamboo leaves, and then mounted

a tub turned upside down which was placed outside the entrance to the cave. She then began to

dance, drumming with her feet on the sounding tub. Carried away by divine ecstasy she took off

all her clothes, and the eight hundred myriads of gods all roared with laughter. The Sun goddess

hearing the crowing of the cocks, then the noise of Ama no Uzume dancing, and then the burst of

laughter from the gods, was puzzled and asked the reason for all these noises. Ama no Uzume

replied that the gods were rejoicing because they now had a better goddess than Amaterasu.

Urged by her curiosity the Sun goddess looked out and saw the mirror which they had set up,

and, much interested by its reflection, she came a little way out of the cave. The god of Force who

had hidden himself close by seized her hand and forced her to come out completely. Then a rope

was stretched in front of the cave to prevent Amaterasu from going back

into it, and once more the world was lit up by the rays of the Sun goddess. The gods decided to

punish Susanoo and forced him to pay a heavy fine. Then they cut off his beard and moustache,

tore off the nails from his fingers and toes, and kicked him out of heaven. We have already

stressed the particular character of the Sun goddess's retreat after the festival of First-fruits. The

obscene dance of the goddess Ama no Uzume is another sign that these traditions have an

agricultural significance, for 'in primitive religion obscenity has always an agricultural

significance, looking to the fertility of the fields', and the gods' laughter means that the life which

had seemed extinct is about to be re-born. (P. L. Couchoud, Le mythe de la danseuse obscene.

Mercure de France, 15 August 1929.)

Susanoo's exploits. When the god Susanoo was driven out of heaven, ne came down to Izumo

province. We have already said that the myths connected with this god come from that region. It

must be also noted that Susanoo was not an essentially evil god. His character was such that it

displayed itself in wicked deeds when he was controlled by his wicked soul, Ara-mi-tama, and in

good deeds when .his peaceful soul, Nigi-mi-tama, was in the ascendant. He was a fertility god,

closely linked with agricultural beliefs. At one and the same time he is a god of Thunder, Storm

and Rain. For this reason he is associated with snakes, for in ancient Japan the snake was

considered as the god of Thunder. Mr N. Matsumoto points out that the main descendants of the

god Susanoo are related either to water, thunder or the snake. The following pages from the

Nihon shoki and the Kojiki relate myths about the god Susanoo.

When he came down to Izumo he met an old man and an old woman who were crying beside a

girl. Susanoo asked the reason for these tears. The old man told him that he had had eight

daughters and that every year a snake with eight heads from the Koshi district had come and

devoured one of his daughters. Seven already had been eaten, and now the snake was coming to

devour the last. Susanoo told them he was the brother of Amaterasu, and asked them to give him

the girl. The old parents gladly agreed. Susanoo changed the girl into a comb which he stuck in his

hair. Then he had eight bowls prepared and filled them with rice wine. When the terrible snake

appeared it was attracted by the scent of the wine, and each head made for one of the bowls. The

snake got drunk and went to sleep. Susanoo drew his sword, and cut the monster to pieces. In the

middle of the snake's tail he found a wonderful sword which he presented to his sister the Sun

goddess. In later stories this sword is given the name Kusanagi, and was transmitted to our own

times as one of the three emblems of Imperial power It is kept in the Temple of Atsuta, near the

town of Nagoya.

Once he had got rid of the Snake, Susanoo built himself a palace at Suga, and lived there with his

new wife. From this union was born the god O-Kuni-Nushi, who afterwards became Lord of


Adventure of O-Kuni-Nushi. According to ancient traditions, O-Kuni-Nushi was a god of

medicine connected with sorcery. The invention of therapeutic methods was attributed to him.

The legend of the white hare of Inaba tells us that a skinned hare appealed to the eighty gods,

brothers of O-Kuni-Nushi, and they advised it to bathe in the sea and then dry itself in the wind.

The poor animal suffered dreadfully. It then met O-Kuni-Nushi, who felt sorry for its sufferings,

and told it to wash in fresh water and then to roll in the pollen of sedges spread on the ground.

The hare was completely cured, and when returning thanks declared that the princess Yakami

would go to O-Kuni-Nushi, and not to his brothers. O-Kuni-Nushi's brothers were very angry at

this, and by various subterfuges they managed to kill him, but he was resurrected through the

intercession of his mother with the goddess Kami-Musubi. O-Kuni-Nushi once more became a

strong young man. To save him from the rage of his brothers, his mother sent him to the

underworld, to the god Susanoo. There he met Suseri-Hime, the god's daughter. She fell in love

with him, and they were united. Susanoo received him, but put him to sleep in a room full of

snakes. O-Kuni-Nushi was saved by a scarf which had been given him by Suseri-Hime. The next

night he was sent to sleep in a room full of centipedes and wasps, but Suseri-Hime had given

another scarf which protected him from the centipedes and wasps, and O-Kuni-Nushi came

through that test unscathed. Then Susanoo shot a hissing arrow into the middle of a vast meadow

and sent


O-Kuni-Nushi to look for it. When O-Kuni-Nushi was in the middle of the meadow Susanoo set

fire to the grass, but O-Kuni-Nushi was saved by a mouse which showed him an underground

room in which to shelter, and brought him the arrow. The god Susanoo then felt some confidence

in him and, after asking-O-Kuni-Nushi to wash his hair, went to sleep. O-Kuni-Nushi took

advantage of Susanoo's sleep to tie the god's hair to the rafters of the house, then put his wife

Suseri-Hime on his back and fled, taking also the great god's sword, bow, arrows, and his harp,

Koto. But the Koto brushed against a tree and awoke Susanoo, who started up and so pulled down

the house. While Susanoo was freeing his hair O-Kuni-Nushi made good use of the time and had

got far away when the god started in pursuit. On the slope of Hell Susanoo saw the abductor of

his daughter in the distance, and advised him to fight his brothers with the sword and bow and

shatts he had taken. In this way, he asserted, O-Kuni-Nushi would conquer them and reign over

the world. He then asked him to make Suseri-Hime his chief wife, and to build his palace at the

foot of mount Uka.

The myths about O-Kuni-Nushi then speak of a god who arrived in a drifting boat. This was

Sukuna-Bikona, the son of the goddess Kami-Musubi, who was well received by O-Kuni-Nushi,

and together they fortified the region. One day the god Sukuna-Bikona went to cape Kumanu, and

disappeared in the direction of the region of Tokyo. O-Kuni-Nushi was in consternation when he

found he was alone, and said to himself: 'Now I am quite alone to keep order in this land. Is there

nobody to help me?' At that moment the sea was lit up with a divine light, and a god said: 'How

could you rule this country if I were not at your side?' O-Kuni-Nushi asked the god who he was. 'I

am your protecting deity, and I wish to be worshipped on mount Mimoro, where I live.' O-Kuni-

Nushi worshipped this god, whose name is Omiwa.

The first part of official history related in the Nihon shoki ends with these legends of O-Kuni-

Nushi. The narrative then comes back to the Sun goddess and her grandson, the ancestor of the

Emperors of Japan. The events told in this second part all took place on earth or in the kingdom of

the Sea god.

Amaterasu and Ninigi. Amaterasu decided to send her son Ame-no-Oshido-Mimi down to earth

to reign over it as sovereign. But before leaving, the god looked at the earth from the floating

bridge of Heaven, saw it was full of disturbances, and refused to go. The eight hundred myriads

of gods were then ordered to meet, and the god-who-hoards-thoughts was told to work out a

plan. After consultation the gods decided to send down the god Ame-no-Hohi to find out what

was happening in the 'middle country of the land of reeds'. Three years passed without any news

from him, so the gods sent down his son, with the same result. At last they chose Ame-no-

Wakahiko, renowned for his courage, and gave him a divine bow and divine arrows. When he got

down to earth the young god married O-Kuni-Nushi's daughter, Shitateru-Hime, and began to

reign over the land. Eight years passed without any news of him reaching the gods. So the gods

sent down to earth a pheasant to ask Ame-no-Wakahiko what he had been doing all this time. The

pheasant settled on a tree opposite the door of the god's house, and one of the women said it was a

bird of evil omen. So Ame-no-Wakahiko shot a divine arrow which pierced the bird, made a hole

in heaven, and fell at the feet of Amaterasu and Taka-Mi-Musubi. Seeing the blood-stained arrow

and recognising it as one he had given to Ame-no-Wakahiko, the god cursed it and flung it back.

The arrow, hurled across the heavens, struck Ame-no-Wakahiko in the heart and killed him. The

widow lamented and wept so bitterly that the gods of heaven heard her, and Ame-no-Wakahiko's

parents came down to be present at his funeral. Ame-no-Wakahiko's funeral rites are described in

great detail and are of much interest since this is the oldest document we possess about Shinto

rites. The gods then sent to Izumo two gods who informed O-Kuni-Nushi that the Sun goddess

had sent them to subjugate the land. O-Kuni-Nushi consulted his two sons. The elder accepted

Amaterasu's suzerainty. The younger tried to resist, but was conquered by the power of the

heavenly envoys and fled, promising however that he would not undertake anything against the

Sun goddess. The gods returned to heaven to announce Izumo's submission. Meanwhile

Amaterasu had a grandson, the god Ninigi, and decided to send him to earth. Ninigi received the

sword Kusanagi which Susanoo had found in the tail of the eight-headed snake, the heavenly

jewels, and the mirror which had caused Amaterasu to leave the cave, and as companions

several deities, among them the goddess Ama-no-Uzume. When giving Ninigi the mirror, his

grandmother Amaterasu said: 'Adore this mirror as our souls, adore it as you adore us.' The

jewels, the sword Kusanagi and the mirror became the three emblems of the Imperial power.

The god Ninigi and his suite descended on mount Takachiho in the province of Hyuga, and built a

palace on cape Kasasa. Japanese and Western scholars have had much discussion about this

passage in the Japanese texts. Why should the grandson of the Sun goddess arrive at the island of

Kyushu instead of at Izumo? Mr N. Matsumoto (op. cit. p. 104) quotes the opinion of a Japanese

scholar, Professor K. Shiratori, who thinks the choice of the place may be explained by 'the

political object of the compilers of these myths, who wanted to bring the hostile tribes of the island

of Kyushu under the Imperial power'. That is perfectly comprehensible, given the state of mind in

which the compilation of the Kojiki and Nihon shoki was undertaken.

Ninigi's sons. The god Ninigi married Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hime, daughter of the Mountain god,

but as she conceived on the first night he doubted her fidelity. The princess Kono-Hana-Sakuya

was angry at this attitude. She built a doorless house and at the moment of birth set fire to the

house, swearing that the child would perish if it were not Ninigi's. She brought forth three sons:

Hoderi, Hosuseri and Hikohohodemi. Afterwards the texts speak of only two brothers. Hosuseri

specialised ih fishing, while Hikohohodemi became a clever hunter. One day the brothers tried to

change over their occupations, but perceived that the results were bad. Hosuseri returned the bow

and arrows to his younger brother, and asked for his fish-hook, but Hikohohodemi had lost the

real fish-hook and gave him another one. Hosuseri refused to take it, as well as other hooks

Hikohohodemi offered him. Hikohohodemi was grieved at the loss, and went down into the

depths of the Ocean to visit the palace of the Sea god. He attracted the attention of the god's

daughter, who presented him, and became his wife. He told his story to the Sea god, and the hook

was found in the mouth of a red fish. Although life in the palace of the Sea god was very pleasant,

Hikohohodemi persisted in wishing to return home. The sea god gave him two jewels, one which

makes the tide rise, and another which makes it fall. His wife promised to rejoin him after a

certain time. When Hikohohodemi got back he returned the fishhook to his brother, but as he

continued to be a nuisance Hikohohodemi made use of the jewel which brings the high tide. The

elder brother, finding himself covered with the sea, begged his pardon and promised to serve him.

Hikohohodemi then threw into the sea the jewel which causes the low tide, and set his elder

brother free.

The Sea god's daughter kept her word and rejoined Hikohohodemi. She told him she was about to

have a child, but added that he must not be present at the birth nor try to watch her. Urged by

curiosity Hikohohodemi looked between the walls of the hut, and saw his wife take the form of a

dragon. She left the child with her husband and returned to her father the Sea god, but sent her

sister to look after the child. This sister became the child's wife, and one of their sons, who

received the names of Toyo-Mike-Nu and Kamu-Yamato-Iware-Hiko, is famous in history under

his posthumous name of Jimmu-Tenno — he was the founder of the Imperial line of Japan. From

this time the history of Japan officially began, but for a long time it was sown with ancient

legends—the rivalry between Yamato and Izumo continued, and the wives of several Emperors

were princesses of Izumo.


Ancient Japanese texts often speak of 'the eight hundred myriads of gods', a scarcely exaggerated

number when you remember that every region, every town, every village and the most humble

inhabitant possessed a local Kami and his attendants. In addition, as we have seen, every object

whose shape or size differed from the normal — such as rocks, old trees etc. — was venerated as a

Kami. Even in modern Japan we see not only the great Temples and Shinto shrines with torii,

typical entrances, before the sanctuaries, but in the forests and on the mountains the traveller often

comes upon

small sanctuaries, hokora, dedicated to a local Kami or to a large rock or a very old tree.

The Sun goddess, Amaterasu. With so many deities, the established mythology is dominated by

the Sun goddess, Amaterasu, who is worshipped not only as a heavenly body but as a spiritual

divinity and the ancestor of the Imperial family. The Japanese people also venerate the sun which

brings warmth and the harvest; and salute it in the morning by clapping hands. Amaterasu's chief

shrine is at Ise. At first the goddess was worshipped in the Imperial palace itself. But, with the

evolution of the Imperial power this proximity threatened difficulties, for the influence of the

priestesses exercised through oracles deprived the Emperor of complete liberty. The Emperor

Sujin (97—30 B.C.) decided to build a special sanctuary for the solar emblems, and appointed his

own daughter to their worship. A little later the Emperor Suinin (29 B.C. to A.D. 70) handed over

the cult of the goddess to his daughter Yamato-Hime. Looking for a suitable site she came to Ise

province, and there, in accordance with an oracle of Amaterasu she built the sanctuary. Since that

remote date the Shrine of Amaterasu has always been at Ise, where it is periodically restored but

always By exactly copying the ancient shrine; and thanks to this, the style of the ancient

architecture has remained until our own times.

This shrine houses the sacred mirror which is the Shintai of the deity, that is to say the object into

which the goddess's spirit enters to be present at the ceremonies and to listen to the prayers

addressed to is the octagonalmirror which was made to bring Amaterasu out of the cave in

which she was hiding. In the grounds attached to the Shrine at Ise are a large number of cocks

which are considered as birds sacred to the sun because they salute the dawn. In ancient times a

crow with several feet, Yata-Garasu, was also venerated as the messenger of Amaterasu. Very

probably this belief was of foreign origin. The kite and the heavenly arrows are also considered to

be emblems of the sun by the Shintoists.

Takami-Musubi. Although the Sun goddess occupied the first place in the official mythology she

was not considered as an omnipotent deity. Thus, when Amaterasu called an assembly of the gods

to appoint messengers to Izumo, the god Takami-Musubi was named with her; and legend also

mentions him as being beside the goddess when Ninigi was sent down to earth. The Sun goddess

does not act on her own will and pleasure, but asks advice of the other deities. She reigns over the

high heavenly plain, but has to obtain her information about the earth from intermediaries. The

seas and the world underground are not subject to her. We have already seen that the legends

about the Sun contain traces of the lives of Shinto priestesses and their occupations. Amaterasu

herself officiated in heaven, and carried out the ceremony of the new harvest, while she also wove

divine garments. Up till our own times, in April and September, the festivals of divine garments

were celebrated in the great Ise Shrine. Before dawn the pilgrims make their way to the sea-shore

of Futami at Ise where two rocks, one large and one small, stand out of the sea, and are called 'the

Wedded Rocks', Myoto-Ga-Seki. There is a place on this beach where the sun may be seen rising

between these two rocks. The pilgrims adore the rising Sun by clapping their hands and piously


Wakahiru-Me. Amaterasu is far from being the only deity. The ancient texts mention others.

Wakahiru-Me, Amaterasu's younger sister, according to the Nihon shoki, was weaving divine

garments with her when Susanoo threw down the flayed horse into the room where they were

sitting, and thus she is probably also a solar deity. Motoori Norinaga (1730—1801), the learned

commentator of the Kojiki, interprets the name Waka, young, hiru, sun, and me, a woman, as

meaning that this young sister of Amaterasu was a personification of the rising or morning sun.

Hiruko. According to a variant reading quoted in the Nihon shoki, the god Hiruko was born after

the sun and moon, and his name is interpreted as 'the childleech'. Professor Florenz (op. cit. p. 286)

considers this etymological explanation defective, and thinks that Hiruko was most probably a

male solar deity thrown into the background by the cult of Amaterasu, the protecting divinity of

the conquering Yamato tribe. In other texts we come upon a god whose name may be abridged to

Nigihaya-hi, meaning 'swift-and-gentlesun',

that is the early morning sun. By a comparison of the texts we can determine that this solar

god was the brother of Ninigi, the grandson of Amaterasu.

The numerous compilations of the ancient texts were an attempt to build up a mythological whole

from the ancient traditions and names of gods which had been preserved; and in so doing have

greatly confused the origins of Japanese beliefs. Professor G. Kato, in his book on Shinto (Annales

du Musee Guimet, vol. L, p. 135, 1931), quotes a typical case where four divinities have been

arbitrarily amalgamated into one. It must also be remembered that the compilers of the Nihon

shoki and Kojiki in building up an orthodoxy coolly dethroned or debased many divinities and

tended to simplify greatly the original complicated structure according to their own personal

beliefs and preferences.

Tsuki-Yomi, god of the Moon. The cult of the moon has been greatly modified in the course of

ages. The ancient texts inform us that Izanagi gave birth to the moon by washing his right eye. His

Japanese name, Tsuki, moon, and Yomi, counter, that is to say, 'counter-of-the-months,' links him

with the primitive calendar (N. Matsumoto, op. cit. p. 16, note i). In Japan the lunar divinity is

masculine, and in the ancient poems of the Manyoshu anthology his name is followed by the word

Otoko, man, to stress his masculine character. This god has a shrine at Ise as well as at Kadono,

and in both these sanctuaries is a mirror in which the god may manifest himself. It is curious to

note that the Chinese picture of the hare in the moon preparing the drug of immortality has

passed into the iconography of modern Japanese with certain modifications. The Japanese

represent the white disk of the moon with a rabbit or a hare pounding rice in a mortar. This

symbol is based on a pun. In Japanese, Mochi-zuki means to pound rice for cakes, and Mochi-zuki

also means the full moon. Although the ideograms with which the two words are written are

entirely different, the identity of the consonants was enough to produce the image.

The stars. As to the stars Mr G. KLato says: 'They never had a prominent place in early Shinto

beliefs, although they included the god of evil, Amatsu-Mikaboshi, "the-august-star-of-heaven", in

other terms Ama-no-Kagaseo, "the-brilliant-male".' Later on, due to the influence of Chinese and

Buddhist beliefs, the Japanese god of stars was identified with the Pole Star, Myo-ken (in Sanskrit,

Sudarsana), and finally with Ama-no-Minakanushi-no-kami, the-Divine-Lord-of-the-middleheavens,

the supreme heavenly deity (G. Kato, op. cit. p. 23 — 24). The legend of the annual

meeting of the star of the Cowherd and the star of the Spinning Maiden over the Milky Way was

brought to Japan during the reign of the Empress Koken (749—759) and utilised to found the

festival of Tanabata, celebrated on the seventh evening of the seventh moon-whence the name

Tanabata, which means seventh evening. (M.G. Cesselin, les 'Sekku' ou quelques fetes populaires,

IV. Tanabata no Sekku, p. 194, No 10, April 1906. Melanges japonais, Tokyo.)

Storm and thunder deities. It is curious to note that in later belief the god Susanoo was linked with

the lunar cult, whereas in the myths generally he is rather the Storm or Thunder god and seems

closely associated with agricultural rites. Mr N. Matsumoto (op. cit. p. 37 and following) has

devoted to him a most interesting study, where he points out that the relationship between the

ceremonies of expulsion and purification led, in the Middle Ages, to the god Susanoo being

considered as the god of plague, and confused with a god of foreign origin, Gozu-Tenno, the Oxheaded-

heavenly-King. The ancient texts also speak of the Thunder deities at the death of Izanami,

whose body was guarded by eight Thunders who afterwards went in pursuit of Izanagi. But these

thunders do not so much represent heavenly thunder, as the underground thunders which are so

common in a volcanic country like Japan. The god Take-Mika-zuchi, who was sent by the other

gods to subjugate Izumo province, is also considered a god of Thunder, who pursued the son of

O-Kuni-Nushi to lake Suwa and conquered him. Aji-suki-takahikone, another son of the same

god, is also a Thunder god. At his birth he cried and screamed, and they calmed him by carrying

him to the top and then to the bottom of a ladder. 'In the Japanese mind the ladder is used to get to

heaven, so this episode seems to allude to one of the characteristics of the Thunder, which is to

come and go between heaven and earth. He was also placed in a boat which sailed between the

eighty islands. The boat was the means by which the Thunder god connected heaven and earth

(N. Matsumoto, op. cit. p. 57—58). Kami-Nari, the god of Rolling-Thunder, is greatly venerated,

and many sanctuaries are devoted to him. Trees split by lightning, Kantoki no ki, are considered

as sacred, and it is forbidden to cut them down. In the Annals of Japan for the year 618 of our era

may be read the story of the official, Kawabe-no-Omi, who was ordered by the Emperor to cut

down trees for the construction of ships. Among the trees was one which had been hit by

lightning. The official made offerings to it and then gave orders for it to be cut down, but scarcely

had the wood-cutters approached the tree when a terrible storm, with rain and thunder, broke

over the forest. A sword plays the part of Shintai in the shrines which


are consecrated to Kami-Nari, and is probably a symbol of lightning. The most venerated of the

sanctuaries of Kami-Nari is situated at Kashima.

Rain gods. Rain also had its special gods, such as the god Taka-Okami who lives on mountains,

and Kura-Okami who dwells in valleys and can cause snow as well as rain. Fujiwara-no-Kisaki, a

concubine of the Emperor Temmu, says in effect in her poems that she has offered prayers to the

god Kura-Okami so that he will send down snow-flakes on the Imperial palace (Manyoshu,

volume n, poem 19).

In the description of Izumo province, it is stated that to the west of mount Kaminabi the wife of

the god Aji-Suki-Taka-Hikone gave birth to the god Taki-Tsu-Hiko (Prince-cataract), and advised

him to build a temple there. The god is a rock, and if prayers are said to it during a drought it

sends rain.

The ceremonial of the Engi period (901—922) enumerates the ninety-five shrines to which in case

of drought the Emperor sent messengers to ask the gods for rain.

But Japanese fanners have forgotten the old gods, and when there is a drought they get up a

procession preceded by a Shintoist priest carrying the Gohei, the symbol of divinity. The priest is

followed by a peasant blowing in a conch, and then comes a dragon made of bamboo and plaited

straw. The procession is closed by peasants carrying banners on which are written prayers to bring

rain. The peasants follow in a crowd, beating drums and making a noise. The procession makes its

way to a lake or a river, where the image of the dragon is dipped in the water.

Gods of wind. The Wind gods appear at the beginning of the mythological narrative of Nihon

shoki. From the breath of the god Izanagi came the Wind god, Shina-Tsu-Hiko, and to blow away

the mist which covered the land the same god created the goddess, Shina-to-Be. This god and

goddess are also mentioned in an incantation, Norito, in which it is said that the Wind god fills the

void between heaven and earth, and bears up the earth. Besides these two chief deities, there is

another couple of Wind gods—the god Tatsuta-Hiko and the goddess Tatsuta-Hime. They are

named from Tatsuta, the place where their sanctuary is built. They are prayed to for good

harvests. Fishermen and sailors were among their fervent worshippers, and wore their amulets to

protect themselves against storms.

In one of the variants of the Nihon shoki it is said that the body of Ame-no-Wakahiko was brought

down to earth from the plain of heaven by the Whirlwind god, who is named Haya-ji or Haya-

Tsu-muji-no-Kami. Ryobu-Shinto (that is to say, the Japanese form of Buddhism which considered

that all the gods of the Japanese pantheon were merely local manifestations of Buddhist divinities)

has pictorially represented the Wind god in a terrible shape, carrying on his back a great bag from

which he released the wind. The Thunder god was depicted among drums.

Earthquake gods. Among the scourges of Nature, earthquakes could not fail to impress the

Japanese, but we find no mention of an Earthquake god. Not until the year 599 of our era, after an

earthquake which no doubt was particularly violent, was there instituted a cult of the Earthquake

god, Nai-no-Kami; and rather more than a century later several sanctuaries were dedicated to this

formidable deity.

Mountain gods. In a volcanic country like Japan it was natural that the mountains should become

gods. The extinct volcano Fujiyama is the most revered, and the sanctuary of the goddess Sengen-

Sama is built on its peak. During the summer numbers of pilgrims climb the sacred mountain to

worship the rising sun. At one time women were forbidden to go to the top, because they were

then considered impure, but this restriction no longer exists. In addition to mount Fuji there are

many other sacred mountains with shrines dedicated to different gods. In Shinano province there

are Ontake-San and mount Nantai near lake Chuzenji; and in southern Japan, in Higo province,

there is mount Aso, etc. In Japanese mythology we find the name of a deity O-Yama-Tsu-Mi, chief

go'd and lord of mountains. He was born when Izanagi cut the Fire god into five pieces. The

second god was Naka-Yama-Tsu-Mi, that is, the god of mountain slopes. The third was Ha-Yama-

Tsu-Mi, the god of the lower

mountain slopes; the fourth, Masaka-Yama-Tsu-Mi, the god of the steep slope; and the fifth Shigi-

Yama-Tsu-Mi, the god of the mountain foot. In the Kojiki there are mentioned the god of

mountain slopes, Saka-no-Mi-Wo-no-Kami, and a couple of gods of mountain minerals, Kana-

Yama-Hiko and Kana-Yama-Hime

River gods. Rivers also had their gods called by the generic name Kawa-no-Kami (Kawa, river;

Kami, god; no, of) and well-known rivers each had in addition their own god, greatly venerated

on account of the frequent floods. In the year A.D. 22, the river Yamato was in flood and burst its

banks; in a dream the Emperor saw a god who told him that the River god demanded a sacrifice of

two men. A man was sacrificed and the banks repaired, while the second victim escaped by a

subterfuge. The considerable number of persons drowned in Japanese rivers gave birth to the

dwarf Kappa, who by his magic power draws people down into the water. The only way to avoid

his clutch is to bow low to him, then he bows and pours all the water there is from a hole in his

skull. Deprived of this water the Kappa can do no harm. There is also a god of river-mouths,

called Minato-no-Kami.

Springs and wells also have their gods. The god of wells is named Mii-no-Kami, he who causes

water to flow from the earth. In the Kojiki we read that Yakami, one of the wives of O-Kuni-Nushi,

gave birth to a son, and from fear of the chief wife hid the child in the fork of a tree, whence his

other name: Ki-no-Mata-No-Kami. When a new well is begun there is a special ceremony of

purification, and when the well is finished a little salt is thrown in as purification offering.

Sea gods. The sea has several gods. The greatest is O-Wata-Tsu-Mi, also known as the Old Man of

the Tide, Shio-Zuchi. When Izanagi washed off the impurities of Hell in the waters of the sea, he

made several gods—the god of the sea bottom, god of the middle waters, and god of the surface.

In the Engi epoch (901 — 922) the ceremonial mentions a shrine of the Sea god in Harima

province, and the shrine of another Sea god in Chikuzen province. Fish and all sea creatures are

ruled by the Sea god, and his messenger is the sea-monster which the ancient texts call Wani. We

have already noted that the god Hikohohodemi went to the bottom of the sea to look for his

brother's fish-hook, and lived in the palace of the Sea god who gave him the two jewels of the

tides. At the time of the spread of Ryobu-Shinto, the Sea god had a sanctuary at Sumiyoshi, but

became amalgamated with the Hindu god Varuna and thus developed into the very popular god,

Suitengu, a great protector of sailors, with t sanctuaries in almost all the big towns. On top of this

mingling of personalities was engrafted the child Emperor, Antoku, who with his nurse died at

sea during the battle of Dan-No-Ura. Thus grew up the belief that the god Suitengu, being a child

himself, protects and comforts sick children.

The Fire god. The Fire god caused his mother's death when coming into the world and was killed

by his father—on this occasion the god was called Kagu-Zuchi. In incantations he is always

evoked under his other name of Ho-Masubi, the causer of fire, and in Ryobu-Shinto he becomes

the god of mount Atago near Kyoto. He is supposed to be a protection against fire, so he is visited

by many pilgrims who bring back amulets bearing the figure of a wild boar. The Fire god was

greatly feared by the Japanese, for during L the season of high winds their wooden houses were

easily destroyed w by fires. Twice a year the priests carried out at the Imperial palace a ritual

intended to placate fire, and also to drive away all risk of ' burning from the Sovereign's dwelling.

During this complicated ceremony some of the priests lighted fires by different methods in the

four corners of the palace. Others read an incantation which related the myth of the god's birth,

and enumerated the four ways to control him—with the help of the water-goddess, the gourd,

river weed, and the clay-goddess, in accordance with the instructions given by Izanami. After that

the priests read a list of the offerings which must be given to the Fire god to persuade him to spare

His Majesty's palace.

The ritual customs of the shines demanded a pure fire which J the priests made either by the

friction of pieces of Hinoki wood I (this is the Kiri-Bi fire) or by striking a hard stone with steel,

which * gives Uchi-bi fire. The priests of Shinto use it in their houses, and | the Emperor's food is

prepared over it. On New Year's Day at [

Kyoto the faithful make their way to the Temple of Gion, and there receive from the priest's hands

the pure fire, which they take home carefully to light the fire of their own hearths, and thus

receive protection throughout the year. The matron overseers strike pure fire above the heads of

geishas and courtesans to give them magical protection when they go out to clients.

Gods of the Road. The ancient texts mention several Road gods. Chimata-No-Kami is the god of

crossroads and is mentioned in one of the norito. We must also note the god of innumerable roads,

Yachimata-hiko, with whom goes a goddess of innumerable roads, Yachimato-hime; the god-ofthe-

place-not-to-be-visited, Kunado; and also the-god-of-the-place-not-to-be-violated, Funado.

These gods are named also Sae-no-Kami, gods-who-ward-off (misfortunes), or the-ancestors-ofroads,

Dosojin. They protect mankind against the wicked gods of Hell. It is to be noted that they

have no sanctuaries, but twice a year ceremonies were celebrated in their honour at the entrance to

a town or at a cross-roads, offerings were made them, and the ritual texts were read. To protect

themselves against misfortunes and diseases which might be brought them by foreigners, the

ancient Japanese celebrated ceremonies to the honour of the Sae-no-Kami two days before the

arrival of an embassy. These protector gods are phallic gods, and their Shintai is a stick. When

they are represented in human form, in stone or wood, their sex is always clearly indicated. Some

Japanese scholars think the Road gods and the phallic gods were originally distinct, and only later

were blended. However that may be, these gods were very popular in ancient Shinto, and as lords

of procreation they were considered to be powerful protectors. In the Kogoshui we read that a

phallus was set up in the middle of a field to protect the rice from i locusts. In ancient times large

stone phalluses were often placed at cross-roads, but the Buddhist priests opposed this belief, and

replaced the ancient phallic emblems by wooden images of Mikado-Daimyojin (G. Kato, op. cit. p.

177). Then the Imperial government gave orders to take down the emblems of the cult and to

remove them to unfrequented places. But the cult persists in popular belief, and there are still

shrines where the god is venerated. The emblems are often to be found in the small domestic

altars in courtesans' houses. Near forked trees in the mountains, little chapels containing a phallus

are often found. Mr G. Kato has devoted a study of Japanese forms of phallic cult. (A Study of the

development of Religious Ideas among the Japanese People as illustrated by Japanese Phallicism.

Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, vol I, suppl. 1924).

Rustic gods. We have already said that the ancient Japanese conceived that all aspects and

phenomena of Nature were manifestations of different divinities. For this reason the Kojiki

mentions among the gods derived from Izanagi and Izanami, the Princess-of-Grass, Kaya-Nuhime,

who is the goddess of fields and meadows, and is named Nu-Zuchi. Other texts mention

gods of the tree trunks, Kuku-no-chi, and a god-who-protects-leaves, Hamori. In addition to the

generalised divinities, each species of tree has a special god— oaks, for instance, are protected by

Kashiwa-no-Kami. Large and beautiful trees are venerated, and often hung with a rope of plaited

straw from which hang little pieces of paper called Shime-nawa, telling the passer-by of the tree's

divine quality. In a hollow of the tree or in front of it there is made a tiny chapel where the faithful

leave offerings. The tree Sakaki (Cleyera japonica) is particularly venerated, because it was the tree

chosen by the gods on which to hang the mirror during the ceremony carried out to tempt the Sun

goddess from her cave. In all Shinto shrines there are plantations of sakaki, and branches of the

tree are laid before the altars. The big Japanese cedar called the tree of fire, Hinoki, is also

considered as sacred, and is therefore planted round sanctuaries. Mr G. Kato (op. cit., p. 21) says:

'It seems to me that, from Saka Shibutsu's Daijingu Sankeiki or Journal of Pilgrimages to the Ise

Shrines, we may infer that so late as the fourteenth century there existed at Ise a Nature-cult which

took the form of tree-worship. A cherry-tree called Sakura no miya was worshipped within the

precincts of the great Shrine at Ise.'

Gods of Stones and Rocks. Stones and Rocks are also objects of veneration in Shinto. There existed

an important god of rock, Oiwa Daimyojin, while in the Izushi Shrine stones are worshipped.


We must not forget the stone which, according to the legend, the Empress Jingo (170—269 A.D.)

carried on her belly in order to delay the birth of her child, because she was in command of a

military expedition against Korea. This stone is now venerated, and is supposed to help women in

childbirth. In Hizen province, a sanctuary is dedicated to a similar stone and bears the name

Shrine-of-the-stone-helping-childbirth, Chinkai-Seki-no-Yashiro. Clay or earth, as matter, has a

goddess called Hani-Yasu-no-Kami.

The goddess of Food. In the ancient texts the goddess of food is given different names—Uke-

Mochi-No-Kami, she-who-possesses (Mochi), food (uke); Waka-Uke-Nome, the-young-womanwith-

food; and Toyo-Uke-Bime, the princess-of-rich-food, etc. In the Nihon shoki we learn that

Amaterasu sent her brother Tsuki-Yomi, the Food goddess. She invited him to a meal, and

produced rice and other dishes from her mouth to set out several tables. Tsuki-Yomi was annoyed

by such a meal, and killed the goddess Uke-Mochi. Amaterasu was angry at this murder, and

separated from her brother. Uke-Mochi-No-Kami is worshipped in the Geku Shrine, which after

that of the Sun goddess, is the most important of the Ise sanctuaries.

The Rice god. Inari, the Rice god, is closely related to the Food goddess, but his cult is far more

extended and he has shrines with many red Torii, perhaps in greater number than any sanctuaries

in Japan. In popular belief the god Inari is represented as a bearded old man sitting on a sack of

rice, flanked by two foxes, who are his messengers. The people confuse Inari with his messengers,

and worship the fox as the god of Rice. He is now considered as the god of Prosperity in all his

forms, and is especially worshipped by tradesmen. In old Japan he was known as the patron of the

smiths who forged swords.

Hearth gods. The hearth is protected by several deities. There are gods of the entrance and a

couple of Kitchen gods named Oki-Tsu-Hiko and Oki-Tsu-Hime. There is a special god for the

Imperial kitchen. The Emperor Keiko (A.D. 71 — 188) wished to reward the culinary talents of a

deceased Imperial Prince, so dedicated a shrine to him, and promoted him to the rank of tutelary

divinity of the Imperial kitchen (G. Kato, op. cit. p. 62). The god of the kitchen range, Kamado-no-

Kami, is a greatly venerated deity in all houses. in old Japan special festivals were dedicated to the

god of Pots, and all artisans who used pots in their occupation took part in them. During the

ceremony of good wishes for the Palace, known as Otono-no-hogai, the procession visited the

bathroom and the closets, where offerings were made of a few grains of rice and a few drops of

rice-wine. The god of Closets was respected and feared because, according to the Japanese, evil

gods always settle in unclean places, and from there afterwards send dangerous diseases.

Deified heroes. The pantheon of Shinto gods was always increasing. In addition to the

mythological gods, historical personages were and are considered as Kami, but this is not a very

ancient tendency. In the ninth century there is a mention of prayers addressed to a deceased

Emperor to ootain rain or avoid a misfortune. Towards the beginning of the tenth century we find

a written order to make offerings to the deceased sovereign as if he were a Kami. Among the

deified sovereigns we must put to one side those to whom shrines were erected in order to calm

their anger, or the desire for vengeance, which they might have felt from the suffering of their

lifetime. Such was the Emperor Junnin (750 — 764) who was banished to Awaji island and then

assassinated; such too Sutoku (1124—1141) who died in exile in Sanuki; Go-Toba (1184—1198),

Tsuchi-Mikado (1199-1210) and Juntoku (1211-1221) who were exiled to different places after the

defeat of their troops by the army of the military Government of Kama Kura; the Emperor Go-

Uaigo (1319 — 1338) who also tried to free himself from the control of the military Government of

Kama Kura. He was banished to the island of Chiburi, succeeded in escaping and in re-assuming

power, but had finally to abdicate after several years of hard struggle. And then there was the

child Emperor Antoku, already mentioned, who died in 1185 in the naval battle of Danno-ura.

The sovereigns Chuai and Ojm, as well as the Empress Jingo, were deified for their military

exploits. The last-named is venerated in the Shrine of Sumiyoshi for her expedition to Korea,


probably occurred about the fourth century of our era. The Emperor Chuai fought the rebel tribes

of Kyushu island, and died just before the expedition to Korea.

The Emperor Ojin, son of Chuai and Jingo, had a shrine at Usa, built in 712 by the Empress

Gemmyo (708 — 714), and he became the god of War under the popular name of Hachiman. In the

ninth century the Emperor Seiwa (died 876) built another shrine to him at Iwashimizu. The

Ryobu-Shinto doctrines introduced Buddhist elements into his cult, and added on to his name a

Buddhist epithet, Hachiman Daibosatsu. After the Imperial restoration of 1868 he once more

became a purely Shinto deity. His shrines are still numerous, and always thronged with the

pigeons who are his messengers. The Imperial government deified the legendary founder of the

dynasty, the Emperor Jimmu, as well as the great reforming Emperor Kammu (719—781) and put

up shrines to them. The Emperor Meiji, who died in 1912, and his wife, have been deified and

have a sanctuary.

Statesmen also have become gods, and shrines have been built to them. The Minister Fujiwara

Kamatari (614 — 669) has a shrine and receives offerings. Sugawara Michizane (845—903) is a

Minister who died in exile. After his death his spirit brought misfortune to those who had

calumniated him to the Emperor, and a small shrine was erected to him in 907, and a larger one in

947. He is considered as the protector of scholars, and the god of Calligraphy. He is called Tenjin,

and his shrines are numerous.

The great military dictator Oda Nobunaga (1534—1582) is venerated in a Shinto shrine, and so is

his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1530— 1598), leyasu (1524— 1616), founder of the house of

Tokugawa, which governed Japan for nearly three centuries, has sanctuaries where he is

worshipped under the name of Tosho-Dai-gongen. Other examples might be quoted.

There were even persons to whom shrines were erected in their lifetime, and who were venerated

as Kami before their death. Mr G. Kato has paid special attention to this question, and has devoted

to it a volume of over four hundred pages, Hompo Seishi no Kenkyu, with an appendix in

English: Shinto worship of living human gods in the religious history of Japan, 1932, Tokyo, as

well as several articles in the Transactions of the Meiji Japan Society. He mentions the case of

Honda Tadakazu (vol. XL, 1933), and that of Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758—1829) chief Minister of

the Tokugawa and man of letters (vol. XXXIII, 1930). We will limit ourselves to these two




Japanese Buddhist sects. It is probable that about the fourth century of our era certain elements of

Buddhism (following the doctrines of the Mahayana, the Great Vehicle) entered Japan from China

by way of Korea. However, it has been agreed to accept the year 522 as the official date of the

introduction of Buddhism into Japan, since in that year the Korean kingdom of Paikche sent the

Emperor of Japan a gilded bronze statue of Buddha and some volumes of Buddhist Sutras. The

Emperor was not converted, but he allowed the great Soga family to adopt the new religion. After

violent conflicts between the Buddhists and the old nationalist families, the new religion was

proclaimed the religion of the state by the Prince Regent Shotoku in 592.

During the whole of the seventh and eighth centuries, in the course of the period called 'Nara'

from the name of the temporary capital, Buddhism developed rapidly in Japan. There were then

six main sects, the chief of which are the Sanron sect, the doctrine of the three books, founded by a

Korean monk in 625; the Hosso sect, of Indian origin, introduced to Japan in 653; the Kegon sect

introduced in 736 and based on the Avatamsaka sutra. The number of Buddhist divinities then

introduced into Japan was still limited.

Towards the end of the eighth century the Buddhist clergy became a formidable power. To escape

it the Emperor Kammu (783— 805) decided to transfer the capital from Nara to Heian-kyo or

Kyoto (794). It was the beginning of a new period, during which important religious reforms were

carried out. Towards the year 804 the monks Dengyo Daishi and then Kobo Daishi came back

from China, and taught the Tendai and Shingon doctrines. These

were in opposition to the ancient Nara sects, not only from their mystical and secret aspect and

from the pomp of their ceremonies, but also from their new doctrine of salvation made accessible

to all human beings. Moreover, these new sects introduced a very large number of Buddhist

divinities into Japan. Among these divinities the Dhyani Buddha, Vairocana, was the centre of a

spiritual world which was represented by the aid of a drawing or Mandala. The world of ideas

(Kongokai) must be distinguished from the world of forms (Taizokai). In each of these Mandalas

the centre of the composition is occupied by Vairocana.

To the monk Dobo Daishi is also attributed the creation of Ryobu-Shinto or Shinto with two faces,

whose doctrines unite the gods of Shinto with Buddhist divinities by identifying the one with the

other. Thus Amaterasu, the Sun goddess, became a temporal manifestation of Vairocana.

In the twelfth century new Buddhist sects were introduced into Japan, notably the Jodo-Shu (Pure

Land sect) which profoundly altered the preceding doctrines. Salvation for human beings is a

Paradise which to some extent takes the place of the notion of Nirvana. It is governed by Amida

Buddha. Corresponding to the existence of a Paradise there was a Hell, Jigoku, situated


In the thirteenth century the monk Shinran Shonin reformed the sect, which then became 'the True

Pure Land sect', Jodo-Shinshu. For the believers in this doctrine there was only one Buddha,

Amida. His image only is allowed in Shinshu Temples. At the same period the monk Nichiren

founded a sect based on the Sutra of the Lotus of Good Law, Saddharma pundarika sutra.

Limited by the space at our disposal and also by the impossibility of reviewing all the

innumerable figures of the Buddhist pantheon, we shall limit ourselves to the most important,

especially stressing the iconographic features which distinguish one from another.


Amida. He is the most famous of the Dhyani Buddhas. He is especially favoured by the Shinshu

and Jodo-Shu sects. He is the great protector of mankind, he comforts all who call upon his name,

his Paradise in the West is open to all human beings. Standing with uncovered head in Indian

dress he calls heaven and earth to witness that he will not enter Nirvana until he has saved all

mankind. Many images represent him enthroned in the centre of the Sukhavati Paradise, or

appearing behind the mountains, Yamagoshi no Amida, or coloured red and with his legs crossed,

Kuharishiki no Amida. The esoteric sects recognise three Amidas—Muryoju (Amitayus), Muryoko

(Amitabha) and Kanroo (Amrita).

Ashuku Nyorai. The cult of this Buddha does not exist in Japan. Yet his form will be found in

Mandalas, either alone or joined with a group of divinities. He sits with crossed legs on a lotus. He

has no head-dress. His outstretched right hand has the fingers pointing to earth, and his left first is


Dainichi Nyorai. Dainichi Nyorai, Maha-Vairocana tathagata, is the essential divinity of the

Tendai, Shingon, and Kegon esoteric sects, and is the central figure of the Taizokai and Kongokai


Fugen Bosatsu. Fugen Bosatsu, Samantabhadra, is one of the most important Bodhisattvas. He

represents wisdom, intelligence, understanding. He sits at the end of the Path of the extinction of

errors. Thanks to his deep intuition and to his infinite kindness he understands the motives of all

human actions. The uniformity of his compassion corresponds to the constancy of his

contemplation. He is able to prolong human life. He is often depicted seated on a lotus supported

by one or more white elephants. He may have two or twenty arms.

Hosho Nyorai. Hosho Nyorai, Ratnasambhava. He is the thrid Tathagata of the Kongokai

Mandala. He looks after all treasures.

Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara, Kuan-yin). The cult of this Bodhisattva is one of the most

venerated in Japan. It was practised from the first introduction of Buddhism, and the Horyuji

monastery still preserves a beautiful bronze statue of Kannon dating from 651.

His mercy is infinite, he comes to the help of all men. All Buddhist sects without exception

worship him, and have put up innumerable sanctuaries to him. On the top of his head there is

always placed a little image of Amida, recalling that Kannon Bosatsu is one of the two companions

(disciple or manifestation, according to whether the sect is exoteric or esoteric) of this Buddha.

There are seven forms of Kannon which are said to be the most widespread in Japan:

Senju Kannon (Kannon with the thousand arms or Sahasrabhuja sahasranetra) is figured in the

centre of a vast halo formed out of a thousand hands, and in the palm of each is a human eye

which symbolises his ever-vigilant compassion. Forty arms are attached to his body, and each

holds an attribute or makes a mudra. Sometimes the centre head of this divinity is surmounted by

twenty seven heads.

Nyo-i-rin Kannon (Cintamaricakra) usually has six arms, and each of the hands protects one of the

six conditions. One holds a cintamani, the symbol of the satisfaction of vows; one a rosary, one a

lotus or a wheel, the two others support his chin and rest on the lotus where the divinity is seated.

Ju-ichimen Kannon (Ekadasamukha) has eleven heads which the different sects group according

to different combinations. 'Following the instructions of the Sutras, three faces—those in the centre

and those in front—should have the expression of a Bodhisattva; the three faces to the left, an

angry expression; and the three faces to the right should have the expression of a Bodhisattva but

the canine teeth should project from the mouth. The face situated behind the head of the

Bodhisattva laughs. The face at the top is either that of a Buddha or of a Nyorai and each of these

heads carries the image of Amida on its diadem.'

Sho Kannon (Avalokitesvara). The All-Merciful comes to the aid of those who implore him. The

Taizokai Mandala, which groups deities in the order of their power and the intentions they

incarnate, places him to the right of Dainichi.

Bato Kannon (Hayagriva, the horse-headed Kannon). He is a manifestation of Amida. He has no

crown. A horse's head placed on his hair recalls the charger of Cakravartiraja, which galloped

tirelessly to the four points of the compass. He symbolises the Bod-hisattva's universal activity in

assisting the unfortunate and fighting demons. He protects the souls which destiny brings to the

state of animals. His terrible face has a third eye and fangs. He sits on a lotus, and his hands form

a mudra at the height of his breast.

Jundei Kannon (Sunde) uses his infinite virtues for the salvation of mankind. He has three eyes

and eighteen arms. He is less often represented than the other forms of Kannon.

Fuku-kensaku Kannon (Amoghapasa) is a divinity of the Taizokai, World of Forms.

Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya). The future Buddha. He dwells in the Tushita heaven and will come

down on earth five thousand six hundred and seventy million years after the entry of Buddha into

Nirvana. He revealed to Asanga the secret doctrines of the Maha-yana, which explains his

popularity among the esoteric sects. Ancient sculpture represents him sitting down, with his left

foot on the ground, his right foot on his left knee, his right elbow on his right knee, and his left

hand on his right ankle. His head is slightly bent, his right hand supports his chin, and there is a

little Stupa on his crown. But sometimes he is to be met with having his legs crossed or standing

on a lotus.

Among the ten names of Buddha is the name Nyorai, (Tathagata). This term corresponds with one

of the forms under which Buddha manifests himself for the salvation of mankind.

Myoo. A great Myoo corresponds to each of the five great Buddhas. Dainichi (Mahavairocana),

Ashuku (Akshobhya), Hosho (Rat- ] nasambhava), Mida (Amithabha) and Fuku

(Amonghavajra). ' These are terrible manifestations of the Buddhas, and are those ] who carry out

their wishes.

[onju Bosatsu, the Japanese form of the Buddhist god of wisdom and n), Jikoku Ten, who watches

over the region of the east.

Dai-itoku-Myoo (Yamantaka) is the terrible manifestation of Amida, and lives in the region of the

West. More powerful than the dragon, he does battle with evils and poisons. He is surrounded

with flames and sits on a white ox or a rock. He has six heads with terrible faces, and also six arms

and six legs. He conquered Emma-hoo, the king of Hell, whence his second name, Goemmason.

Fudo-Myoo (Arya acalanatha). The most important of the five great Myoo, one of the

manifestations of Dainichi nyorai (Vairo-cana). He is surrounded by flames, the symbols of his

virtues. His ferocious face is half hidden by his long hair. With his sword, which is the symbol of

wisdom and mercy, he battles with the three poisons

— avarice, anger and folly. He binds with his rope those who oppose the Buddha.

Gozanze-Myoo. He is the terrible manifestation of Ashuku, and lives in the region of the East.

Each of his four faces bears a ferocious expression and has a third eye in the forehead. His eight

hands hold different attributes. His left foot treads on Jizaiten (Mahesvara). His right foot presses

the hand of Umahi (Uma), Jizaiten's wife.

Gundari-Myoo is the terrible manifestation of Hosho. He is represented standing on a lotus. His

terrible face has three eyes, and fangs protrude from his mouth. A human skull is placed on his

hair, and his red body has eight arms. Snakes are coiled round his wrists and ankles. This divinity

is also called Nampo Gundari Yasha, because he lives to the south of mount Sumeru, and also

Kanro (Amrita), because he gives heavenly nectar to poor human beings.

Kongo-yasha-Myoo (Vajrayaksha) is the terrible manifestation of Fuku. He protects the region of

the North. He is surrounded by flames, poses on two lotus flowers, and lifts his left leg. He may

have three heads and six arms, or one head and four arms. The front face has five eyes.

Kujaku-Myoo does not belong to the series of five Great Myoo. His looks are not terrible, and he is

represented with the features of a Bodhisattva. He is always seated on a peacock. The esoteric

sects consider him a manifestation of Sakyamuni. He gives pro-protection against calamities, and

is particularly resorted to for

•rain during periods of droughts.

Aizen-Myoo is a divinity who, under his terrible appearance, is full of compassion for mankind.

His ferocious face with three eyes is topped by a lion's head with a bristling mane surmounted by

a Vajra (thunder-bolt) which calms evil passions and guilty desires. He has six arms holding

different attributes. In the secret Shingon sect Aizen-Myoo is in the centre of a Mandala.

Jizo Bosatsu (Kshitigarbha). The cult of this Bodhisattva, very little spread in India, had much

popularity in central Asia, China, and especially Japan from the twelfth century. He is the great

protector of all suffering humanity. Many sanctuaries are dedicated to him. His image has

inspired sculptors and painters with masterpieces, and yet may be seen roughly carved alongside

the roads of Japan. His considerable power is exercised in very different cases, whence the large

number of different aspects in which he appears, fhere are six Jizo protectors of the six Paths or

good and bad conditions which souls must undergo after judgment: that of Hell, that of the

starving Demons, that of the world of animals, that of the demon Asuras, that of Men, that of the

Devas. There are many tales displaying his infinite kindness —he saves the life of the warrior

foshihira, he averts fires, facilitates childbirth etc. One of the main devotions offered to him is as

the pitying protector of children.

In the seventeenth century his power was increased and with it his popularity- he is able to

redeem sinful souls from Hell and to bring them to Paradise. His most usual appearance is that of

a Buddhist monk, seated or standing, holding a crozier (Khakkhara) in his right hand, and a

precious pearl in the left. There is often a halo round his head.

f he Jizo of the victorious army (Shogun Jizo) was associated with the divinity of mount Atago

when Ryobu-Shinto was formed. In this particular form he has the appearance of a Chinese soldier

on horseback, holding the crozier in one hand and the pearl in the other.


Kozuko Bosatsu. He lives in the koju world. The many images of him preserved in the Temples

show him seated with crossed legs on a lotus supported by a lion.

Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri) was extremely popular in the ninth century and personifies intelligence,

compassion, and contemplation. He is often associated with Fugen Bosatsu in the Shaka Nyorai

trinity. This Bodhisattva is always accompanied by a lion. He is generally seated, holds in his

hands the sword of intelligence which cuts thedarkness of ignorance, and a book.

Yakushi Nyorai. Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaishajyaguru) is a divinity very popular in Japan from the

eighth century, sometimes identified with Ashuku Nyorai or with Dainichi Nyorai. He is the

divine healer who stops epidemics, whose knowledge can overcome every disease. He is usually

represented under the aspect of a Buddha holding in his hand a little flask containing medicines.

Sometimes he is accompanied by two other deities, the Bodhisattvas, Gakko, image of the Moon,

and Nikko, image of the Sun.


Emma-hoo (Yama-raja). Hell, Jigoku, is underground. It is made up of eight regions of fire and

eight of ice. There are also subsidiary hells. The ruler of this infernal world is Emma-hoo (Yamaraja)

who is also the supreme judge of Hell. Under his orders are eighteen generals and eighty

thousand men. He is represented in the dress of a Chinese judge wearing a cap inscribed with the

name Emma. The expression of his face is ferocious.

Emma-hoo only judges men, and leaves the task of deciding the fate of women to his sister. The

sinner is taken before this formidable judge, who sits between the decapitated heads of Miru-me

and Kagu-hana, from whom nothing can be hidden. All his past sins are reflected into the sinner's

eyes by a huge mirror. His sins are weighed, and then Emma-hoo gives judgment. The sinner

must stay in such-and-such a region of Hell according to the extent of his sins, unless his soul is

saved by the prayers of the living. In this case a Bodhisattva rescues him from torture, and the

sinner is reborn either on earth or in a Paradise.

Oni (devil-demons). The idea of ill-omened forces was introduced into Japan relatively late. Indian

ideas and the Chinese doctrines of Yang and Yin were altered there and ended up in the creation

of demons, Oni, and the birth of a new iconography. The Oni of Hell are distinguished from the

Oni on earth. The former have red or green bodies, with the heads of oxen or horses. Their

occupation consists in hunting for the sinner and taking him in a chariot of fire to Emma-hoo, god

of Hell. The gaki demons are eternally tormented by thirst or hunger, and their bellies are

enormous. The latter are maleficent demons who can assume the shape of a living being or of an

inanimate object. There are invisible demons, but their presence may be detected because they

sing, whistle, or talk. In the ninth century it was believed that very virtuous people only might

sometimes witness their processions, invisible to all other mortals. They have the power to seize

on a dead man's soul, and to appear to his relatives in his form.

We must also mention the Oni who are responsible for diseases and epidemics (they are dressed

in red) and the Oni who are women changed into demons under the stress of jealousy or violent

grief. Although they are maleficent spirits, the Oni in general are not very dangerous, and they

may even be converted to Buddhism.


Nio. The name of Nio is given to the two protectors of Buddhism who correspond to Vajrapani.

Eukaotsu and Soko are placed on either side of the entry to Shrines.

Ida-ten, the Chinese Wei-t'o. Although of subsidiary importance this deity became very popular in

China and still more in Japan from the seventh century onward. He guards the law, and watches

over the discipline of monasteries and the good conduct of the monks. Ida-ten (General Wei)

appeared in a dream to the Chinese monk Tao Hsuan (596 — 667). 'He is the first of the thirty-four

generals of the four devaraja, placed directly under the orders of Him of the

A'false face' mask of painted wood with human hair. These masks were worn by the Iroquois

tribes of the east during rituals which celebrated the spirits of nature and drove away harmful

ones. The occasions were primarily religious but there was a great deal of horseplay and some of

the masks had a i distinctly humorous aspect. British Museum.

South, Virudhaka, the protector of Buddhism and especially of mohks and monasteries in the

three regions of the South, the East, and the West gifted with absolute purity and free from all

passion.' In Japan the familiar expression 'running like Ida-ten', which means to run very fast, is

derived from the following legend. When Buddha was dead but before they had closed the gold

coffin, a demon named Sokushikki stole one of the sacred teeth and made off with it. The

disciples, thunderstruck with surprise, were unable to stop him, and with one leap he went forty

thousand yojana. Ida-ten alone pursued him, and regained the precious relic. In statues he is

represented as a young man in the dress of a Chinese general, with his two hands resting on a

weapon or holding it across his arms.

Buddha's disciples. Among the sixteen Rakan (Arhat) or disciples of Buddha we shall mention

only Binzuru, the first among them. He aids human beings, and soothes the sick. However,

entrance to Nirvana was refused him by Buddha because in his youth he broke the vow of

chastity. He dwelt on mount Marishi. He is represented usually as an extremely old man with

pure white hair and thick eyebrows.

Atago-Gongen. Atago-Gongen was a deity of Ryobu-Shinto who emigrated from the sanctuary of

mount Atago at the beginning of the Meiji epoch, when the government expelled the Buddhist

divinities from the Shinto sanctuaries. There he was confused with a deity of Thunder and Fire. In

the eighth century the bronze Keishun built on top of mount Atago a Buddhist shrine consecrated

to the Jizo of the victorious army. The iconography of Atago-Gongen was influenced by this

proximity. The deity took on the appearance of a Chinese cavalry soldier carrying the emblems of

Jizo, the precious pearl and the crozier. Today the mount Atago sanctuary is a Shinto shrine where

a Fire god is worshipped.

Nijuhachi Bushu is the general name for the twenty-eight deities symbolising the constellations.

They are sometimes considered as servants of Kannon.

Marishi-ten. Marici-deva is an all-powerful deva. He precedes the Sun. He is invisible, but the

Japanese represent him in the costume of a Chinese lady, to indicate his Continental origin. He

protects soldiers, and averts the danger of fires.

Shitenno. The Shitenno are four kings, heavenly guards, Lokapala. They are five hundred years

old and live in the slopes of mount Sumeru, on the top of which dwells Taishaku-ten, whose

vassals they are. They wear a ferocious expression, are dressed as Chinese

soldiers, and trample on demons. They may be distinguished by their attributes. Jikoku

(Dhritarashtra) protects the region of the East, he holds a sword and a little ossuary. Zocho

(Virudhaka) protects the region of the South, he fights evil and does good, and holds a sword and

shield. Komoku (Virupaksha) protects the region of the West, he holds a paint-brush or a spear in

his hand, while the other hand is on his hip or holds the sheath of his sword. Tamon (Vaisramana)

or Bishamon holds a sceptre and a little ossuary shaped like a pagoda. He protects the region of

the North.

Kishimojin (Hariti) is a female divinity dwelling in China. At first she was a demon-woman who

devoured children, but, after her conversion by Buddha, became their protector and also of

women in childbirth. Mothers implore her to heal their sick children. The Shingon sect who

brought her into Japan have kept her original name, Kariteimo. Many shrines were consecrated to

her by the Nichiren sect. She is represented either standing with a baby to her breast and holding

the flower of happiness, or sitting down in the Western fashion, surrounded with children.

Kompira (Kuvera) is a popular deity in Japan, the protector of sailors and bringer of prosperity. A

large shrine is consecrated to him in the village of Kotohira on Shikoku island. The numerous

pilgrims there receive a little slab of wood as an amulet, with the Chinese character for 'gold'

engraved in a circle. The sailors of the Inland Sea had a special devotion to him in the Tokugawa

period. To calm a storm the sailor cut his hair and threw it into the sea while uttering the name of

the deity. He appears in the shape of a fat man sitting down cross-legged. In one hand he holds a


Shichi Fukujin. The seven gods of happiness have different origins.

Ebisu and Daikoku are probably Shinto Kami. These gods wear Japanese clothes, and the lobes of

their ears are swollen. Ebisu, the patron of work, holds a line in his hands and a big fish on a

string. Daikoku, god of prosperity, holds the hammer of wealth and a big sack on his back, while

he stands on two sacks of rice.

Benzaiten and Bishamonten are of Hindu origin. The first is the deity of love. She rides a dragon

and plays the biwa, and her messenger is the snake. The second is the god of happiness and war.

He is represented as a soldier holding a little pagoda and a lance.

The three other gods are of Chinese origin. Fukurokuju is the god of wisdom and long life, with a

very high skull. He is accompanied by a stork. Jurojin, god of happiness and long life, leans on a

long staff and is accompanied by a stag. Hotei Osho is a Buddhist priest • with a fat stomach and a

bald head, while the lobes of his ears are swollen. He holds a hand-screen and a large sack. He has

been popularised in Europe under the name of Pusa.