Episode 218: Patrolling Gods

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Today we will talk about two gods in Chinese folklore that literally paroling like policemen called RiYeYouShen 日夜游神, patrolling god of day and night. By the name, you probably already guessed one god is the RiYouShen 日游神, patrol god of the day and the other god is YeYouShen 夜游神, patrol god of the night. They are also gods in Taoism. They are worshiped in some temples.

Like the name, their job is just wondering around and watch people’s behaviors. In Ep.77, we have talked about in Chinese folklore it says, after death, we would enter the ghost gate 鬼门关 which we mentioned in our episode 12. The road after we enter the underworld is called HuangQuan Road 黄泉路. There is a river called 奈河 NaiHe River at the end of the HuangQuan Road. There is a bridge over the river called NaiHe Bridge 奈何桥. In the book XuanShiZhi 宣室志 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 around the year 853, it says the source of Naihe River 奈河 is from the underworld. If you look closely, the water is actually blood and smells so stincky. The Naihe Bridge was slipery and was watched by the Patrol Gods of Day and Night.





So I guess these two gods not only watch us when we are alive but also the after life. The folklore of RiYeYouShen originated from the southern China.

Let’s talk about the Patrol God of the Day first. Zaju 杂剧 is a form of Chinese opera from the Yuan dynasty, between the year 1271 ~ 1368. In the zaju TaoHuaNv 桃花女, it mentions if you encounter the Patrol God of day, even you won’t die you would get hurt. In the book YuLiBaoChao 玉历宝钞 from the Qing dynasty around the 17th century, it says the Patrol God of the Day dresses like the official in jails holding a wooden board says “day patrolling ”. His long hair is not tied up. The word “日游神” Patrol God of the Day sometimes refers to the kind of people who are good like making connections to get the benefits like money and power.

What about the Patrol God of the Night? He was probably from the Gods of Night, like Nott in Norse mythology. In the book Classic of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC, it says there were 16 gods whose arms are connected that watch the night. They have small faces and bare arms. In another book HuaiNanZi 淮南子 from before the year 139 BC during the Western Han dynasty 西汉, it says there are two gods whose arms are connected that watch the night and they yell while they are patrolling. In the more recent history, Patrol God of the Night don’t show up as a group but in one and not yelling but being mysterious.




In the book QuanXiangGuJinXiaoShuo 全像古今小说 from the Ming dynasty 明朝, around the 16th century, it says there was a scholar called SiMa Mao 司马貌 from the place named YiZhou 益州 that he was talented while never got a good ranking in the Imperial Examination. So he didn’t have a position in the government. He was already in his 50s, and he complained about his fate. One day after getting drunk, he wrote a poem in which he said talented and righteous people are complaining about their fate while the evil people are holding the power. If I were the King of Hell, I would correct everything. (We have talked about the King of Hell in Ep. 12, please check the episode. )He then read it out for a few times and burned the paper. This was saw by the Patrol God of the Night and told the Jade Emperor 玉帝. (We talked about Jade Emperor in Ep 141, please check the episode. ) The Jade Emperor was so raged that how can a person say something rude. However suggested by other god, he actually let SiMa Mao take the job of King of Hell for half of a day. SiMa Mao didn’t disappoint him and made great judgments. Jade Emperor approved his ability and agreed to let him reincarnate to SiMa Yi 司马懿in the next life. SiMa Yi was a famous Chinese military general, politician between the year 179 ~ 251 during the Three Kingdoms period 三国时期. His political ambitions was fulfilled thanks to the Patrol God of the Night.

Although the folklore is from the southern China, in the book DiJingJingWuLue 帝京景物略 from the Ming dynasty 明朝 around the 17th century, it says in Beijing in northern China, you shouldn’t leave dirty water in the yard at night in case the Patrol God of the Night use the dirty water to the horse. Then it would be a huge offense.

In the book from the year 1892 during the Qing dynasty 清朝 , it says Patrol God of the Night is giant and a person met in around the corner later died at home. The word “夜游神” Patrol God of the night sometimes refers to people who like to wonder around at nights.

There is a song by a Chinese indie rock band called JiuLianZhenRen 九连真人that sang in their dialect from the southern China. They have a song called YeYouShen and the song is about in their small town, at one night a young man joined a fight to help his friend and killed a person. Those young men were called YeYouShen by their mom.



宣室志 XuanShiZhi


山海经 Classic of Mountains and Seas

淮南子 HuaiNanZi

全像古今小说 QuanXiangGuJinXiaoShuo

帝京景物略 DiJingJingWuLue

醉茶志怪 ZuiChaZhiGuai

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