Episode 222: Spoon Spirit

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A large part of Chinese folklore is related with animism that everything possesses a distinct spiritual essence. We have talked many stories about it. Today we will tell a story from the book Taiping Guangji 太平广记, a collection of stories complied in the early Song dynasty 宋朝 around the 10th century.

In the book, it says during the reign of Xianzong of Tang between the year 806 ~ 820, there was a student name Zhou Yi 周乙 from the Imperial College 国子监. One night, he was studying at night and saw a boy with messy hair around 2 chi 尺, which is about 63 cm high. The boy’s neck sparkles like stars. The flashing was annoying and distracting. Moreover, the naughty boy played with the writing brushes, ink bottles and messed around in the room.

Zhou Yi was not afraid and yelled at the boy. The boy stepped back and later lied against the desk. Zhou Yi was just waiting and watching the boy to see what he was up to. The boy started approaching him. Zhou Yi caught him right away. The boy begged Zhou Yi to let him go and sounded really sincere.

When the sun rose, Zhou Yi heard a sound like something was broken. He looked at the boy, it turned into a broken wooden spoon with more than 100 cooked rice stuck on it.





太平广记 Taiping Guangji


Episode 221: Flower Face

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Today we will talk about a kind of flower from the book Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang 酉阳杂俎 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 around the 9th century.

In the book, it says in the kingdom which is more than 2000 miles in the southeastern of the Kingdom DaShi 大食国, there is a kind of weird tree growing in the valleys. There are flowers blooming on this kind of the tree. The flower looks like a human’s head but it can’t talk.




Someone saw this flower and try to talk with it, the flower looks like it starts to smile. After a few times of smiles, the flower fell.



酉阳杂俎 Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang

Episode 220: God Food

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People sacrifice to gods in temples. I sometimes think do gods really need these sacrifice or it is just the way to show the piety. But I mean if you are really sincere, gods can hear you no matter where you are even not in the temples or if you really offer them some food. This probably varies in different regions and beliefs.

Today we will tell a story from the book JiShengLu 稽神录 from the Northern Song dynasty 北宋, around the year 955. In the book, it says there is a old man from the village called YuanZhou 袁州. He was a righteous person and respected by the villagers. He is pretty rich.

One day, a young man wearing purple clothes followed by a group of servants and horses came to visit the old man and asked for food. The old man let people prepare a huge feast to everyone. While he was serving, he thought, “no matter the local officials or the officials sent by the emperor from the capital, they all have certain places to serve them. Why did these people come to me?”




The young man felt his suspicion and said, “sir you are suspicious. I can’t hide from you anymore. I am not a person but the mountain god here. ”

The old man was shocked and kneed down to bow, “there are endless people worshiping and offering sacrifice to you every day. How can you need food from people? ”




The mountain god said, “if people sacrifice to me, they are asking for something. But there are times I am not able to fulfill their wishes. If I can’t offer what they ask for, I can’t take what they sacrifice. I heard you are a respectful man and decided to come to ask for food.” After the meal, the young man thanked him and left.



稽神录 JiShengLu

Episode 219: Ball Game

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Today we will talk about a story of two kids. The story is from the book ErShiLu 耳食录 from the Qing dynasty around the 18th century.

In the book, it says in the past there were two kids in the city Chang’an 长安 one wearing red and one reading white. They played around on the streets. When the red kid past a gate, he would throw a red ball on the ground. The white kid would pick it up. They played the game together and laughed and had a lot of fun. The red kid threw the red balls faster and faster while the white kids couldn’t pick them all. They played and left together. The red balls that weren’t picked up all disappeared.





The next day, the city was on fire. The houses where the red kid threw red balls at all turned into ashes. Only the houses where the white kid picked up the balls still stood.



耳食录 ErShiLu

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