Episode 111: Toilet Goddess

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Most people probably have heard about gods who are in charge of people’s desires like wealth, peace, love and beauty or god who are in charge of the nature like seas, the sun, the moon. Today we will talk about the Goddess of Toilet in Chinese mythology.

Don’t be that surprised. We have talked about Kitchen God (Ep 26) Door Gods (Ep 11) and Lord of the Soil and Ground (Ep 68). They are all belong to the Six Households Deities in Chinese mythology. Since there are two Door Gods, the other two are Toilet Goddess which we are going to talk about today and Well God that we will talk about in the future. Influenced by Chinese culture, there are those household deities in Japanese mythology as well although the figures of the deities and stories are different.

The name of the Toilet Goddess is ZiGu 紫姑. The worshiping of Toilet Goddess can be traced back to the Six Dynasties 六朝, between the year 220 to 589. It was really popular during the Tang dynasty 唐朝 and Song dynasty 宋朝.


In the book GuJinTuShuJiCheng 古今图书 集成from the Qing dynasty, it says ZiGu is from the place called LaiYang 莱阳. Her original name was He Mei 何媚. She was a concubine of a man called Li Jing 李景. Li Jing’s wife was jealous of He Mei and murdered her in the toilet. The Heaven Gods pitied her death and assigned her as the Toilet Goddess after death. People call her San Gu 三姑.

In the book MengXiBiTan 梦溪笔谈from the Song dynasty, it says it was an old tradition that people worship the God of Toilet on the night of 15th of the first month in the lunar calendar when she was murdered. People call her ZiGu 紫姑.


In the book DiJingJingWuLue 帝京景物略 from the Ming dynasty 明朝, it says, on the night of 15th of the first month in the lunar calendar, women make dolls with grass and paint the face and make dresses using handkerchiefs for the doll and call her GuNiang 姑娘. Two girls would hold the doll and worship her with horse crap and sing songs. There are different ceremonies in different places and a lot of them involve decorating a broom with jewelry and flowers like dressing up the Toilet Goddess. Because brooms were usually placed in the toilet.


It is always only the women worshiping Toilet Goddess. Because the purpose is to wish the girls in the family meet a great husband and not get murdered like ZiGu. In the book YiYuan 异苑 from the Southern dynasty, it says ZiGu can predict the future so weirdly Toilet Goddess is also related to fortunetelling.



古今图书集成 GuJinTuShuJiCheng

梦溪笔谈 MengXiBiTan

帝京景物略 DiJingJingWuLue

异苑 YiYuan


Episode 109: Chinese Thor

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Polytheistic people of different cultures have a thunder god like the most well-known Thor in Norse mythology thanks to Marvel. Today we will talk about LeiGong 雷公, God of Thunder in Chinese mythology.

The image of LeiGong has involved throughout Chinese history. The earliest record of it is from the book Classics of Mountains and Seas 山海经from the 4th century BC. It says there was a God of Thunder from the place called LeiZe 雷泽. It has a man’s head and a dragon body. Thunders were formed when he bulges his belly. I guess it makes sense because the dragons flying in the sky and that’s where the thunder is from too. And the idea that the bulging belly is the cause of thunder is cute. It sounds like the dragon man was burping when it thunders.


In the book In Search of the Sacred 搜神记from the Jin dynasty 晋代 around the year 350 AD, it says the God of Thunder has red skin color. His eyes are as bright as mirrors. He has horns and has a monkey head.

In the book Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang 酉阳杂俎 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 around the 9th century, it says God of Thunder has a pig head and each of his hands and feet has two fingers I guess they also looked like pig’s hoof. He always holds a red snake.

In the book LunHeng 论衡 from the Han dynasty 汉朝, it says God of Thunder was strong and carries a drum in his left hand and a hammer in his right hand. This is the one that the most close to Thor.

In the book GuJinTuShuJiCheng 古今图书 集成from the Qing dynasty 清朝 from the year 1725, it says the God of Thunder has a pig head and the body has fish scales.

So in a word, God of Thunder in Chinese mythology doesn’t really have a specific image. His head was originally a man’s head and later he has either a monkey head, a pig head, a devil head or some other beast’s head. His body was originally a dragon body and later he has a man’s body or a pig’s body or other beast’s body.


The modern versions of the God of Thunder are mostly based on the image from the Ming dynasty 明朝 and the Qing dynasty 清朝. In the book JiShuoQuanZhen 集说诠真, it says he was strong and bare chest and belly. He has two wings and three eyes. His face is as red as a monkey. He has a rather long and sharp chin. His feet are as sharp as the eagle’s claws. He carries a wedge and a hammer. From his head to his waist, he has 5 drums hung around his body. Today people who have a long chin are sometimes be called having the God of Thunder’s face 雷公脸.


Weirdly a lot of the modern image of God of Thunder sometimes have a bird beak. Maybe it is from one story in the book SanJiaoShouShenDaQuan 三教搜神大全 from the Ming dynasty 明朝 that a guy was hit by the thunder and became God of Thunder. When that guy was alive, he took care of his mother everyday and liked to cook chicken for her. That’s why he looks like a chicken with a beak and wings.


No matter what he looks like, especially probably not as attractive as Thor, there has been always a God of Thunder since thousands years ago and his birthday is on the 24th of the sixth month in the lunar calendar. It makes cause it is around July, the thunderstorm season.


People worship God of Thunder not only for the purpose of weather and agriculture but also in Taoism, God of Thunder punishes evil spirits and earthly mortals guilty of secret crimes. People sometimes use the phrase “hit by the thunder 天打雷劈” to swear or warn others that no do some things evil even nobody knows. Because they would be punished by the God of Thunder.


In folklore and Taoism, probably since the Song dynasty 宋朝 around the 10th century, God of Thunder has a wife – Mother of Lightning 电母. So the name indicates, she is in charge of the lightning and they usually come together. She uses two flashing mirrors in her hands to send bolts of lightning. She doesn’t have a special image just a pretty lady with two mirrors. She appears in many Chinese ancient stories and novels. Besides the duties of God of Thunder and Mother of Lightning 雷公电 母, it is believed thunder and lightning would appear when the couple is having an argument.




山海经 Classics of Mountains and Seas

搜神记 In Search of the Sacred

酉阳杂 俎Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang

论衡 LunHeng

古今图书 集成 GuJinTuShuJiCheng

集说诠真 JiShuoQuanZhen

三教搜神大全 SanJiaoShouShenDaQuan

Episode 103: Lotus Lantern – part 3

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Today we will continue the story about a brave boy who cleaved the mountain to save his mother. Last time we talked about SanShengNiang helped LiuXi get successful and even agreed that he could marry the daughter of the prime minister. However, herself was punished and prison by her brother ErLangShen when she was pregnant.

LiuXi had no idea what had happened to his wife. After getting married with the daughter of the prime minister, they left to the city LuoYang that he would start his new job. On their way, they arrived at Mountain Hua, LiuXi remembered SanShengNiang and missed her so much. He brought some servants with him and climbed to the top of the Mountain Hua. When they arrived the temple of SanShengNiang, everything was destroyed and ruined. He couldn’t help and crying, “SanShengNiang, I never forget our days together and everything I have now is because of you. I am here to meet with you but it is so devastating to see everything is falling apart.”

The Lord of the Soil and Ground 土地神 heard the crying and guessed it must be SanShengNiang’s husband LiuXi. We talked about the lord of the soil and land in our episode 68, a local deity in charge of a region and a community. The Lord of Soil and Ground always knows everything happened in his area. He went to see the prison SanShengNiang and told her, “your husband is here to see you. Now he is crying on the mountain and said he would rather die just to see you.” SanShengNiang heard the words and started crying. The Lord of Soil and Ground said, “I can unlock you for a while and lend you some wind that you can at least say a few words to your husband.”

SanShengNiang thanked the Lord of the Soil and Ground and left with the wind. LiuXi already left. She caught them before the horses. LiuXi noticed the horse stopped and heard crying sound in the wind and shouted, “are you an evil or a ghost? What do you want? I can help.”

SanShengNiang started to talk through the wind, “I am not an evil or a ghost but your wife. You can only hear me but can’t see me. I am in trouble now and prison in the Cave of Dark Clouds 黑云洞 under the Mountain Hua by my brother because our secret marriage. I am pregnant now and it is a torture in the cave. After giving birth, I would sent the baby to you and please take good care of the child. Now you have a new wife she is a great lady that she would be the perfect stepmom. All I wish for is that when the child grows up to save me and then we can meet that day. ” Everyone cried. She continued, “it is a long journey for you to travel to LuoNiang. I have lotus lanterns to guide you and help you draw off ghosts and evil spirits.” After that, the wind disappeared and so did the sound.

LiuXi and the whole group kept their journey. They went through mountains, rivers and whenever they met evil spirits, a red lotus lantern would appear and the light scared away all the ghosts until they arrived their destination. This made LiuXi feel more grateful and sorrow for SanShengNiang.



SanShengNiang went back to the cave and felt contractions. Not too long, she gave birth to a cute little boy. She named the kid ChengXiang 沉香, meaning the agarwood. Now you know where the name is from. She hoped one day the kid would revenge for her and free her out of the cave. She wrote a letter and asked the Lord of the Soil and Land for help to send the baby along with a letter to her husband LiuXi.

LiuXi and his new wife was in their garden one day, and saw an old man walking from the clouds. The old man handed them a baby and a letter writing the name of the baby and her wishes. LiuXi felt sorrow again about the situation of SanShengNiang.

Not too long after that day, LiuXi’s new wife had a baby too and named him LiuGe 秋哥. The two brothers got along pretty well. One year, ChengXiang was ten years old and QiuGe was eight. They were sent to school together. There was a kid in school from a prestigious family and always bullied others. One day, he laughed at ChenXiang had no mother. ChenXiang and QiuGe fought back and in the end, ChenXiang killed the boy.

The family didn’t know what to do with the threat from the dead kid’s family. LiuXi’s new wife was grateful for everything SanShengNiang did for them and also wanted to keep the promise of raising ChenXiang well and let him revenge one day. So she made a cruel decision that she let her own kid QiuGe to cover for ChenXiang. QiuGe was willing to help his brother as well and he was sent to prison to redeem his brother’s fault after hearing the story of SanShengNiang from his mom.

After QiuGe got arrested, ChenXiang finally was told about his real mother and everything happened before his birth. He was only a 11 year old kid and how could he take this dramatic change in his life. While he was digesting everything, the servant came in a rush shouted, “the death kid’s family figured out ChenXiang is the real murderer and came to catch him!” ChenXiang ran away from the home with the help of the family. However, his father LiuXi was arrested for hiding ChenXiang.

All of the sudden, the 11 year kid from a wealthy family with loving parents and brother became homeless and on the escape as well as a mission of revenge for his birth mother he never saw before.

We will continue our story in our next episode.

Episode 102: Lotus lantern – part 2

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Today we will continue the story about a brave boy who cleaved the mountain to save his mother. Last time we talked about a man called LiuXi 刘熙 fell in love with the goddess SanShengNiang 三圣娘 and SanShengNiang found out they were destined for marriage right before she was about to kill him.

SanShengNiang started to think about how to set up the marriage between her and LiuXi. Her brother is ErLangShen 二郎神, the god with a third eye we talked about in our episode 87. She knew ErLangShen wouldn’t agree with the marriage and would stop them. So she needed to hide from him about this marriage.

She set up a mansion like magic on the way of LiuXi and waited for him to stop by. LiuXi kept walking and it was getting dark. He needed to find a place to spend the night. There he saw a mansion in front of him and decided to try their luck.

When he approached the house, he saw an old man sleeping at the gate. LiuXi bowed and asked the old man if he could stay there for a night. The old man invited him inside and they had a great conversation over the tea. The old man said, “I have a daughter and you are single. If you don’t mind, I would like to set the marriage of you two. After the wedding, you can still go to attend the exam in the capital.” LiuXi thought, “it is still a while before the exam. It is a great chance to get married.” He replied, “if you like me so much, I can hardly say no to your offer.”

Following the words, a beautiful young lady well dressed came to meet him. LiuXi thought, “this girl looks so familiar but I can’t think of when I saw her. ” They got married soon and had great time together.

After a couple of months of newly married life, LiuXi thought of the exam and talked with his wife that he needed to leave soon. He would definitely come back for her after he got a good ranking and a position in the government. SanShengNiang said, “you have things you need to do. But I have some gifts for you. ”

She brought a writing brush made of dragon hair, a gold box for ink and a sword. She also handed him some agarwood incense. Whenever LiuXi had troubles, he could light the incense that SanShengNiang could trace the smell to find and help him. They made a promise to meet again at the Mountain Hua. The day LiuXi left, the couple cried and said farewell.

With the sorrow inside, LiuXi couldn’t even enjoy the scenery on the journey. SenShengNiang went back to her temple and missed her husband all day long especially she found out she was pregnant. She worried more to tell this whole thing to her brother ErLangShen that she secretly married some human and was going to have his kid.

LiuXi attended the exam and waited for the result. Unfortunately, he used up all the money he brought. He had no choice but to sell the sword SanShengNiang gave him. When he was selling the sword in the market, a general came by and saw it. He was surprised and questioned LiuXi, “I remember this sword is to worship the goddess SanShengNiang by the emperor. How did you get it?” LiuXi told the truth, “SanShengNiang and I got married and she gave this to me as a gift.” “Bullshit! SanShengNiang is a goddess and you are just a normal human being. How can you get married with her? You must stole it. Arrest him!” LiuXi shouted, “I am telling the truth.” The general said, “you will understand what truth is after you get beaten.” LiuXi was heavily beaten that he had to comprised and said, “I would rather say I stole the sword.” The beat stopped but he was sent to prison.

In the prison, LiuXi remembered he had the agarwood incense from SanShengNiang and lit one to wish she would help him. SanShengNiang smell the incense in her temple and flew to the capitol to see the emperor. She told the emperor, “LiuXi is my husband and now he is suffering in the prison. I did give him the sword and now he is falsely accused. Free him and assign him the first place in the exam. And give him the position of the governor of the place LuoYang 洛阳. Otherwise, the whole palace would be in trouble.” The emperor said, “please don’t get mad at us your majesty. I will follow every words of yours. ” Then SanShengNiang left like wind.

The good luck hit LiuXi suddenly. He was freed and got the first place in the exam and became the governor of the big city LuoYang. Everything changed for him. There is more. The prime minister had a 18 year daughter called Wang GuiYing 王桂英, beautiful and smart. The prime minister was willing to give the marriage of his daughter to the man who got the first place in the exam. Just to mention something here. The ancient China was a polygamy society. LiuXi didn’t know what to do and lit another incense to ask help from SanShengNiang. She smell the incense and wrote a letter to his husband that he should not miss the chance. What a lucky guy!

What about SanShengNiang? Her belly was getting more notable and could hide no more from her brother ErLangShen. ErLangShen found out his sister secretly got married with a human and got pregnant. He was so raged and punished her by taking away her magic tools and prison her under the Mountain Hua.


We will continue our story in our next episode.

Episode 101: Lotus Lantern – part 1

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Today we will tell a story about a brave boy who cleaved the mountain to save his mother. It is one of the most well-known stories in many ancient plays and Chinese operas and is still popular in today’s TV shows and movies.

This kid’s name is ChenXiang 沉香, which means agarwood, a fragrant dark wood used in incense, perfume and medicine formed in the heartwood of various Asian evergreen trees when they become infected a fungus. It is popular in China but it is originally from India. It is an interesting name and you will find out where his name soon.

The earliest version of the story is from a couple of Chinese operas from the Yuan dynasty 元朝. However, those original plays don’t exist any more and the story we know today is from the texts in Ming dynasty 明朝 and Qing dynasty 清朝. There are different variations of the stories. Today I will talk about the version from the text ChenXiangBaoJuan 沉香宝卷 from the Qing dynasty 清朝.


It says this story happened in the Tang dynasty 唐朝. There was a scholar called LiuXi 刘锡 from the place YangZhou 扬州. Both of his parents passed away and he was poor but ambitious. He decided to attend another round of the Imperial Exam in the capital.

He traveled from his hometown to the capital. What a long journey! One day he arrived the Mountain Hua 华山. He heard there were many temples on the Mountain Hua and he entered one of the temples. This decision changed his whole life.

The temple he entered was for worshiping the goddess SanShengNiang 三圣娘 or SanShengMu 三圣母. LiuXi not only asked the goddess for a good ranking in the exam but also before he left he wrote a poem on the wall of the temple. The poem is for the goddess that he expressed his love for her.

The goddess SanShengNiang at that time wasn’t in the temple. She was attending the bouquet held by the Queen Mother of the West 王母娘娘, we talked before in our episode 74. However, she was informed by other gods in the temple and got ashamed and raged. I think the reason can be: first she was a goddess but he was just a human. Considering the hierarchy in the ancient China, this is not appropriate. Second, it was not very moral for men and women to flirt if they were not married. Not to say LiuXi wrote on the wall that everyone could see. It probably equals to sexual harassment today. Third, temples are holy places that should be maintained well. LiuXi just wrote on the wall which was a disrespectful behavior.

SanShengNiang felt insulted. She thought, who does he think he is? How could he express his feelings to me like this and wrote it on the wall? Since she was a goddess she had power to punish LiuXi. She asked the dragon king for help and borrowed storms. She asked the help from LeiGong 雷公, the Lord of Thunder and borrowed thunder and lightening. She asked the help from FengBo 风伯, the Lord of Winds and borrowed winds.

When LiuXi left the Mountain Hua and headed to the east, he saw clouds suddenly coming towards him and then followed the thunder and lightening. He ran to a tree for shelter. SanShengNiang saw him under the tree and thought it was the perfect timing to hit him with the lightening. At that moment , someone shouted, “wait! Wait!” It was TaiBaiJingXing 太白金星, a Taoist god which is defied of the star Venus. He is the envoy of the Jade Emperor 玉皇大帝. We will talk about him in our future episodes.

TaiBaiJingXing asked, “why are you trying to kill that man?” SanShengNiang told him all. TaiBaiJingXing laughed and replied, “this man can not be killed by you. You and him have the destiny of marriage. ” SanShengNiang asked the reason. TaiBaiJingXing explained, “LiuXi was a Taoist priest in his previous life. He traveled far and helped the poor. He already built this fate with you in this life. If you don’t trust me, I can show you the the book listing marriages.” We talked about the book listing marriages in our episode 20 about YueLao 月老, the matchmaker. SanShengNiang checked the book and was still confused, “he is just a human. How can we match with each other?” TaiBaiJingXing replied, “it is the fate that nothing can be changed.”

SanShengNiang was convinced. She thought, the poem was rude and inappropriate but it did show his feelings for me. I shouldn’t turn him down. Plus, it is getting bored staying in the temple, it would be fun to live like a normal human. She told TaiBaiJingXing, “if this is my fate, I have nothing more to say.” TaiBaiJingXing said, “it is great!” and disappeared.

We will continue our story in the next episode.



沉香宝卷 ChenXiangBaoJuan