Chinese Religion Seen through the Proverb, cap. V & VII


pp. 118-142 Chapter V

pp. 128-129 physiognomy




128, n. 1

"white head in youth"

"will be much sought after"

128, n. 2

"the space behind the ears will not admit a finger"

"the age of eighty will be passed"

128, n. 3

"ears bend forward"

"will ride in a sedan chair"

128, n. 4

"two ears hang down to his shoulders"

"will become a great official"

128, n. 5

"ears fan the wind"

"is an imp which will destroy the home"

128, n. 6

"the lobes of an old man’s ears are shrivelled up"

"he will soon be in his coffin"

128, n. 7

"mouth is big"

"luck ..., for happiness hangs from the corners"

128, n. 8

"the eyes do not look sidewise"

"the heart is sure to be upright"

128, n. 9

"the eyes squint"

"the heart is not correct"

" "

"the nose is crooked"

"the intentions are not upright"

128, n. 10

"twitching of the left eye"


" "

twitching "of the right eye"


128, n. 11

"eagle beak nose"

"scale hook heart"

128, n. 12

"A falcon’s nose, a kite’s eye, high cheek bones, a pock-marked face"

"do not associate with those having these peculiarities"

129, n. 1

"A woman who has high cheek bones"

"kills her husband without the use of a knife"

129, n. 2

"High cheek bones

are knives for killing husbands"

129, n. 3

"a girl is born with a masculine countenance"

"her dignity will be beyond all account"

129, n. 4

"A man with a woman’s face

will rise to the highest honors"

129, n. 5

"A man with round shoulders and a stooping back

will suffer bitterness all his life"

129, n. 6

"a boy is born with finger’s like a girl’s"

"he will have a living without effort"

129, n. 7

"Small hands and large feet"

"a life of wretchedness"

129, n. 8

"Big feet"

"great luck; ... felicity hangs from the tips of the toes"

pp. 130-131 omens




130, n. 2

"raven flies over one’s head"


130, n. 3

"owl entering the house"

"he does not come for nothing"

130, n. 4

"magpies come before noon"

"they announce joys"

" "

magpies "come after noon"

"there are demons about"

130, n. 6

"the flower of a candle wick snaps or flashes up"

"wealth approaches"

130, n. 8

"a lamp wick sputters and throws out sparks tonight"

"happiness will arrive in the home tomorrow"

130, n. 10

"ants plunder and rob the nests of others"

"there will soon be rain"

130, n. 11

"many mosquitoes fly"

"it will rain"

131, n. 1

"rainbow in the east"

"betokens fine weather"

" "

"rainbow in the west"

"betokens rain"

131, n. 2

"The sky if red in the morning

denotes rain in the afternoon"

" "

"the sky if red in the evening

denotes fair weather"

131, n. 4

"A halo around the moon

is a sign of wind"

" "

"when the stones under the posts become wet

it will rain"

131, n. 5

"Five days’ rain, ten days’ wind

are both good omens"

131, n. 6

"six-petalled snow falls"

"omen of an abundant year"

131, n. 8

"When the wild magpies chatter

on that day guests will come"

131, n. 9

"When the cat washes its face

guests will come on that day"

131, n. 11

"Eyes that quiver, eyebrows grown long"

"somebody’s telling what you’ve done wrong"

131, n. 12

"If in the night you speak of thieves

the feet of the thieves will itch"

p. 132, fn. d -- tortoise-shell divination

"divination is accomplished by removing the outer skin of a tortoise shell, and applying a coating of blood or ink. The other side of the shell is then placed over a fire. As the ink or blood dries it cracks, producing lines resembling characters. The divining then consists in interpreting these lines."

pp. 134-135 conquest or imprisonment of evil spirits by magician

p. 134, n. 3

"demons are afraid of the cock’s crow."

p. 134

"one of the ways of overcoming a demon when it attacks one, is to catch it and put a padlock around its collar-bone. It is thereby deprived of its power and methods of escape, and is securely held by the magic of the lock."

p. 134, fn. c

"When any bad luck or misfortune has come upon a house, the people have the ceremony of Fah Hsi ... performed to appease and quiet the gods of the home. A Taoist priest is called in, who pastes a number of strips of red and yellow paper charms on the door near the bottom. These are sprinkled with blood from a cock[’s comb], into which a few of the feathers are placed. This is accompanied by the burning of incense, the exploding of fire-crackers, the beating of a drum, and the priest performing incantations."

p. 135, n. 2

"Insanity following confinement ..., the Ku Niang doctors have no way to heal." [fn. b : "The Ku Niang doctors are sorceresses from the ... fox-spirit temples."]

pp. 137-138 violations of requirements & of prohibitions on particular days of the year


protasis : a person __

apodosis : will __

137, n. 2

not wearing willow on C^>in Min

redicarnate as a yellow hound

137, n. 4

not wearing artemisia on 5th d of 5th m

"die away from home"

137, n. 7

not sticking in artemisia on 5th d of 5th m

redicarnate as a clam

138, n. 4

using a needle on 7th or 8th d of 1st m

become blind

p. 139, fn. a -- panacea herbs

ginseng "is sweet to the taste."

huan lien "is fed to every child for the first three days of its life, for the purpose of strengthening its shen and assisting the souls in becoming properly coordinated."

"The root and the fruit of the ho shou wu ... are supposed to resemble the human shape, and for that reason are ... so helpful in all diseases caused by the separating of man’s spirits."

huan c^in / huan c^ih

p. 141 beetle-magic

p. 141, n. 1

"The silver bullion given to another returns to me again : the water beetle flies away and flies home again."

p. 141, fn. a

"it is customary to catch two of these beetles – a male and a female – and rub their blood on a string of cash, which is then expended in the ordinary course of trade, care being taken to reserve a few for a rallying point for the rest, which, owing to the magic power of the beetle’s blood, will all find their way at the third watch of the night to the point of departure!"


pp. 164-187 Chapter VII

pp. 170-187 deities




Wen C^an is "the God of Literature. ... He is usually represented seated with

Chu I [p. 302 : for a civil-service examination’s "successful essay, one only desired that Chu I would secretly hod his head in approval."],

K>uei Star [p. 170, fn. g : "his palace is supposed to be in the K>uei Star ... ."]

Heaven Deaf, and

Earth Dumb in constant attendance. ...

His temples are usually three stor[e]ied, and hexagonal in shape."


171, fn. b

"Kwan Lao Yeh, or the God of War, was originally nothing but a bean curd seller. As such he is represented on the stage."

171, n. 2

"Kuan Yu:n Chang’s lighted candle lasted until morning." [fn. c : A general "caused Kwan Ti to be shut up ... at night ... . But the faithful warrior preserved ... in an antechamber the live-long night ... a lighted lantern". {cf. the imprisoned twin-brethren gods who, while shut up overnight, were required to kept lit, throughout a night, a cigar (according to the Popol Vuh)}]

171, fn. d

"In 1856 he appeared in the heavens, as Castor and Pollux did to the Romans, and successfully turned the tide of battle in favor of the Imperialists". {cf. the appearance in the sky to Constantinus, of the labarum which successfully turned the tide of battle in his favor – Iesous Khristos being twin-brother with Thomas}



C^>en Huan is "City God" of the walled city. "In the temple one sees the image of Favorable Wind Ear, and the Thousand Li Eye demons. It is their duty to keep him informed of what is happening in his domain." {cf. the 10000-eared, 1000-eyed Mitra, leader of the spas` (‘spies’) of Varun.a} [fn. c : "One has his hand over his eyes in the attitude of looking, and the other with a hand behind his ear listening."]

172, fn. d

"These two genii ... are from Ch>i-p>an Shan, Chessboard Mountain. One is a spiritual peach-tree, the other a spiritual pomegranate-tree. Their roots cover an area of thirty square li of ground. On that mountain there is a temple dedicated to Huang-ti".



"there were five brothers who were great travelers and merchants. They became the five gods of affluence."

174, fn. a

"The names of the wealth gods of the Five Regions are as follows :

1. Chao Kung Ming ..., or Hsu:an T>an. He controls the Central Region, and so is the chief of these gods.

2. Chao Pao T>ien Shen ... .

3. Na Chen T>ien Tsun ... .

4. Chao Ts>ai Shih Che^ ... .

5. Li Shih T>ien Kuan ... ."


"Hsu:an T>an ... is represented as pop-eyed, with a beard and holding an ingot of silver in his hand. He is either sitting on a tiger, or there is one by his side. Many stores keep a lamp burning continually before him. ...

The brothers are supposed to come together on the fifth of the First Month, and at that time stroll about in the city. For this reason, from the earliest morning, everyone’s door is opened wide ... . ... They leave their doors open the entire day for fear he might go by while they


are closed, and a fortune would thus be lost."



"the Goddess of Birth, Sung Sheng Niang Niang ... . She is now represented with a mask over her face. She carries a sack across her shoulder, into which are placed the babies she intends to bestow ... . In worship, when one’s prayer has been answered and a little one given, the mother out of gratitude presents to her shoes and red eggs. ... This beneficent goddess is often taken from the temple and carried into the room of a woman, during childbirth."



C^en Wu Ta Ti : "Although a prince, he left his home at the age of fifteen seeking a way to immortality ... when he met an old woman grinding a large iron rod, which she informed him she was making into a needle.


... He is now a Minister of the Pearly Emperor. One of his principal temples is on Wu Tang Shan ..., in Hupeh."

177, n. 1

"The god of Wu Tang Shan hears the prayers of men from a distance, not of men who live nearby."

177, fn. a

"The Wu Tang Shan is a famous mountain situated in the northwest of Hupeh, a day’s journey from the city of Chun Chou ... . ... it is a favorite resort of pilgrims far and near. Their ascent is facilitated by means of a fine stone staircase, with heavy ornamented balustrades on each side; and in the steepest parts, by heavy iron chains suspended from the balustrades. The very highest point of what is called, "the peak of the heavenly pillars" is crowned by ... a very small but unique structure, built throughout of brass, and floored with marble."



Ma C^a S^en "is the Goddess of Locusts".

177, fn. b

"Kiang T>ai Kung divorced his wife 1122 B.C., and when she was afterwards killed by lightning he made her the locust-goddess."



"the Smallpox Goddess, T>ien Hua [fn. a : "smallpox is courteously called the "Heavenly Flowers.""] Niang Niang ... is sought to protect children from that dread malady."

178, fn. b

"There are three smallpox goddesses. Ta Niang Niang ... and Erh Niang Niang ..., because they have both had children which they lost through smallpox, are very merciful and cause but a light attack of the disease. However, San Niang Niang ... is herself heavily pox marked and has never had children. For this reason she is very severe."


179, fn. b

S^en Nun is ... the God of Agriculture. He was a legendary Emperor, ... supposed to have originated the cultivation of the soil."


S^en Nun "is reported to have had a transparent body. He went out and himself tasted of the many herbs, and would then watch them as their influence spread over his system."



"Sun Ssu Miao ... received his prescriptions direct from the Dragon King."

179, fn. d

"Sun Ssu Miao ... is usually represented as seated with one foot on a tiger, and pointing a needle into the open mouth of a dragon. ... The Dragon King gave him the secret of thirty of his most favorite remedies. He at one time cured a sick dragon. At his death he left thirty volumes containing more than one thousand prescriptions."



"Lu Pan ..., the God of Carpenters ... was a famous workman from the state of Lu. During an invasion by troops from the Wu country, ... he carved out an image of wood, with its hand pointing towards the land of Wu. Through magic, by the aid of the idol, he brought the curse".

180, fn. a

"Kung Shu Pan ... a celebrated mechanic of the time of Confucius ... is supposed to have made bird from wood, which would fly for three days."



"Lao Lang .... the God of Actors ... is always represented wearing a dragon crown, and clothed in Imperial robes. Before dressing for a play he is worshipped [fn. c : "Lao Lang Shen is worshipped by actors and prostitutes only."], as the failure to do so would be considered an insult. This would cause him to withdraw his protection, and permit the demon of the one impersonated to possess the actor, and thus produce insanity."



"The dyer’s guild meets on the ninth of the Ninth Month, or


Ch>ung Yang ... [fn. a : "At the Ch>ung Yang festival all leave the home, and ascend to some high place."], for the worship of its patron gods, Mei ... and Ko ... ."



"Yang Ssu Lao Yeh ... is one of the favorite gods of the sailors. He controls the surface of the waters. He is usually represented as a child, seven or eight years old. He has a white face and wears white clothing. He carries an axe in one hand, and is in the act of striking a dragon in the other ... . His festival comes on the sixth of the Sixth Month. Everyone living on boats ... worships him."


182, fn. c

The Stove-God is the man C^an Tsao Wan, who married the woman Kuo Tin Hsian, divorced her, and afterwards, as a blind beggar, visited her. "At this he recovered his sight, and ... he jumped into the stove, not knowing there was a fire in it. Ting Hsiang, in trying to save him, grasped his leg and attempted to pull him out. The leg parted from the body. From that time the wooden rake used to pull the ashes out of the stove has been called Chang Lan’s leg."

183, fn. a

"his clothes are yellow, and ... he has long hanging hair. Sometimes he comes out of the stove at night. Should anyone see him and call his name, he will be rewarded ... . Chuang Tzu says, he has his hair done up in a knot on his head."


"On the twenty-fourth of the Twelfth Month he ... is taken down from his shelf, ... and syrup is rubbed over his mouth. ...


When his lips have thus been sealed he is taken out, placed on his horse, ... and he leaves on his long journey."


185, fn. a

"Yu: Ch>ih Kung or Hu Ching Te is ... worshipped as the god of Blacksmiths."



C^un K>uei is "worshipped as a protector against ... the five poisonous beings".

186, fn. c

"The Emperor T>ang Ming Huang was ill, and dreamed there was a small demon in the room who seized his flute and played upon it ... . Then he saw a larger demon, dressed in a blue coat, chase the smaller one and catching him tear out his heart and eat it." The "larger demon" was C^un K>uei, who had been "a scholar, but failing in the examinations had committed suicide."



C^ian T>ai Kun is "the Resting God ... . [n. 1: "Thank you venerable idol." – fn. d : This is "A play on ... resting and ... thank you. It is an expression used by women when gambling."] ... a motto announcing the fact that he is there, if often pasted up over the front door. ... In regulating the affairs of others he neglected to provide a place for himself, so now, although accorded no worship in the temple, nearly all of them have a series of balls arising from the center of the ridge-pole which are supposed to proclaim his presence."

187, fn.

"He ... was ... given a magic board by his teacher ... . This board would guide him as to what he should do. ... Heaven revealed to Chiang through the means of his board what position they were to be appointed to in the spirit world. ... Heaven was so pleased with his work that he is still controller of the offices of the gods. When he was fishing Wu Chi ... saw that he used a straight pin for a hook." [p. 186, n. 5 : "When Chiang T>ai Kung went fishing only those willing got on his hook, those unwilling did not."]


Clifford H. Plopper : Chinese Religion Seen through the Proverb. 2nd edn, Shanghai, 1935. (1st edn 1924)