Resources: Excerpt onChinese mythology and demonology
A brief excerpt on Chinese mythology and demonology
First of all – when talking about demons in the context of traditional and historically influenced Chinese culture when writing Wuxai one has to be aware that the beings going under the name “Demon - Gui” and the terminology´s subclasses we are NOT talking about demons in a Western, Christianized view of the topic.
And secondly, a brief explanation of the term “Cultivation” which will be used frequently in Chinse Wuxai verses –
What means cultivation in Chinse mythology (no, it is not growing plants!)
Cultivation (variously referred to in Chinese as xiūliàn [修炼], xiūzhēn [修真], xiūxíng [修行], and xiūxiān [修仙]) is a Taoist concept by which humans can extend their lifespan and gain supernatural powers through practicing a set of martial and mystical arts involving meditation and the cultivation of Qi.
In Chinese folklore, besides humans all living creatures BUT ALSO inorganic substances are basically able to cultivate and even start to look completely similar to humans through years of cultivation.
In many of the old stories it is given as a rule that only humans are allowed to cultivate and as animals and objects do not have the “noble” characteristics of humans. Non-human beings and objects have to wait for their next reincarnation and to become humans before they are allowed to cultivate. Therefore, the spiritual energy of non-human objects and the cultivation of human form are “against the sky魔 (Mo)" (against the natural and divine order) and thus has the potential to harm mankind. Therefore, those beings are often oppressed after cultivation – however often in such stories it also is pointed out that a certain “power-grasp” of humans and the intention to keep it under all circumstances could be the more plausible root of these “rules”…
Alright, so much about this, trust me knowing all this will come in handy later when talking about Yaoguais, but let´s start with Gui´s:
Evil Spirits – Gui:
The closest to what Westerners would consider “traditional” Demon probably would be a so called “Gui”.
Gui also refers to the secondary soul that is separated from the higher soul (hun) at death.
The superior soul becomes spirit (shen), and if not treated properly in a ritualistic sense, gui can become a ghost or bad demon, which basically is a a troublesome spirit that roams the world causing misfortune, illness, and death and are prevalent in the Chinese mythological world.
Besides these there are also the so called:
Yaoguai – monsters or strange creatures:
Yaoguai (妖怪) is a compound word consisting of two Chinese characters. 妖 (yāo) is a noun meaning monster or demon. 怪 (guài) means strange or unusual.
In the realm of mythology, yāo refers to natural objects (animals, plants or rocks) which have acquired sentience (lit. spiritual awareness), the ability to assume human or near-human forms, supernatural or magical powers, as well as the ability to cultivate so as to achieve immortality or transcendence. (e.g. Fox demons, Clam-Monsters (Seadragons…))
Those beings are not per se evil – indeed most probably will try to live a peaceful existence at the rim or hidden among human society. However as among human society especial among those Taoist groups with a very rigid and puritan approach such beings are considered “abominations” and hunted.
Further amongst the Yaoguai also demoted gods can be found. Being cast out and turned into a Yaoguai usually is the punishment if a god violates the Laws of Yin and Yang which together form the Tao, a universal law for the heavens and the earth.
Those “fallen gods” usually are rather bitter, malicious beings, out for revenge, blaming others for their failure and trying everything to regain their former power.
Alright – so much about the short excursion into this so much vaster topic – if you are interested in some more details, or rather some individual mythological creatures which would count among those “demonic types”, here is a rather long list of things that might go “bump I the night” in China and Asia as such Demons, Monsters and Ghosts of the Chinese Folklore (china-underground.com)