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The Door-gods

An old legend relates that in the earliest times there grew on Mount Tu Shuo, in the Eastern Sea, a peach-tree of fabulous size whose branches covered an area of several thousand square li. The lowest branches, which inclined toward the north-east, formed the Door of the Devils (kuei), through which millions of them passed in and out. Two spirits, named Shn Shu (or Shu Y) and Y L, had been instructed to guard this passage. Those who had done wrong to mankind were immediately bound by them and given over to be devoured by tigers. When Huang Ti heard of this he had the portraits of the two spirits painted on peach-wood tablets and hung above the doors to keep off evil spirits. This led to the suspension of the small figures or plaques on the doors of the people generally. Gradually they were supplanted by paintings on paper pasted on the doors, showing the two spirits armed with bows, arrows, spears, etc., Shn Shu on the left, Y L on the right.

In later times, however, these Door-gods were supplanted in popular favour by two ministers of the Emperor Tai Tsung of the Tang dynasty, by name Chin Shu-pao and Hu Ching-t. Tai Tsung had fallen sick, and imagined that he heard demons rampaging in his bedroom. The ministers of State, on inquiring as to the nature of the malady, were informed by the physician that his Majestys pulse was feverish, that he seemed nervous and saw visions, and that his life was in danger.

The ministers were in great fear. The Empress summoned other physicians to a consultation, and after the sick Emperor had informed them that, though all was quiet during the daytime, he was sure he saw and heard demons during the night, Chin Shu-pao and Hu Ching-t stated that they would sit up all night and watch outside his door.

Accordingly they posted themselves, fully armed, outside the palace gate all night, and the Emperor slept in peace. Next day the Emperor thanked them heartily, and from that time his sickness diminished. The two ministers, however, continued their vigils until the Emperor informed them that he would no longer impose upon their readiness to sacrifice themselves. He ordered them to paint their portraits in full martial array and paste these on the palace doors to see if that would not have the same effect. For some nights all was peace; then the same commotion was heard at the back gates of the palace. The minister Wei Chng offered to stand guard at the back gates in the same way that his colleagues had done at the front gates. The result was that in a few days the Emperors health was entirely restored.

Thus it is that Wei Chng is often associated with the other two Door-gods, sometimes with them, sometimes in place of them. Pictures of these mn shn, elaborately coloured, and renewed at the New Year, are to be seen on almost every door in China.

 

The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
The Terracotta Army Along the Silk Road
 
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Silk Embroidery
Gold Leaf Painted ~ 10 Inch Turnip Vase
Gold Leaf Lacquer
Pair of 10 Inch Closionne Vases
Cloisonne
Pair of Brass Foo Dogs
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Inside Painted Boxes
 
 

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