Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Images from Chinese Folklore

70 per cent of Singapore population is ethnically Chinese and when you are in Singapore, you will probably wonder the story of different images and sculptures from Chinese Folklore. First you need to realize that these images are not for decoration, they have religious importance and respect them. Here, we have written about some of the most common images of deities and historical figures from Chinese folklore, you can see in Singapore.

Three Lucky Gods (Fu Lu Shou)
You will see them nearly in all Chinese houses in Singapore. And you will see them in many Chinese shops. They are the three gods of fortune, always grouped together: The Fu Star (planet Jupiter), The Lu Star (Ursa Major) and The Shou Star (Argo Navis - alfa).

The Fu Star represents the concept of good fortune. The deity image is related to a governor of Daozhou, Yang Cheng, who risked his life by writing to emperor about people's suffering and deified after his death. He is usually depicted holding a child or surrounded by children, wears scholar dress and holds a scroll.

The Lu Star represents the concept of prosperity. It is believed that The Lu star is Zhang Xian, a government officer ived in late Shu dynasty. The word Lu actually refer to the salary of government official. The Lu star thus represents prosperity, rank, and influence. He is usually depicted in the dress of a mandarin.

The Shou star is The God of longevity. According to the Chinese folklore, The Shou Star was carried in his mother's womb for ten years before being born, and when he was finally born, he was already an old man. His high, domed forehead and warm, friendly smile makes him easily recognizable. He is depicted holding a peach. a symbol of immortality.

From Left, The Shou Star, The Lu Star and The Fu Star
Source : Oriental Wicca
Xuan Wu
The Northern Emperor or Teh Kong in Hokkien, Xuan Wu is one of the higher ranking Taoist gods and one of the more revered deities among Chinese. Xuan Wu is revered as a powerful god, he is believed to be able to control the elements (worshipped by those wishing to avoid fires), and capable of great magic. He is also the god of martial arts. 

Xuan Wu
Guan Yu
You will see the image of the great general Guan Yu frequently in Chinese dominated countries. Guan, who played a significant role in the civil war the Three Kingdoms period (which ended with the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han), was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty. He is still worshipped by many Chinese people today, especially in southern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and their descendants overseas.[1]

He is usually depicted as a red-faced warrior with a long lush beard and holding Guan dao and popularly worshipped today among the Chinese people. In the Western World he is known as Taoist God of War. In Buddhist tradition he is worshiped as a bodhisattva and  in Taoism as a guardian deity:
Guan Yu-the great general of heaven, patron of policemen, soldiers and protectors of law, seen as the epitome of loyalty and righteosness. He was a mortal man living in the times of the 3 Kingdoms, a much romanticized period of history in China, where he was an important figure in the civil war to dispose the Han dynasty. He is portrayed as a powerful warrior with a red face (the color, not rouge) and black hair and a long beard. Though many modern artists have taken the red face away to show that he was born a mortal. He carried a guando, which is similar to a halberd, called the Green Dragon Cresent Blade (though I have also seen it called the Black Dragon Blade,) and wears a green robe with his body armor. After his defeat and death, he was apotheisized into a god. He is a Folk god, a Taoist god, a Boddhisatva, and a Confucian ideal of the virtues of honor and loyalty. He is a very popular deity, and there is a lot of information available about him, so look him up.
Guan Yu holding Guan Dao
Chinese guardian lions
Known as "Foo Dogs" in the Western world were common presentations of lions in the pre-modern China. Chinese artists of those times, who have never seen a lion with their own eyes, depicted this creature based on the narratives of travelling monks who have seen these creatures in the west and used a lot of imagination. They are believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits and still can be seen at the entrance of many Chinese buildings and businesses. The lions are always in pairs, one of them is male and the other one is female. The male lion usually presses his paw onto a sphere representing the world and the female lion is usually depicted playing with a lion cub.

The male guardian lion in front of Ngee Ann City in Singapore. The female can be seen  behind.

[1] - Guan Yu

No comments:

Post a Comment