Mountain deities in China: the domestication of the mountain god
and the subjugation of the margins

Terry F. Kleeman

The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol.114 No.2 (April-June 1994)

COPYRIGHT American Oriental Society 1994

            All mountains, whether large or small, have gods and spirits.(1) 
            Ge Hong (283-343) 
            THE MARCHMOUNTS 
            PERHAPS BEST KNOWN of the mountain gods are the marchmounts or 
            sacred peaks (yue). These mountains, one in each cardinal direction, 
            fix and define Chinese space. Their worship may go back as far as 
            the Shang. 
            The character yue occurs frequently in the oracle bone inscriptions 
            as a pictograph of one range of mountains above another.(2) This yue 
            is the object of a number of sacrifices, including the offering of 
            burnt sacrificial victims known as liao, as well as the di sacrifice 
            usually reserved for the high god(s); announcements (gao) are made 
            to the yue and emissaries dispatched to it.(3) The yue can curse 
            both the king and the crops. It is, according to Qu Wanli's 
            calculations, the most common object of prayers for rain and the 
            second most common object (after the Yellow River) of prayers for 
            the harvest. Ding Shan concludes that this yue need not refer to any 
            of the historical marchmounts; the character denotes, he maintains, 
            a ritual performed on any relatively high mountain.(4) Since, 
            however, emissaries are sent to yue, the term must refer to some 
            specific cult site or sites. 
           We cannot be certain what mountain(s) were intended in these 
            divinatory charges. Sun Yirang, the first scholar to address this 
            question, identified this yue with Mount Song near Luoyang, the 
            later Central Marchmount, and Sarah Allan has recently concurred, 
            arguing that it had functioned as a cosmic center since Neolithic 
            times.(5) In the Book of Poetry (Shijing) the word yue sometimes 
            means nothing more than "lofty peak" (e.g., Mao 273 and 296), but in 
            one example it seems to refer to a specific peak and that peak has 
            again been identified as Mount Song.(6) An interesting piece of 
            corroborating evidence is found in the mountain's earlier name, 
            Great Palace Mountain (Taishishan). Great Palace was also the name 
            for the central hall in the ancestral Pure Temple (Qingmiao) where 
            the ruler communed with his ancestors and Heaven and the name itself 
            should perhaps be transcribed Palace of Heaven (Tianshi).(7) King 
            You of Zhou (r. 841-830) is said to have convened the feudal lords 
            and non-Chinese rulers at Great Palace Mountain, reflecting its 
            function as symbol of the Zhou state.(8) 
           Qu Wanli has proposed a different identification for the yue 
            mentioned in the oracle-bone inscriptions and the Shijing. He argues 
            that the mountain in question is Mount Huo, also known as the 
            Taiyueshan or Huotaishan.(9) His best evidence is an incident 
            recorded in the Discourses of the States (Guoyu) and the Guanzi and 
            a passage from the Surviving Zhou Documents (Yi Zhoushu). In the 
            first case, Sire Huan of Qi speaks of the return of sacrificial 
            meats presented to the Zhou king at Jiang, and in the Guanzi the 
            place is specified as "the lofty yue" (longyue).(10) Jiang was near 
            modern Houma in southwestern Shanxi, roughly fifty miles south of 
            Mount Huo. The passage in the Surviving Zhou Documents tells of King 
            Wu's establishment of the city of Luo (modern Luoyang) on the 
            reputed site of the Xia dynasty capital. He extols the commanding 
            location of this city, from which "we to the north can gaze past the 
            outskirts of the yue" (wo beiwang guo yu yuebi).(11) Although 
            neither passage offers definitive proof that the yue referred to is 
            Mount Huo (the distance from Jiang to Mount Huo is considerable and 
            that from Luoyang even greater), it does seem the most likely 
            candidate. Mount Song is southeast of Luoyang and nearly twice as 
            far from Jiang as Mount Huo. 
            Other texts of the Warring States era speak of a group of yue. In 
            the "Canon of Yao"(12) of the Book of Documents (Shujing), the 
            Thearch Yao consults with ministers called the Four Marchmounts 
            (siyue) concerning the great flood and his own abdication. Although 
            commentarial opinion is split as to the identity of the Four 
            Marchmounts here, all major theories share common conceptions. Kong 
            Anguo identifies them as the four sons of Xi He, each in charge of 
            the feudal lords subordinate to one of the marchmounts.(13) Others 
            take siyue to be a collective term for the feudal lords of the four 
            directions, or to refer to the leader of the feudal lords in each 
            quarter.(14) All see the Four Marchmounts as leading or constituting 
            groups of local nobility with ultimate allegiance to the Zhou royal 
            house but not under its direct control. 
            Whatever the exact identities of these officials, they certainly had 
            some relation to the mountains whose names they bore. When Shun 
            accepts the abdication of Yao and accedes to the throne, he meets 
            with the Four Marchmounts and local rulers, then goes on a 
            procession to each of the four marchmounts to offer sacrifice.(15) 
            Thus by at least the fourth century B.C. there was a complex of 
            numinous mountains that were conceived as intimately linked to the 
            state and its well-being. 
            The system of four marchmounts was based upon a center/margins 
            dichotomy. The Tradition of Zuo (Zuozhuan) repeatedly links the 
            marchmounts to non-Chinese tribes. At a great interstate summit held 
            in 559 B.C., a leader of the Rong people comments, "Sire Hui !of 
            Jin^, making illustrious his great virtue, considered us many Rong 
            to be the descendants of the Four Marchmounts and not to be 
            mistreated or abandoned."(16) The four human marchmounts are 
            analogues of the four regional hegemons (bo, lit. "elder brother"), 
            originally non-Chinese (i.e., not at that time identified as part of 
            Huaxia) regional leaders who assume responsibility for managing the 
            tribes of their region and acting as a bulwark against foreign 
            invasion in return for a privileged alliance with the Chinese ruling 
            house.(17) King Wen of the Zhou, a Western Rong tribe, had occupied 
            such a position as Hegemon of the West (xibo) before organizing a 
            revolt, primarily of the non-Chinese tribes of his region, against 
            Shang rule. In this system the marchmounts are defined as outside of 
            or at least peripheral to the Chinese cultural sphere, an allied but 
            still marginalized "other." 
            The king is the center and axis of this spatial arrangement, 
            liegelord of the marchmount-hegemons, and as such, he must have had 
            his own mountain. This central mountain would have been the acme of 
            a pyramid of sacred peaks, just as the Shang and Zhou kings held 
            supreme ritual authority over powerful regional leaders, upon whom 
            they relied for military support. Whether this supreme central 
            mountain was Mount Song/Great Palace Mountain, Mount Huo, or some 
            other peak lost to history, the ordering of Chinese space was 
            hierarchical with a single focus exalted above its four supports. 
            By the Han dynasty, at the latest, it had become common to group the 
            physical marchmounts into a company of five, adding the Central 
            Marchmount, Mt. Song.(18) Each mountain was now correlated with one 
            of the Five Agents (wuxing) and, through it, with the whole system 
            of related colors, flavors, directions, stars, seasons, etc. Part of 
            this system is the Five Thearchs (wudi), color-coded monarchs of the 
            five quarters and their marchmounts. The earliest recorded instance 
            of sacrifice to one of these gods is set in the eighth century B.C., 
            when the ruler of the state of Qin institutes sacrifices to the 
            White Thearch, god of the Western Marchmount or Flowery Mountain 
            (Huashan). The circumstances are related in the Records of the 
            Historian (Shiji):(19) 
            Fourteen generations had passed since the Zhou conquest of the 
            Shang; generation after generation the Zhou house had waned and the 
            rites and music had been abandoned. The feudal lords acted without 
            restraint and King You was defeated by the Dog Rong. Zhou moved its 
            capital east to Luo. Sire Xiang of Qin (r. 777-766 B.C.) attacked 
            the Rong, saving the Zhou, and in recognition of this for the first 
            time he was ranked foremost among the feudal lords. Once Sire Xiang 
            of Qin had been made marquis, and occupied the Western Appendage, he 
            concluded that he was the host of the god Shaohao. He created the 
            Western Sacred Preserve,(20) offering cult to the White Thearch 
            (Baidi). He is said to have used as sacrificial animals one each of 
            red horses with black manes and tails, yellow oxen, and rams. 
            Sixteen years later, Sire Wen of Qin (r. 765-715) was hunting in the 
            east, between the Qian and Wei Rivers. He divined about occupying 
            this site and the response was auspicious. Sire Wen dreamt that a 
            yellow snake hung down from the heavens, touching the earth, with 
            its mouth reaching the lower slopes of Fu.(21) Sire Wen asked the 
            historian Dun about this. Dun replied, "This is a summons from the 
            Thearch(s) on High (shangdi). My lord should offer cult to them 
            (him). Thereupon !the Sire^ created the Fu Sacred Preserve and, 
            using three sacrificial victims, performed the suburban sacrifice to 
            the White Thearch there.(22) 
            In this important passage the ruler of the state of Qin institutes 
            sacrifices to the god of a mountain within his territory, the White 
            Thearch, ruler and occupant of the Western Marchmount. "White," 
            being the color of the west, places this god within the framework of 
            the system of five directionally oriented deities known as the Five 
            Thearchs. We cannot be certain if this grouping was part of a 
            pre-existing belief, assimilated by the Qin, or represents the 
            introduction of a Qin cult to the rest of China.(23) The rulers of 
            Qin were to build five more of these sacred preserves, two dedicated 
            to the White Thearch, one to the Green Thearch (Qingdi), one to the 
            Yellow Thearch, and one to the Fiery (i.e., red) Thearch 
            (Yandi).(24) The presence of a yellow snake in the above passage may 
            imply a recognition of the Yellow Thearch associated with the 
            center, but it seems that there was no attempt to establish within 
            the borders of Qin a complete set of altars to the Five Thearchs. 
            The dating of this passage is open to question (it follows 
            immediately after a famous prophecy predicting the rise of Qin, 
            which is widely assumed to be late) but the very lack of 
            systematization argues for an earlier rather than later date. The 
            special attention directed toward the Green Thearch of the east, 
            then, may reflect the east-west pairing of gods we see in later 
            divine twosomes like the Queen-Mother of the West and the King-Sire 
            of the East or Rushou and Goumang. Riegel places the origin of the 
            association of every aspect of Chinese life with the Five Agents in 
            the fourth century B.C.(25) The Qin system may derive from this 
            period, when these associations were known but not yet dominant. 
            By the Han the system of Five Marchmounts was firmly established. 
            Emperor Wu retrofitted the ritual sites of Yong into this system by 
            establishing another sacred preserve, cosmologically designated as 
            the Sacred Preserve of the North (Beizhi) and assigning one of the 
            ritual sites to each agent.(26) This change was in part a reflection 
            of changed political realities. China had expanded until the 
            marchmounts no longer marked the frontiers of Huaxia civilization. 
            Instead, they were now part of the heartland and had to be brought 
            within the confines of the imperial cult. As part of this program 
            Emperor Wu took direct possession of all five marchmounts, two of 
            which had been located in princedoms.(27) 
            There can be little doubt that in Warring States China the 
            Yellow Thearch was considered at least a primus inter pares, if not 
            a true high god, and this is reflected in roles attributed to him as 
            ancestor of the Chinese people and patron of schools of learning as 
            diverse as political science, medicine, and sexual techniques--as 
            well as in Hun popular references to the Yellow God.(28) No such 
            claims are ever made for the White Thearch, confirming that Qin did 
            not try to establish its own pantheon centering on the Yong sites. 
            The Han systematization integrated all five marchmounts into a 
            system of mutual equality, with suzerainty passing from one 
            marchmount and its associated thearch to another in accordance with 
            the rhythms of the seasons. The Chinese tendency toward hierarchy 
            made such a grouping inherently unstable.(29) In place of the 
            Central Marchmount we see, beginning in the Han, the rise of the 
            Eastern Marchmount, Mount Tai, as ruler of the dead and arbiter of 
            fate. Writing at the end of the Han, Ying Shao describes Mount Tai 
            as the "leader (zhang) of the Five Marchmounts.(30) In post-Tang 
            China, temples to the Eastern Marchmount were found in every major 
            town and city, whereas temples to the other marchmounts were largely 
            confined to the mountain's immediate vicinity. 
            The marchmounts were only the most prominent of a variety of divine 
            beings associated with mountains. Arrayed spatially according to 
            cosmological theory and organizationally in parallel with the 
            temporal administration, the marchmounts seem to embody the ancient 
            civilization of China. There was, however, another side to the 
            supernatural denizens of China's mountains. The Scripture of 
            Mountains and Seas (Shanhai jing) describes the gods of many 
            mountains, and they are a frightening collection of freaks and 
            monstrosities. The gods surrounding Mount Min in Sichuan, for 
            example, have horse bodies and dragon heads, while those of Great 
            Palace Mountain have human faces on each of their three heads.(31) 
            Most of the beings that the ancient Chinese envisioned in the 
            mountains had more in common with these semi-zoomorphic entities 
            than the staid regional rulers of the marchmounts, but even the 
            marchmounts reveal a more unorthodox aspect in later legend. This 
            section will introduce some of these anomalous entities. 
            The mountains of China were a sacred realm where profane mortals 
            entered at their peril. Those who did so were drawn by the floral, 
            mineral, and transcendent treasures hidden therein. Ge Hong (A.D. 
            283-343), the fourth-century proponent of alchemy, was forced to 
            enter the mountains to collect the numinous substances needed for 
            his elixirs. He devotes an entire chapter of his Master Embracing 
            Simplicity (Baopuzi) to the mountains, their wonders, and their 
            dangers, beginning with the following passage:(32) 
            All mountains, whether large or small, have gods and spirits. If the 
            mountain is large, the god is great; if the mountain is small, the 
            god is minor. If someone enters the mountain possessed of no magical 
            arts, he will certainly suffer harm. Some will fall victim to acute 
            diseases or be wounded by weapons. When frightened and uneasy, some 
            will see lights and shadows, others will hear strange sounds. 
            Sometimes a huge tree will topple, though there is no wind, or a 
            cliff will collapse for no reason, striking and killing people. 
            Sometimes the man will flee in confusion, tumbling down a cavern or 
            into a gorge; other times he will encounter tigers, wolves, and 
            poisonous insects that attack men. One cannot enter a mountain 
            Ge Hong goes on to list numerous magical preparations that can 
            assure one's safety, including selecting auspicious days for the 
            particular mountain to be ascended and for the substance sought. A 
            typical example follows:(33) 
            There are forty-nine true, secret talismans of Lord Lao, the Yellow 
            Court, and the Central Embryo. When planning to enter mountain 
            forests on a jiayin day (day 51), write them on a piece of undyed 
            silk in cinnabar. That night, place them in the middle of the table; 
            then, facing the Northern Dipper, sacrifice to it with wine and 
            dried meat, just a bit of each. Pronounce your own surname and 
            personal name, bow twice, and, taking the talisman, wear it inside 
            your clothes to avoid the hundred ghosts and myriad sprites, the 
            tigers, dholes, and five poisonous insects of the mountains and 
            In Ge Hong's day there was already a plethora of mysterious beings 
            lying in wait in the mountains. Let us first consider the category 
            of the "myriad sprites" (wanjing). Ge Hong has this to say of 
           As for the aged of the myriad beings (wanwu), the spirit (jing) 
            of each of them can temporarily assume human form to dazzle human 
            eyes, and they often test people. It is only in a mirror that they 
            cannot change their true form. For this reason all the Daoists of 
            old, when entering the mountains, would dangle a bright mirror nine 
            inches in diameter from their backs so that devils (mei) would not 
            dare approach. If one comes to test a person, he should examine it 
            in the mirror. If it is a transcendent or a good god of the 
            mountains, then when examined in the mirror it will seem to have 
            human form. If it is a bird, beast, or evil devil then its !true^ 
            form will be visible in the mirror. Also, if an old devil should 
            come, it is certain to walk backwards when leaving. You can turn the 
            mirror to reflect its back; if it is an old devil, it is certain to 
            have no heels. If it has heels, then it is a divine transcendent. 
            The belief in sprites (jing) is founded on the conception that as 
            living beings age, they accumulate spirit (jing).(35) Exceptionally 
            long-lived beings, be they animals like the turtle or crane, or 
            plants like the pine tree, could accumulate enough jing to attain 
            the power of transformation. These are the creatures described 
            above, and they were usually considered to be malefic in nature. Ge 
            Hong equates them with mei, which I translate "devil" because of its 
            common use in collocation with names of fearsome monsters like the 
            wangliang (variously written as or).(36) 
           At this early stage there seems to be no consistent 
            differentiation between mountain gods (shanshen), mountain spirits 
            (shanling), and mountain ghosts (shangui). All these terms are 
            ambiguous and their semantic fields overlap. For example, one 
            denizen of the mountains is noted for being just one foot tall. In 
            the Guanzi, Sire Huan of Qi catches a glimpse of the god of Mount 
            Deng, who is said to be "one foot tall but possessing all the 
            features of a human."(37) The appearance of this supernatural being 
            is auspicious, heralding the advent of a Hegemon. Ge Hong describes 
            a mountain sprite whose "form is like a small child but with one 
            foot."(38) The fifth-century Record of Yongjia Commandery 
            (Yongjiajun ji) provides record of a mountain inhabitant of similar 
            In Angu county (modern Ruian, Zhejiang) there are mountain ghosts. 
            Their physical forms are like those of men but they have one foot 
            and are only a little over a foot tall. They love to eat salt and 
            they are forever stealing the salt of woodcutters. They are not 
            particularly afraid of men, and men do not dare to offend them 
            because to offend them is unlucky. They like to capture and eat 
            crabs in mountain streams. 
            In this last account the creature seems almost like a forest animal, 
            perhaps a small monkey, but such beings are extremely dangerous and 
            not to be trifled with. A story in Hong Mai's Yijian zhi, entitled 
            "A Citizen of Zhang!zhou^ Takes a Mountain Ghost as Wife," shows 
            they were still feared in the twelfth century. The spectral bride in 
            this tale resembles in all respects a normal woman except for having 
            only one foot, a trait noticed only by the groom's younger sister 
            !!^. The next morning the groom's parents break into the wedding 
            chamber, only to find their son reduced to a pile of bones.(40) 
            Still, if properly propitiated, these mountain spirits could be 
            powerful allies of human travelers. A Tang tale recorded in the 
            Taiping guangji tells how a man befriended a female imp (shanxiao) 
            with an appropriate gift of cosmetics, in return for which the imp 
            protected him from two ravenous tigers.(41) Mountain gods were less 
            purposefully evil than amoral, self-centered and egocentric. 
            Ge Hong, like most men of his day, still saw the inhabitants of 
            mountains as supernatural beings remote from mankind. They might 
            assume human appearance to deceive naive travelers, but their true 
            form was zoomorphic or semi-zoomorphic. Even individuals who 
            attained the status of a divine transcendent were transformed into 
            feathered creatures (yuren) more akin to birds than men. Their 
            identities and actions were as mysterious and unfathomable as their 
            appearance. They could be propitiated with sacrifice or warded off 
            with powerful prophylactic charms, but they could not be reasoned 
            with nor could their behavior be predicted. 
            The institution of a system of marchmounts in the Zhou, detailed 
            above, was an attempt to integrate the primordial powers of the 
            mountains into the Zhou cultural order that directly paralleled the 
            establishment of regional hegemons to unify and subdue unsinified 
            tribes. Late Zhou and Hun philosophical speculation transformed the 
            marchmounts into abstract cosmological forces essential to the 
            circulation of the pneumas of life. But philosophers could not sway 
            popular devotion, and the sacrificial offerings that assured the 
            marchmounts' protection continued to stream from all levels of 
            society and the state. The Buddhist polemicist Zhu Daoshuang, noting 
            this contradictory behavior, argued in his "Proclamation to Mount 
            Tai" that the marchmounts, as cosmological forces, are due no cult 
            whereas the true recipient of the bloody offerings to the 
            marchmounts must be demonic:(42) 
            The true gods of the five marchmounts are phases of quintessence 
            (jing zhi hou). Above they model the Jade Pivot (xuanji, four stars 
            in the Big Dipper), below they succeed to Qian and Kun (hexagrams 
            representing pure yang and pure yin, respectively). They are endowed 
            with a Duo both pure and void, with neither sound nor echo. If one 
            reveres them, they are not pleased by it. If one scorns them, they 
            are not troubled by it. Through a thousand compliments or ten 
            thousand insults the gods are neither augmented nor diminished. Yet 
            you !demons^(43) appropriate their titles and attach yourselves to 
            the living. In the void you rouse !angry^ breaths, your mouth full 
            of murder and injury. If they obey, you bestow on them your grace; 
            if they disobey, then they suffer calamity. 
            The mixture of Daoist and Buddhist technical terminology in 
            this document reflects the shared opposition of these two 
            institutionalized religions to the sacrificial regime that was at 
            the heart of popular (and state) cults. Once philosophical 
            abstractions of the gods had been appropriated by organized religion 
            as arguments against continued cult praxis, a new means of 
            increasing the respectability of the mountain gods had to be found. 
            The solution was to turn them into dead heroes. 
            Through the following centuries, both folktales and government 
            pronouncements sought to redefine these alpine gods as 
            anthropomorphic figures possessing the same virtues and vices as 
            humans. A governmental model had informed the Chinese sacred realm 
            since at least Zhou times, but like government at that time, the 
            sacred realm excluded certain portions of the empire.(44) Just as 
            the Zhou state and its feudal rulers maintained only nominal control 
            of mountainous regions populated by unsinified or semisinified 
            minority peoples, mountain deities possessed considerable autonomy, 
            with only the awesome regional lords of the marchmounts being 
            integrated into anything like an administrative hierarchy. In tales 
            of the Tang and Song, human foibles are increasingly attributed to 
            these figures and, eventually, they come to suffer the same sort of 
            institutional constraints that the temporal official felt in his 
            governmental duties. 
            The marchmounts were the first to evince this transformation. By the 
            Han they were already assigned Chinese names, although these names 
            might still have a symbolic aspect (e.g., the ruler of the Western 
            Marchmount is surnamed Bai or "White," the color of the west in 
            five-agents cosmology). The god of this marchmount appears in a Tang 
            tale that illustrates the increasing bureaucratization of the 
            Chinese sacred realm:(45) 
            During the Shining Clouds reign-period (Jingyun, A.D. 710-12) Madame 
            Wang, wife of a certain Mr. Li of Henan county, was famous 
            throughout the Three Auxiliaries (sanfu, i.e., the capital region) 
            for her beauty. Li had left for his office in the morning and had 
            yet to return. Wang had finished her toilet and sat resting, burning 
            incense. Suddenly she saw several men from the royal gates 
            accompanying a calf-drawn cart that descended from the clouds to her 
            courtyard. Madame Wang, startled, asked their purpose. One replied, 
            "The Magistrate of Mount Hua has sent us to escort you to him." Not 
            permitted to refuse, she was about to depart in a rush when she said 
            to a household member, "I regret being unable to take leave of 
            Chamberlain Li in person." She left wiping away her tears, and died 
            beside the steps. In a moment variegated clouds bore the carriage 
            away into the void. They grew more and more remote, then 
            disappeared. When Li returned from pre-fectural headquarters and 
            found his wife dead, he stroked her corpse and wailed, fainting and 
            reviving several times. After a short while, a man came to the gate, 
            saying that he could resuscitate the wife. Li bent himself, half 
            bowing to and welcoming him, and begged for his protection. The man 
            sat on the bed and asked for vermilion with which to write a 
            talisman. Because the vermilion had not arrived, he wrote a talisman 
            in ink and sent it flying off !in smoke^. When, after a moment, the 
            wife had not arrived, he sent off another talisman. Smiling, he said 
            to Li, "Do not worry. Soon she will be alive." Presently Madame Wang 
            revived. Li bowed and thanked him dozens of times, exhausted himself 
            presenting the man with gifts. The man laughed loudly, saying, "I 
            have rescued men from disaster and aided the suffering. What need 
            have I for material rewards!" He then went out the door and 
            disappeared. When Madame Wang had recovered, she said that when she 
            had first arrived at Mount Hua and met the king, the king was very 
            pleased. He had set up screens among the mountain peppers(46) and, 
            after drinking and banqueting merrily with several of his followers, 
            was just pouring wine convivially when suddenly a man appeared 
            riding a black cloud and said, "The Great One has commanded me to 
            summon Lady Wang." The god remained at ease, requesting that the man 
            wait until the end of the party. Soon there was another man riding a 
            red cloud, who said in great anger, "The Great One asks Mount Hua, 
            why have you seized the wife of a living man? If you do not send her 
            back quickly, there will be severe punishment." The god, extremely 
            agitated, thereupon commanded that she be returned to her home. 
            This tale asserts the authority of the Great One or Taiyi over 
            the marchmount, a subordination first officially accepted during the 
            reign of Han Wudi. The Lost History (Yishi) of Lu Zhao (fl. 847-60) 
            records a similar story with a human savior.(47) There a man passing 
            by Mount Hua leads his wife to pray at the main temple, where she 
            falls dead on the spot. The local magistrate recommends a certain 
            Transcendent Master Ye. Ye ultimately effects her release, but only 
            after dispatching a red dragon that seizes the King of Metal Heaven, 
            lord of the marchmount, by the throat. In this story a mortal adept 
            is able to exert control over the marchmount through his 
            supernatural abilities, but there still is no regularized 
            bureaucratic check upon the marchmount's power. Moreover, the 
            marchmount is still a rather willful and unruly power, checked only 
            by the oversight of still more powerful astral deities. To observe 
            in more detail this ongoing process of bureaucratization we must 
            turn to the scriptures and lore of a specific cult. 
            Many of the multiple aspects of mountain divinities discussed above 
            can be found within a single cult. The mountain in question is 
            Sevenfold Mountain, located just north of a town in northern Sichuan 
            called Zitong. It is really more of a foothill, one of the first 
            peaks leading to the great Swordridge chain that separates the 
            traditional macro-regions of Sichuan and Shaanxi, but came to 
            possess national significance because of its location athwart the 
            main road connecting these two regions. 
            The cult site on the mountain is ancient but first enters the 
            historical record in the mid-fourth century A.D., when it was 
            mentioned in the Record of the Land of Huayang (Huayangguo zhi), 
            China's earliest surviving regional history.(48) The original cult 
            site seems to have been a cave situated high on the mountain slopes. 
            This cave was inhabited by a fearsome giant snake called simply "the 
            Viper" (ezi), who, according to later legend, had shaped the seven 
            twistings of the mountain through the sinuous slitherings of his 
            gigantic form. The snake's primary attribute was the thunder it 
            manifested by casting down "thunder shuttles" (leizhu), which the 
            faithful gathered and returned to the giant serpent once a year in 
            the spring. The cult was clearly associated with fertility and 
            thunder as a rain-bringer, but the thunder was also a potent weapon 
            with which the god might smite his enemies. 
            This early account of the cult already associates it with an 
            important Sichuanese myth cycle, that of the wonder-working Five 
            Stalwarts (wuding) who serve King Kaiming, the dissolute last ruler 
            of the kingdom of Shu. These colossal siblings were responsible for 
            a series of misguided feats that eventually led the Shu state to its 
            ruin at the hands of the Qin. One of these was the transportation of 
            five Qin princesses to the Shu harem, where they were supposed to 
            distract the King while Qin plotted his downfall. The stalwarts met 
            the Qin entourage at Sevenfold Mountain. There they encountered the 
            Viper, who brought the mountain down upon both stalwarts and 
            Later versions of the tale portray the serpent's actions as a vain 
            attempt to rescue Shu, but this earliest version is ambiguous. The 
            Five Stalwarts were once popular in Shu, despite the tragic end they 
            brought to themselves and their land. A shrine was established to 
            the Five Princesses, and the Viper's mountain was sometimes referred 
            to as the Tumulus of the Five Stalwarts. All historical accounts of 
            these men, however, portray them as unknowing collaborators with the 
            Qin invaders in Shu's demise. The location of the cult site is, I 
            believe, crucial in understanding the Viper's role in this myth 
            cycle. Sevenfold Mountain is the first major cult site after passing 
            through the Sword Gate that marked the traditional boundary of the 
            Sichuan region. Further, the snake is a traditional deity of 
            Sichuan, associated in particular with the Ba state in eastern 
            Sichuan, but also prominent in Shu iconography. It would seem, then, 
            that by the fourth century the snake was already viewed as a 
            protector of the region as a whole, a gatekeeper screening potential 
            visitors as they descend into the Chengdu plain. Thus the god of 
            Sevenfold Mountain already subtends a significant historical 
            development, transformed from an amoral, fearsome predator that had 
            to be propitiated to a still frightening but righteous protector of 
            his native land from foreign threats. 
            There is a third aspect of this early stage of the god's identity. 
            The cult site was sometimes called the Shrine to Shan Ban (Shan Ban 
            ci). This term has been the subject of much speculation, with Henri 
            Maspero suggesting that shanban (lit., "good board") referred to the 
            construction of the cult building.(49) Liu Lin is closer to the mark 
            in claiming that it is the name of the thunder god.(50) One name 
            sometimes given for the god of the Western Marchmount is Shan 
            Lei.(51) Perhaps Shan was a common surname for mountain gods in the 
            Sichuan-Shaanxi border region. 
            All three elements of the god of Zitong's identity survive 
            many centuries. Standard historical sources make no further mention 
            of the Viper, indicating an elite dissatisfaction with this violent, 
            primordial, thunder-wielding deity, but two tenth-century tales 
            reveal that this aspect of the cult was still dynamically alive in 
            the popular imagination. The first tells of an avatar of the Viper 
            as Yuanying ???, the fractions eldest son of the Later Shu ruler 
            Wang Jian ??? (847-918).(52) The young man is said to have been 
            "vicious, evil, vile, and lewd," and possessed of several serpentine 
            characteristics, including nocturnal activity, bared teeth, and a 
            swarthy complexion. He is eventually killed while rebelling, after 
            which the god's spirit returns to the Zitong temple. The second tale 
            identifies the god with a serpent/dragon of western Sichuan, famous 
            for having inundated an entire city in a fit of vengeful anger.(53) 
            The first tale was never repeated after the tenth century. Perhaps 
            it was too scandalous to be acceptable to a significant portion of 
            the cult. The second tale, however, was fully assimilated into the 
            cult, receiving a permanent place in cult lore in 1181. 
            Because the mountain god as regional protector was a role that met 
            with the favor of the literati elite, we have considerably more 
            evidence for the development of this aspect of the god's image. Our 
            first source is a tale recorded in the Spring and Autumn Annals of 
            the Sixteen Kingdoms (Shiliuguo chunqiu ???).(54) The god has now 
            acquired a Chinese surname, Zhang ???, and new powers as a 
            wonder-worker. He appears and offers succor to a tribal chieftain 
            named Yao Chang ??? (330-93), an otherwise unremarkable military 
            figure known for having killed Fu Jian ???, the proto-Tibetan ruler 
            who had once threatened to unify all of China. The god thus claims 
            the role of protector of all China, a role further expanded in the 
            Tang and Song. 
            During the Tang, two emperors were forced to flee the capital, 
            Chang'an, for the safety of Sichuan. Both Emperor Xuanzong ???, (r. 
            712-56) and Emperor Xizong ??? (r. 873-88) came to the temple on 
            Sevenfold Mountain to request the god's protection and each rewarded 
            the god with an official title. In the Song the god was credited 
            with suppressing rebellions in 1000 and 1132.(55) During the 
            Southern Song, when non-Chinese people first threatened, then 
            overran Sichuan, the god and his cult formed a rallying point for 
            loyalist sentiment, so much so that the cult was forced to go 
            underground after the Mongol conquest of Sichuan. In his official 
            pronouncements the god grieved that his thunderbolts had proved 
            ineffective against the barbarian invaders. Although the god, under 
            the name Wenchang, was to become the god of literature and the 
            premier representative of civil (wen ???) virtues, he maintained 
            this martial reputation until at least the fifteenth century. 
            The god's career as a mountain god is chronicled in cult scripture. 
            Between 1168 and 1181 a series of texts were revealed in the name of 
            the god of Zitong by a Sichuanese spirit-writing medium named Liu 
            Ansheng. Foremost among these was a prosimetric autobiography of the 
            god called the Book of Transformations (Huashu ???), which traced 
            the god through two millennia of incarnations and divine 
            offices.(56) As one might expect of what was originally a simple 
            mountain god cult, many of these episodes shed light on mountain 
            gods and spirits. 
            In the Book of Transformations the god is provided with an astral 
            origin and his final apotheosis brings him back to an exalted 
            celestial office, but as part of his terrestrial sojourn the god 
            repeatedly takes up divine posts in the mountains. One of the most 
            interesting episodes begins as the god is touring the mountains of 
            northern Sichuan aboard a crane. He spies five local mountain gods, 
            all seemingly completely human in form, who beg audience with him, 
            It has been almost a hundred years . . . that we have been without a 
            king. Now Your Perfection is the descendant of a saint, is unsullied 
            and resplendent in your person, has accumulated virtue and amassed 
            good works, has maintained your principles of loyalty and filiality, 
            and has come here on a spirit-journey. There are times proper to 
            serving and to withdrawing. Why not rest here a bit? Further, near 
            Sword Ridge there is a huge beast with a white forehead, over a 
            thousand years old. It lies in wait in the mountain crevices and 
            feeds on people. Since Your Perfection was once the high officer of 
            the Son of Heaven, all the spirits of the mountains and streams were 
            once under your command. Further, a jade rescript has ordered you 
            here. You can yourself summon the many spirits and, breathing forth 
            transformation, dispatch nether forces to drive forth this tiger. 
            This would both aid Heaven and show your love of sentient beings. 
            Far from being violent miscreants who must be kept in line by 
            superior authority, these gods long for the administrative 
            leadership that political turmoil has denied them. One of their 
            justifications for putting the god of Zitong forward as their king 
            is his service during a recent incarnation as a high officer of 
            state, further linking the temporal and sacred orders. 
            But even a highly bureaucratized sacred realm has its 
            miscreants and evil-doers. Here the problem is a giant tiger, who 
            throughout a long life has accumulated tremendous spiritual power. 
            The god of Zitong brings together all of the supernatural 
            inhabitants of the mountains in a great safari to rid the region of 
            this fearsome predator: 
            I was persuaded to counterfeit a divine rescript summoning forth all 
            the ghosts and spirits of the mountains and streams within a 
            thousand li. All came to hear my commands. I said, "The Thearch has 
            sent a jade rescript noting that the white tiger is taking human 
            life, and ordering me, as king of this mountain, to lead you many 
            spirits in punishing and destroying it. Those who obey this command 
            will enjoy bloody sacrifice for generation after generation; for 
            those who do not, Heaven possesses terrible punishments." All said, 
            "Yes, we reverently obey your commands." I then looked up and gazed 
            all about. Creating an image and transforming, I manifested a form 
            as high as the mountain. Plucking out a lone bamboo I chanted a 
            spell and transformed it into a long sword. Ping Yi summoned the 
            Masters of Wind and Rain to clear the way. I waved my sword with a 
            single shout and the echo rambled through the valley. The tiger's 
            angry breaths formed clouds and the light of his eyes shot forth 
            lightning-bolts. It leapt back and forth, but I blocked it with my 
            body. All the blades advanced together, and it died under the 
            knives. In the midst of the blood and gore I found a round stone 
            shaped like a fallen star. Gong Yuanchang examined it and said, 
            "This is a 'tiger's potency' (huwei ???)." When I wore it belted to 
            my waist all the gods feared me. The deed completed, I memorialized 
            the Thearch. First I confessed my crime in counterfeiting the 
            summons, then touched upon my achievements. The Thearch consequently 
            made me Mountain King of the Northern Gate of Shu. 
            Despite the god's breach of bureaucratic procedure, the message of 
            this tale is that there is a civil order, enforced through a variety 
            of supernatural beings and legitimized through a supreme Thearch, 
            that works to tame the wild forces of the mountains. The god speaks 
            of his role as mountain king in terms that any temporal regional 
            official might agree with: "I concerned myself with every flood, 
            drought, good or bad harvest, good or evil portent, achievement and 
            fault within the mountains and streams under my control." 
            The zoomorphic nature-spirits of the mountains and streams were 
            clearly the most problematic in this new order. In the story above, 
            the tiger spirit had to be slain. In another episode two dragons 
            engaged in a race inundate the area surrounding their rivers and 
            must be restrained by threats of the Supreme Thearch's punishment 
            and a solemn oath (chapter 51). But in another case (chapter 32, 
            discussed below), a dragon follows proper bureaucratic procedure in 
            reporting the improper actions of a colleague. Temporal officials 
            must have experienced the same mixed results in domesticating the 
            deep-rooted nature cults found throughout China both then and now. 
            There are two other examples in the Book of Transformations of the 
            god's interactions with other mountain deities, both of which shed 
            interesting light on the new role of mountain gods. The first 
            (chapter 32) concerns a corrupt mountain god within the new mountain 
            king's territory. According to the report of a local dragon-god, 
            this god had seized and ravished the soul of a maiden on her wedding 
            night. The deviant god confesses, is given three hundred lashes, 
            then cashiered, and a filial young man who had copied the 
            Lankavatara Sutra is recommended to replace him. Thus proper legal 
            procedures are applied in punishing the otherworldly evildoer and a 
            new official is appointed because of his personal virtue rather than 
            magical power or self-cultivation. 
            The second case (chapter 33) involves that most ancient of 
            Marchmount Lords, the White Thearch. The Western Zhou state was 
            brought to its knees by a beautiful woman named Bao Si ???, 
            resulting in a brief interregnum and the movement of the capital to 
            the east. The White Thearch was indignant at the havoc wreaked by 
            this depraved female and determined to punish her by destroying the 
            town of Bao from which she hailed. The god of Zitong, whose 
            territory bordered on Bao, heard of this and, concerned for the 
            innocents who would die, remonstrated with the Thearch, who ordered 
            the White Thearch to desist. Again, a bureaucratic model is applied 
            to interactions among mountain gods. 
            Finally, there is the question of the relationship of mountain 
            gods to Daoism. Mountains were the site of grotto-heavens ???, where 
            transcendent beings dwelled in pure splendor. These were also 
            bureaucratized to a certain extent, and supplied with a complement 
            of otherworldly soldiers who could quash nefast influences. 
            Possessors of potent talismans like the Chart of the True Forms of 
            the Five Marchmounts (Wuyue xhenxing tu ???) could count on each 
            marchmount dispatching five of these divine warriors to protect 
            them; but these transcendent gods would also report on their 
            sins.(58) The Shangqing patriarch Sima Chengzhen drew a sharp 
            distinction between the transcendent inhabitants of famous mountains 
            and the vulgar gods, saying:(59) 
            Now the sacred shrines to the Five Marchmounts are all to gods of 
            the mountains and forests. These are not duly appointed, perfected 
            gods. The Five Marchmounts all have grotto headquarters and there 
            are perfected men of Supreme Purity who descend to assume these 
            The god of Zitong also has some experience with these transcendent 
            abodes. After his first and second human incarnations the god 
            retreats to mountains to gather his wits and prepare for his next 
            incarnation (chapters 20 and 30). In the first case, he proceeds to 
            the grotto-heaven under Mount Monarch ??? in the middle of Lake 
            Dongting. In the second, it is to Snow Mountain in the Himalayas 
            that he flies for respite after a tumultuous life, ending in forced 
            suicide and three days of haunting his slayer. In each case he is 
            granted a high title, fitting for one who had held high office at 
            court during his lifetime. 
            These alpine experiences are strongly Daoist in character; the god 
            devotes himself to repose and contemplation rather than the duties 
            and responsibilities that characterize his other mountain posts. But 
            notice that they precede the god's postings as mountain king. 
            National god cults like that to the god of Zitong, nascent in the 
            Song, promoted a new, unified sacred realm in which gods of the 
            terrestrial administration and divine transcendents intermingled. 
            The astral reaches at the top of the pantheon were beyond the reach 
            of dead humans subsisting on a diet of bloody victuals, but earthly 
            transcendents and terrestrial gods were not so clearly separated. 
            In conclusion, let us pass in review some elements of Chinese 
            mountains and their gods. Chinese mountains are inhabited by a 
            variety of supernatural beings. The most famous of the peaks are the 
            marchmounts. Originally there were four marchmounts delimiting 
            Chinese space and ruling over the supernatural forces in their 
            respective quadrants. There were analogous and eponymous human 
            officials who ruled over the temporal spheres of each marchmount. 
            The four marchmounts surrounded a central sacred peak, Mount Song, 
            which represented the Chinese emperor. During late Warring States 
            and Han times the central peak was added to the marchmounts, 
            yielding a system of five that was correlated to the Five Agents. 
            All were defined as within Chinese space, and the central peak lost 
            its primacy. To a degree this role was later assumed by the Eastern 
            Marchmount, Mount Tai. 
            Other denizens of the mountains include mountain gods, ghosts of the 
            dead, demons, and sprites, as well as fearsome fauna like tigers, 
            wolves, and dholes. In early accounts all these creatures are 
            dangerous because of their capriciousness, amorality, and 
            supernatural powers. Over time the class of mountain gods was 
            redefined as dead human beings filling fixed official posts in the 
            supernatural bureaucracy; ghosts, sprites, and demons were 
            subjugated to their rule. In this way the order of civilized life 
            was gradually extended to the mountains, which had once been defined 
            as a marginal realm beyond the confines of the Chinese world. 
            Many of these changes are concretely represented in the cult to the 
            god of Zitong. The god was originally a snake controlling thunder 
            and was related to other mountain gods of the northern 
            Sichuan-southern Shaanxi region. In part because of the geographical 
            location of the cult site, the god became known as a martial 
            protector, first of the Sichuan region, then of the Chinese cultural 
            sphere as a whole; as a protector, the god was provided with a human 
            identity. Revelations in the twelfth century further redefined the 
            god's image, providing several tales of the god's experiences as a 
            mountain god and his interactions with other mountain deities. These 
            tales reflect the increasing assimilation of all aspects of the 
            divine world to the temporal order. Because the cult was founded on 
            an amalgam of Daoist and popular beliefs and practices, cult lore 
            minimized the distinction between the sphere of the divine mountain 
            official and the transcendent inhabitants of the pure grotto-heavens 
            deep within the mountain's belly. 
            The unifying force in these changes is a tendency toward 
            integration. The mountainous regions of China were integrated into 
            its cultural space, the gods of these mountains were integrated into 
            the larger pantheon of popular worship, and Daoist transcendents 
            were integrated into a continuous, though hierarchically arrayed, 
            pantheon incorporating all aspects of the divine world--what I call 
            the unified sacred realm. These changes in the understanding of 
            Chinese mountains and their gods were part of a larger trend toward 
            incorporation and assimilation that has resulted in the highly 
            syncretistic Chinese religious world of today. 
            1 Baopuzi (Basic Sinological Series ed.; rpt., Taibei: Shijie shuju, 
            1969): 17.76. Cf. James Ware, Alchemy, Medicine, and Religion in the 
            China of A.D. 320 (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1966), 279-80. 
            2 Qu Wanli summarizes a variety of opinions concerning this 
            character and argues persuasively for the identification adopted 
            here in "Yue yi jigu", Qinghua xuebao, n.s., 2.1 (May 1960): 53-68, 
            esp. 61-63. Qu estimates that the graph occurs more than two hundred 
            times in the limited corpus of inscriptions available in 1960. 
            Keightley notes that sacrifices to the yue are discontinued, or at 
            least no longer recorded in oracle-bone inscriptions, toward the end 
            of the Shang. See David N. Keightley, Sources of Shang History 
            (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1978), 177. 
            3 Inscriptions including the character yue are collected together by 
            Shims Kunio, Inkyo bokuji sorui (Tokyo: Kyuko shoin, 1971): 
            174.1-176.2. This character appears to depict one range of mountains 
            on top of another, according well with the simpler graphic variant 
            for yue. 
            4 Ding Shan, Zhongguo gudai zongjiao yu shenhua kao (1961; rpt. 
            Shanghai: Wenyi chubanshe, 1988), 407. 
            5 Sun Yirang, Qiwen juli, cited in Qu Wanli, "Yue yi jigu," 62; 
            Sarah Allan, The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art, and Cosmos in Early 
            China (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1991), 99-100. 
            6 Shijing (Harvard-Yenching Index Series ed.), 70/259/1; Maoshi 
            zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu ed., 1815; rpt. Taibei: Yiwen chubanshe), 
            18.3/lb; Arthur Waley, The Book of Songs (London: Allen and Unwin, 
            1937), 133. The term songgao in this poem is a stative verb, "to be 
            lofty and high," and the word "lofty" is sometimes represented by 
            the graph. Its use as the name of the Central Marchmount is founded 
            upon the identification of the yue in this poem with that mountain. 
            I have found no reference to this mountain as Songshan or Songgao 
            prior to the Han dynasty. 
            7 The characters tian and tai are indistinguishable in oracle bones 
            and early bronzes. It is unclear when the convention of 
            distinguishing them arose and how it was applied. See the examples 
            cited in Gao Ming, Gu wenzi leibian (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980), 
            8 Shiji (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1972), 40.1704. 
            9 Located about ten miles southeast of Huo county in modern Shanxi 
            province, 36 !degrees^ 30" N, 112 !degrees^ E. See Aoyama Sadao, 
            Shina rekidai chimei yoran (Tokyo, 1933; rpt. Taibei: Hongshi 
            chubanshe, 1971), 168; Gu Zuyi, Dushi fangyu jiyao (Basic 
            Sinological Series ed.), 39.1647-48. 
            10 The Tang commentary to the Guanzi, by Fang Xuanling (578-648), 
            understands longyue to refer to Sire Huan and his state of Qi, who 
            as members of the Jiang clan were descendants of the Four 
            Marchmounts. The Guoyu passage, which continues, "None of the feudal 
            lords bordering on the yue dared not come in submission," clearly 
            implies a place near Jiang. In his translation of the Guanzi 
            passage, Rickett inexplicably identifies the yue as the Southern 
            Marchmount, Mount Heng in Hunan. An alternate interpretation of this 
            incident, which has the Sire Huan returning the ruler of Jin to his 
            throne (zuo) at the Jin capital of Jiang, does not alter its 
            significance for the identification of the yue. See Dong Zengling, 
            Guoyu zhengyi (1880; rpt. Chengdu: Ba Shu shushe, 1985), 6.25b; 
            Guanzi (Basic Sinological Series ed.), 1:106-7; W. Allyn Rickett, 
            Guanzi: Political, Economic, and Philosophical Essays from Early 
            China (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1985), 338, n. 114. The 
            role of sacrificial meat in early China, and the Guanzi passage 
            under discussion here are examined by Toyota Hisashi in "Shu Tenshi 
            to 'Bun, Bu no so' no shiyo ni tsuite", Shikan 127 (1992.9): 2-17. 
            11 Zhu Youceng, Yi Zhoushu jixun jiaoshi (Taibei: Shijie shuju, 
            1957), 44.121. 
            12 The received text of the "Canon of Yao" shows Han-period editing 
            but contains elements that must date to at least the fourth century 
            B.C., because the text is quoted by a different but identifiable 
            name in Mencius and Zuozhuan. That the Four Marchmounts play such a 
            central role in the main narrative events of this chapter suggests 
            that they were part of this original stratum. See Ikeda Suetoshi, 
            Shosho, Zenshaku kanbun taikei, v. 11 (Tokyo: Shueisha, 1976), 
            13 Shangshu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 2.19a. Kong Yingda's 
            subcommentary explains that each of the feudal lords worshipped at 
            the Marchmount in his quarter of the world and in that sense each 
            was subordinate to that marchmount. 
            14 Ikeda Suetoshi, Shosho, 62, note. Ikeda notes that in the 
            Tradition of Zuo the term seems to be used as the name of a 
            non-Chinese people. 
            15 Shangshu zhengyi 3.9a/b; Ikeda, 68. 
            16 Zuozhuan (Harvard-Yenching Index ed.) 278/Xiang 14/1; Zuozhuan 
            zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 32.9b; cf. James Legge, The Ch'un 
            Ts'ew with the Tso Chuen (The Chinese Classics, vol. 5 !Hong Kong, 
            17 Han etymologies of the character yue emphasize the administrative 
            aspects of the role. The Baihu tong of Ban Gu (32-92) defines yue as 
            jue ("to compare") because the marchmount "compares the achievements 
            and virtues !of his subordinates^" and Ying Shao (ft. ca. 190) is 
            even more explicit, saying "yue means to compare (jue) and examine 
            achievements and virtues, demoting and promoting the benighted and 
            enlightened". See Ban Gu, ed., Baihu tongde lun (Han Wei congshu 
            ed., 1592; rpt. Taibei: Xinxing shuju, 1977), 2.6a; Ito Tomoatsu et 
            al., eds., Byakkotsu sakuin (Tokyo: Toho shoten, 1979): 40-19-10; 
            Ying Shao, ed., Index du Fong sou t'ong yi (Centre Franco-chinois 
            d'Etudes Sinologiques), 10/78. 
            18 The Erya (Harvard-Yenching Index ed., 22/11/1) implies a 
            different system, with Mount Hua in the middle and a Mount Wu, which 
            the Erya calls simply Yue, to its west. This may reflect a regional 
            Qin systematization that did not catch on. 
            19 Shiji, 28.1358. 
           20 Xu Shen defines a "sacred preserve" (zhi) as a place where one 
            "erects an edifice to sacrifice to the Five Thearchs Of Heaven and 
            Earth." Here I follow Duan Yucai's commentary in interpreting this 
            difficult passage. See Duan Yucai, ed., Shuowen jiezi zhu (1808; 
            rpt. Taipei: Lantai shuju, 1974), 13.46a/b. 
            21 Southeast of modern Luochuan county in Shensi. Xu Shen records an 
            alternate tradition that this sacred preserve had been established 
            by the euhemerized Yellow Thearch. Shuowen jiezi zhu, 13.46b. 
            22 Note that in the previous passage I translated the term shangdi 
            ambiguously. Robert Eno has argued that the term di in the oracle 
            bones can be plural, referring at times to a group of divine beings. 
            In classical times as well, the term shangdi, usually assumed to 
            refer solely to the high god of the Shang, is, at least in some 
            contexts, glossed by Han commentators as a plural expression 
            referring to the Five Thearchs. When the "Monthly Ordinances" 
            preserved in the Record of Rites lists the objects of communal 
            sacrifice, viz., "August Heaven, the Thearchs on High, famous 
            mountains, great rivers, and the gods of the four quarters", Zheng 
            Xuan identifies the Thearchs on High as the Five Thearchs of Supreme 
            Tenuity. These five astral deities are, of course, correlated to the 
            five marchmounts below. I believe that in the passage above, 
            describing the eighth century B.C., shangdi is plural, and even 
            though the yellow snake may be a symbol of the central Yellow 
            Thearch, the ruler of Qin responds to a request for worship from the 
            Thearchs on High by offering sacrifice to their representative 
            assigned to his region, the White Thearch. See Robert Eno, "Was 
            There a High God Ti in Shang Religion?," Early China 15 (1990): 
            1-26; Liji zhushu (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 16.9b. 
            23 Mitarai Masaru, among others, makes the claim that these are 
            originally Qin deities in his Kodai Chugoku no kamigami (Tokyo: 
            Sobunsha, 1984), 347-86. 
            24 Shiji, 28.1358-60, 1364. 
            25 Jeffrey K. Riegel, "Kou-mang and Ju-shou," Cahiers d'Extreme-Asie 
            5 (1989-90): 55-83, esp. p. 69. 
            26 Shiji, 12.452. 
            27 Shiji, 12.458. 
            28 On the Yellow God in Han tomb documents see Anna Seidel, "Traces 
            of Han Religion in Funeral Texts Found in Tombs," in Dokyo to shukyo 
            bunka, ed. Akizuki Kan'ei (Tokyo: Hirakawa shuppansha), 714-678. 
            29 The same dynamic is responsible for redefining the earlier system 
            of yin and yang, from a relationship of equal importance and mutual 
            need, to the privileging of yang and demonization of yin that 
            dominated religious and philosophical thought in imperial China. 
            30 Fengsu tongyi tongjian, 10.77. 
            31 Yuan Ke, Shanhai jing jiaozhu (Shanghai: Guji chubanshe, 1980), 
            5.160, 150. The dating of the Shanhai jing is the subject of much 
            controversy but it seems safe to affirm that the first five chapters 
            are pre-Han. See Remi Mathieu, Etude sur la mythologie et 
            l'ethnologie de la Chine ancienne, vol. 1 (Paris: College de France, 
            Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises, 1983), ci. 
            32 See above, note 1. 
            33 Baopuzi, 17.81-82. Cf. James Ware, Alchemy, Medicine, and 
            Religion, 295-96. 
            34 Baopuzi, 17.77. 
            35 Jing seems originally to have referred to select, refined grain, 
            then to the essence distilled from food and utilized by the body. As 
            a concept, it is closely related to qi, which originally referred to 
            the steam from boiling grain but came to be understood as a 
            structive force in nature, and in this meaning is variously 
            translated as "breath," "ether," or "vital force." 
            36 Xu Shen shared this conception of them, for he defines mei as 
            "the sprite of an old creature". See Shuowen jiezi zhu, 9A.41a. 
            37 Guanzi (Basic Sinological Series ed.), 2.110. 
            38 Baopuzi, 17.79. 
            39 Cited in Hanyu dacidian, vol. 3 (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 
            1989), 779, sub shangui. This lost work of Zheng Qizhi of the Liu 
            Song dynasty has been reconstructed by Sun Yirang, in editions 
            published in 1878 and 1912, which I have not seen. The editors of 
            Hanyu dacidian may have had access to this text, but more likely 
            they have taken the quotation from some encyclopedia. I have been 
            unable to trace the source. 
            40 Yijian zhi (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), jia 14, 1.119. 
            41 Taiping guangji, 428.2. 
            42 Zhu Daoshuang, "Xi Taishan wen", in Hongming ji, 52.91c; Gumyoshu 
            kenkyu (Kyoto: Institute for Humanistic Science, 1973-75), 2:401-5. 
            Zhu Daoshuang may be a pseudonym for the compiler, Sengyou 
            (445-518). See Gumyoshu kenkyu, 2:748, n. 1. 
            43 The editors of Gumyoshu kenkyu take the second-person pronouns in 
            this passage to refer to human proponents of the cult rather than 
            the demonic beings themselves, but this is inconsistent with the 
            document as a whole, which is addressed to Mount Tai. 
            44 On the bureaucratic nature of the early Chinese pantheon as a 
            whole, see Mori Mikisaburo, "Shina no kamigami no kanryoteki 
            seikaku", Shinagaku 11.1 (1943): 49-81. Anna Seidel discusses the 
            subterranean bureaucracy implicit in Han tomb documents in "Traces 
            of Han Religion." 
            45 Guangyiji, quoted in Gujin tushu jicheng, ce 491 ("Shenyi", juan 
            24), 3a. 
            46 Presumably, a variety of Zanthoxylum, but I have found no 
            specific reference to it. See G. A. Stuart, Chinese Materia Medica: 
            Vegetable Kingdom (Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 
            1911), 462-64. 
            47 Taiping guangji, 378.9. 
            48 Chang Qu (fl. 350), Huayangguo zhi (Basic Sinological Series 
            ed.), 3.22. 
            49 Henri Maspero, "The Mythology of Modern China," in Asiatic 
            Mythology: A Detailed Description and Explanation of the Mythologies 
            of all the Great Nations of Asia, ed. J. Hackin et al. (New York: 
            Crescent Books, n.d.), 311. 
            50 Liu Lin, ed., Huayangguo zhi jiaozhu (Chengdu: Ba Shu shushe, 
            1984), 146, n. 3. Ren Naiqiang's suggestion that ban refers to a 
            ledger (ji) of good deeds provides an intriguing link to the god's 
            later role as keeper of the Cinnamon Record, but is unsupported by 
            any evidence and inappropriate for a rural nature cult. See Ren 
            Naiqiang, ed., Huayangguo zhi jiaobu tuzhu (Shanghai: Guji 
            chubanshe, 1987), 92, n. 5. 
            51 This name occurs in the Wuyue zhenxing tu, quoted in Gujin tushu 
            jicheng, ce 491 ("Shenyi," juan 24), 2a. I have been unable to find 
            this quote in Dongxuan lingbao wuyue guben zhenxingtu. 
            52 Sun Guangxian ???, Beimeng suoyan ???, quoted in Taiping guangji, 
            53 Wang Renyu ???, Wangshi jianwen ???, recorded in Taiping guangji, 
            54 Tang Qiu ???, ed., Shiliu guo chunqiu jibu ??? ??? (Basic 
            Sinological Series ed.), 50.379. 
            55 Xu Song ???, ed., Song huiyao gao ??? (Beijing: Datong shuju, 
            1936), 20.55a/b. 
            56 The Book of Transformations survives in two major recensions, the 
            Book of Transformations of the Divine Lord of Zitong, in the Daoist 
            canon (Zitong dijun huashu ???, HY 170), and the Book of 
            Transformations of Thearch Wen (Wendi huashu ???), preserved in 
            Daozang jiyao and many free editions. See Terry F. Kleeman, 
            "Wenchang and the Viper: The Creation of a Chinese National God" 
            (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1988). 
            57 Book of Transformations, ch. 31; Kleeman, "Wenchang and the 
            Viper," 258-59. 
            58 Yunji qiqian ???, 79.17a/b, citing a Rite of the Chart of the 
            True Form of the Five Marchmounts (Wuyue zhenxing tu fa ???). 
            59 Tongdian ???, cited in Gujin tushu jicheng, ce 491 ("Shenyi," 
            juan 25), 10b.