The Land of the Wu 巫

Shamans, Buddhists, and Other Womyn Mystics

Leave a comment

Xuan Wu Da Di

I am interested in the female aspect of this deity as described by Faustus Crow in the tale of Dr. Strange.

Xuan Wu (god)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Xuan Wu statue at Pei Chi Pavilion, Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Xuan Wu

Amulets that were blessed under Xuan Wu

Xuan Wu (玄武, lit. “Dark” or “Mysterious Warrior”) is one of the higher-ranking Taoist deities. He is revered as a powerful god, able to control the elements and capable of great magic. He is particularly revered by martial artists and is patron saint of Hebei, Manchuria and Mongolia. As some Cantonese and Min Nan speakers (particularly Hokkien) fled into the south from Hebei with the Song dynasty, Xuan Wu is also widely revered in Fujian and Guangdong as well as among the Chinese diaspora.

Since the usurping Yongle Emperor of the Ming dynasty claimed the help of Xuan Wu during his successful Jingnan Campaign against his nephew, he had monasteries constructed in the Wudang Mountains of Hubei, China. where Xuan Wu allegedly attained his immortality.

1 Other Names
2 Stories
2.1 The original story
2.2 Qing Dynasty’s version
2.3 Generals Wan Gong and Wan Ma
3 Cult
3.1 Depiction
3.2 Xuan Tian Shang Di in Indonesia
4 Popular culture
5 See also
6 References
7 External links

Other Names

Xuan Wu is also commonly known as the Northern Emperor (北帝, Modern Pinyin Beidi, Cantonese Pak Tai) and Imperial Lord (帝公, Modern Pinyin Digong, Hokkien Teh Kong).

He is sometimes referenced as the Dark or Mysterious Heavenly Upper Emperor or God (玄天上帝, Xuantian Shangdi) and as the Truly Martial Grand Emperor (真武大帝, Zhenwu Dadi).
The original story

One story says that Xuan Wu was originally a prince of Jing Le State in northern Hebei during the time of the Yellow Emperor. As he grew up, he felt the sorrow and pain of the life of ordinary people and wanted to retire to a remote mountain for cultivation of the Tao.
Qing Dynasty’s version

Another says that Xuan Wu was originally a butcher who had killed many animals unremorsefully. As days passed, he felt remorse for his sins and repented immediately by giving up butchery and retired to a remote mountain for cultivation of the Tao.

One day while he was assisting a woman in labor, while cleaning the woman’s blood stained clothes along a river, the words “Xuan Tian Shang Di” appeared before him. The woman in labor turned out to be a manifestation of the goddess Guan Yin. To redeem his sins, he dug out his own stomach and intestines and washed it in the river. The river turned into a dark, murky water. After a while, it turned into pure water.

Unfortunately, Xuan Wu did indeed lose his own stomach and intestines while he washing them in the river. The Jade Emperor was moved by his sincerity and determination to clear his sins; hence he became an Immortal known with the title of Xuan Tian Shang Ti.

After he became an immortal, his stomach and intestines after absorbing the essences of the earth, it was transformed into a demonic turtle and snake which harmed people and no one could subdue them. Eventually Xuan Wu returned to earth to subdue them and later uses them as his means for transportation.
Generals Wan Gong and Wan Ma

Zhenwu (Xuan Wu) with the two generals, and the Snake and Tortoise figures at his feet. Wudang Palace, Yangzhou

Xuan Wu is sometimes portrayed with two generals standing besides him, General Wan Gong (萬公) and General Wan Ma (萬媽). Most temples that are dedicated Xuan Wu also have Generals Wan Gong and Wan Ma, especially in Malaysia. The two generals are deities that handles many local issues from children’s birth, medication, family matters as well as feng shui consultation. The Malaccans particularly in Pokok Mangga and Batu Berendam County have deep faith in the generals due to their much good deeds and contribution to the local villagers.

Xuan Wu is portrayed as a warrior in imperial robes, his left hand is in the “three mountain hand seal”, somewhat similar to Guan Yu’s hand seal, while the right hand holds a sword, which is said to have belonged to Lü Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals.

Another legend says that he borrowed the sword from Lü Dongbin to subdue a powerful demon, and after being successful, he refused to bring it back after witnessing the sword’s power. The sword itself would magically return to its owner if Xuan Wu released it, so it is said that he always holds his sword tightly, and is unable to release it.

He is usually seated on a throne with the right foot stepping on the snake and left leg extended stepping on the turtle. His face is usually red with bulging eyes. His birthday is celebrated on the third day of the third lunar month.
Xuan Tian Shang Di in Indonesia

In Indonesia, almost every Taoist temples provides an altar for Xuan Tian Shang Di. The story states that the first temple that worshiped him was a temple at Welahan Town, Jepara, Central Java. And the temples that was built in honor of him are the temple at Gerajen and Bugangan, Semarang City, Central Java. His festival is celebrated annually every the 25th day, 2nd month, of Chinese calendar.[1] The worshipers of Chen Fu Zhen Ren, especially at De Long Dian Temple, Rogojampi, Banyuwangi Regency, East Java, believes that Xuan Tian Shang Di is their patron’s spiritual teacher. That’s why they put his altar at the right side of Chen Fu Zhen Ren’s altar, in the middle room of the temple which is always reserved for the main deity of klenteng (a specific term for Chinese temple in Indonesia.
Popular culture

In the classic novel Journey to the West, Xuan Wu was a king of the north who had two generals serving under him, a “Tortoise General” and a “Snake General”. This king had a temple at Wudang Mountains in Hubei, thus there is a Tortoise Mountain and a Snake Mountain on the opposite sides of a river in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei.
In recent times, Xuan Wu is a central character in the popular urban fantasy series’ by Kylie Chan: The Dark Heavens Trilogy and the Journey to Wudang Trilogy.

See also

Black Tortoise or Turtle, the Chinese mythological figure and astronomical symbol known by the same name


Buddhist Temple Jin De Yuan Jakarta. 2012. Taken= March 14th, 2013. Hian Thian Siang Te – Dewa Langit Utara

External links

玄天上帝の変容 −数種の経典間の相互関係をめぐって−
tour de klenteng – Middle Java – Klenteng Xuan Tian Shang Di Grajen, Semarang
Hian Thian Siang Te – God Of Northern Heaven

Xuan Wu is the god of martial arts. His other names include: John Chen, Dark Lord, Xuan Tian Shang Di, and Zhen Wu Da Di. He is also the Northern Wind, and the leader of the Winds.

Xuan Wu is the creator of all martial arts. When he was Raised, the two parts of him, the Snake and the Turtle, were left behind. They caused havoc, killing travellers, and stealing women to keep as sex slaves. When Xuan Wu came back, he fought the Snake and the Turtle, absorbing them back into himself. He is the only Shen who has two creatures. After this, he travelled the Celestial Plane, finding the other Winds, throwing them down from their positions of power, and then making them swear fealty to himself.

He continued his life as a Shen, until he met Michelle, a mortal woman. He married Michelle, and stayed on the Mortal Plane with her, thus draining himself of power. He had a daughter with her, named Simone. When Michelle’s parents came to visit, Xuan Wu decided to travel to his Mountain on the Celestial plane, for a short while. While he was gone, a Demon Prince, named Simon Wong broke in, incapacitated Leo, Michelle’s bodyguard, killed Michelle’s father and brothers, and kidnapped Michelle and her mother. He seemed unaware of Simone, and so left her alone. Simon Wong was unaware of how fragile humans are, and so raped Michelle and her mother until they ‘broke.’ When Xuan Wu came home, he was devestated, but held it together for Simone’s sake.


1 Comment












Famous foxes


The Unwritten Rules of Fox Spirits


That’s not what they meant…
Common misperceptions
about fox spirits


Graves, roofs, and your own living room
Fox abodes


Fox spirit FAQ


Where next?
A quick guide to the best fox resources


About the Fox Index
Contact Me


A fox dressed as a monk. Yoshitoshi Tsukioka,

Kitsune - The Japanese fox

Fox spirits arrived in Japan in the late seventh century. Although the first signs of their arrival were modest, they flourished, and soon were one of the staples of Japanese folklore. They even did what their Chinese sisters failed to do: They were accepted as part of the official religion. Today, statues of the rice-god Inari’s fox servants are commonplace in Japan, and Inari himself is popularly believed to be a fox.

In the voyage across the ocean, Japanese foxes also lost a few of the functions which Chinese foxes fulfill. For example, kitsune are not poltergeists, and they rarely live side-by-side with humans in human dwellings. Japanese men do not have kitsune friends whom they visit at home for drinking parties and gossip. The human world and the kitsune world do not intermingle as easily as they do in China; kitsune are the outsider, whether as kami or as demon, and Japanese stories do not reveal or explore their world.

Stories and Plays  •  Worship  •  Resources

Japanese Terminology

Kitsune: Fox. The standard term for a spirit fox.

Myobu: Celestial fox. One of the foxes which is sworn to Inari’s service.

Nogitsune: Wild fox (lit., “field fox”). Nogitsune are not sworn to Inari’s service, and are therefore capable of evil.

Youko: Spirit fox. An uncommon term.

Books and Theses

Bathgate, Michael R. The Shapeshifter Fox: The Imagery of Transformation and the Transformation of Imagery in Japanese Religion and Folklore. Chicago: The University of Chicago, June 2001. Doctoral thesis.

Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Japanese Shamanistic Practices. Routledge Curzon, 1999. [find it]

A thorough description of Japanese shamanism that includes an entire chapter on magical animals, including kitsune.

Davis, Winston. Dojo: Magic and Exorcism in Modern Japan. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1980. [find it]

A study of the Sukyo Mahikari sect, a religion that believes in possession by spirit animals and the dead. The author describes several cases of fox possession and exorcism.

Giles, Herbert A. Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1926. [find it]

Kawai Hayao. The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan. Dallas: Spring Publications, 1988. [find it]

Morishige, Yumi. Cultural Construction of Foxes. Thesis (M.A.), Cornell University, 1994.

Nakamura, Kyoko Motomochi. Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition: The Nihon Ryouiki of the Monk Kyoukai. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973. [find it]

A translation and discussion of the Nihon Ryouiki, a set of three books of Buddhist and retroactively Buddicized Japanese stories written in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. The Nihon Ryouiki containsthe earliest known Japanese fox tale, “Come and Sleep.”

Smyers, Karen. The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1999. [find it]

An anthropological account of Inari worship, and by extension fox worship, at the Inari shrines of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and Toyokawa Inari in Aichi. An excellent book which slides easily between comparisons of real foxes, foxes in folklore, foxes in Inari worship, and foxes in the modern Japanese imagination.

Seham, Lucy A. Enchi Fumiko and ‘Fox Fires’. Thesis, Wesleyan University, 1986.

Seki Keigo

Shinoda Chiwaki

Komatsu Kazuhiko


Yôkai: Monsters, Giant Catfish, & Symbolic Representation in Popular Culture

The Kitsune Page

Ghosts and Fox Spirits

Lowry, Dave. “Travel Alert Japan: Beware of Possible Fox Spirit Possession.” In

Rubin, Norman A. “Ghosts, Demons and Spirits in Japanese Lore“. In

Martin, Watts. “Kitsune: Coyote of the Orient“. In

A discussion of Japanese foxes as tricksters, with parallels drawn from world folklore. Explodes several Western misconceptions about foxes.

Kitsune no Yume


A mailing list archive containing a bibliography of fox references.

Blacker, Carmen.”Witch Animals”, in The Catalpa Bow, pp. 51-68

Casal, U.A. “The Goblin Fox and Badger and Other Witch Animals of Japan”. Folklore Studies 18:1-93. 1959.

Japanese Dog Folklore” is an excerpt of “The Goblin Fox and Badger and Other Witch Animals of Japan” hosted on the WEREWeb. The dog is traditionally the mortal enemy of the fox, but this excerpt shows some intriguing parallels between dogs/dog spirits and foxes.

De Visser, M.W. “The Fox and Badger in Japanese Folklore”. Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan 36(3):1-159. 1908.

Goff, Janet. “Foxes in Japanese Culture: Beautiful or Beastly?” Japan Quarterly 44:(2) (April-June 1997):67-77.

Goff, Janet. “Foxes and Transformation in Classical Japanese Theater”. Japan Foundation Newsletter 19(3) (December):12-17. 1991.

Gubler, Greg. “Kitsune: The Remarkable Japanese Fox”. Southern Folklore Quarterly 38(2):121-134.

Heine, Steven. “Putting the ‘Fox’ Back in the ‘Wild Fox Koan’: The Intersection of Philosophical and Popular Religious Elements in the Ch’an/Zen Koan Tradition”. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Volume 56, Issue 2 (Dec. 1996), pp. 257-317.

Hori Ichirô. Folk Religion in Japan: Continuity and Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Johnson, T.W. “Far Eastern Fox Lore”. Asian Folklore Studies 33:35-68. 1974.

Kawai Hayao. “Beauty in Japanese Fairy-Tales”. Rudolf Eitsema, ed., Eranos Conference: Beauty of the World. Frankfurt: Insel Verlag.

Krappe, Alexander H. “Far Eastern Fox Lore”. California Folklore Quarterly 3(2):124-147. 1944.

Sasaki Genjun H. “Fox Obsession in Japan: The Indian Background”. Shakti 5(3):27-29. 1968.

Ury, Marian. “A Heian Note on the Supernatural”. Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese 22(2):189-194. 1988.

Yanagita Kunio. “Japanese Folk Tales”. Folklore Studies 51(1):1-97.


Catalogue and Exhibition ‘Things that go Bump at Night’ – Ghosts and Demons in Japanese Art. The Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Haifa, Israel – Ilana Singer, chief curator.

Volker, T. The Animal in Far Eastern Art, and Especially in the Art of the Japanese Netsuke, with References to Chinese Origins, Traditions, Legends, and Art. Leiden: rill, 1950.

Japanese Prints

Several of the prints are fox-related. One even shows an amusing variant of jan-ken-pon in which the fox beats the headman, the headman beats the gun, and the gun beats the fox.

Anime and Manga

Kitsune in anime and manga represent playfulness and deceit. They have lost all of their old religious overtones—no striving for enlightenment, no preying on immoral mortals, no sexual parasitism.

And very little sexual allure, strange to say. Kitsune characters may be attractive, even seductive, but they are attractive or seductive because of their unique personalities, not because they are kitsune. Fans often find this unsatisfying, and rectify the problem by re-injecting folkloric kitsune qualities into anime and manga characters in fan art, fan fiction, and fan manga (doujinshi). For a vivid example, read English-language fan fiction and Japanese doujinshi about Kurama of Yuu Yuu Hakusho.

Although I have implied that the folkloric qualities fans focus on are kitsunes’ sexual allure, fans enjoy playing with other aspects of kitsune characters’ vulpine natures. For instance, in Fox Trip, Mizushima Yui makes the dignified and reserved kitsune Kurama chase after Inari-zushi like a pup.


Shouko the White Fox Princess (Byakko no Himezama Shouko), is the female lead of Hana-Yasha, “Flower Witch.”A pair of white kitsune, Ikkomaru and Nikomaru, frolic through the pages of this romantic comedy as comic relief. They spend much of their time in fox-form, and have fox ears when they take on human form. Shouko, on the other hand, almost never has fox ears, and takes on fox form only rarely.


The kitsune cub Shippou is a main character, who joins the story in a plot reminiscent of the classic Genkuro story. Shippou is unusual because in addition to having fox-ears and a fox-tail, he has fox-paws and fox-feet.

Koibito wa Shugorei!?

A kitsune cub appears in one chapter as a minor character.


The main character, ninja schoolboy Naruto, is the reincarnation of a powerful (and thoroughly evil) nine-tailed kitsune.

Yuu Yuu Hakusho

Youko Kurama (Minamino Shuuichi), a kitsune reincarnated in the body of a human boy, is one of the main characters. Kurama’s fox-form is a silver four-tailed kitsune. It’s unclear what the four tails represent; in traditional mythology, they would mean that Kurama is between four hundred and five hundred years old, but a comment from one of Kurama’s old associates indicates that Kurama is thousands of years old.

Inari Worship

Oinari – Fox – God of Japan

A lively and well-illustrated article about Inari worship and its relationship to foxes. Hosted on the Japanese Buddhist Corner, by Mark Schumacher, itself an entertaining and extensive read.

(I must add: The fourth picture down is not a kitsune, it is a tanuki. The badger-kettle of Morinji Temple, to be precise.)

Kamstra, Jacques H. “The Goddess Who Grew into a Bodhisattva Fox: Inari”. Bruno Lewin zu Ehren: Festschrift aus Anlass seines 65. Geburtstages. Bochum: Fakultat für Ostasienwissenschaften der Ruhr-Universität Bochum. 1989.

Opler, Morris E. and Robert Seido Hashima. “The Rice Goddess and the Fox in Japanese Religion and Folk Practice”. American Anthropologist 48(1):43-53. 1946.

Leave a comment

A Few Pictures of Hangzhou

The Otherside

For the first leg of my journey after Liaocheng I got on a sleeper train and headed south to Hangzhou, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in China, and one of the few places that lives up to it’s touted beauty amongst the guidebooks and travel agencies. (It’s not that China isn’t beautiful, it’s that Chinese people really like to use hyperbole in order to attract people.)

With a history of over 2,000 years, Hangzhou is one of the most culturally relevant cities in the history of Chinese civilization.  Today, Hangzhou is known for three things in particular.  Its silk, its tea, and the West Lake.  The West Lake is without a doubt the most famous lake in China. Poets, philosphers, emperrors, and common people throughout China’s long history have spoken of the West Lake as a place of awe inspiring beauty.

While much of the natural…

View original post 221 more words

Leave a comment

Sivananda yoga (in 12 minutes)

M Yoga International

Earlier posts in this series:
Monday, hip-opening poses
Tuesday, vini yoga

Wednesday, flow yoga

Click below for the direct link to the schedules:
Thursday – Sivananda Sun Salutations
Friday – the 12 Sivananda Yoga Poses

For my 28th birthday, my parents gave me my first yoga book. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a Sivananda yoga book. One of the characteristics of this lineage, is that it gives you time to relax between all the poses. It therefore had a two pages wide drawing of a practitioner lying on her back, eyes closed. And I remember my father going through the book, with all the seemingly impossible poses, stopping there saying:
“Even I could do that.”

The sequence

Sivananda yoga is one of the three schools that works with a fixed series of exercises (the other two being Ashtanga and Bikram). Founded in 1936 by Swami Sivananda, it…

View original post 140 more words