Pixiu

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Pixiu
Pixiu qianlong.jpg
Pixiu
Chinese貔貅
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese辟邪
Literal meaningto ward off evil spirits
A Chinese Pixiu, (Chinese: 貔貅; pinyin: píxiū; Wade–Giles: P'i-hsiu) head of a Chinese dragon, body of a lion and with a pair of feathered wings, at the tomb of Emperor Wu of Southern Qi (Xiao Ze) in Danyang (near Nanjing, China).
A Chinese pixiu, part Chinese dragon, part lion and with feathered wings, in Chaotian Palace, Nanjing.

Pixiu (貔貅; píxiū; P'i-hsiu) is a Chinese mythical hybrid creature. Pixiu are considered powerful protectors of feng shui practitioners, and resemble strong, winged lions. A Pixiu is an earth and sea variation[clarification needed], particularly an influential and auspicious creature for wealth, and is said to have a voracious appetite exclusively for gold, silver, and jewels. Therefore, traditionally to the Chinese, Pixiu have always been regarded as auspicious creatures that possessed mystical powers capable of drawing cai qi (財氣 wealth) from all directions,[1][2] and according to the Chinese zodiac, it is especially helpful for those who are going through a bad year.

There are two types of Pixiu that are categorised by their antlers. The one with two antlers is the female and is called a Bìxié, and the one with one antler is the male and is called a Tiānlù.[3]

  • Bìxié (辟邪; bìxié; pi-hsieh; lit. "to ward off evil spirits"): The female of the species wards off evil. It is also believed that Bìxié have the ability to assist anyone who is suffering from bad feng shui from having offended Tai Sui (太歲).
  • Tiānlù (天祿; tiānlù; t'ien-lu): The male of the species is in charge of wealth. It is said to go out into the world to search for gold and other forms of wealth. When it returns to its master's house, the Bìxié is then said to guard the riches. Displaying Tiānlù at home or in the office is said to prevent wealth from flowing away.

Pixiu crave the smell of gold and silver and like to bring their masters money in their mouth. Statues of this creature are often used to attract wealth in feng shui.[4][5]

Today, Pixiu are a popular design on jade pendants. It was also featured as a design on the sword of Fa Mulan's character in the 1998 Disney animated feature Mulan.

Characteristics[edit]

A sculpture of a Chinese Pixiu "Bìxié" − a female pixiu with two antlers. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Pixiu are auspicious, winged animals, written about in ancient Chinese history and heralded through the millennia by fantastic stories of powerful and grandiose feats of victory in battle.[6] Their legend has been passed down through 2,000 years of Chinese lore. They have the head of a Chinese dragon, the body of a lion, and historically sport on their heads either one antler (male) or two antlers (female). In modern times, this legendary creature’s historical physical appearance has been somewhat lost, and is now more commonly depicted with only one antler.[7][circular reference]

Ancient Chinese descriptions, depictions and stone carvings of Pixiu from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) show the male with a single antler and the female with two. As with the Chinese phoenix, the common image today represents a single gender with one antler (male). Pixiu have protruding eyes and sharp teeth. There is one ancient stone sculpture variation found with hooves, but all Pixiu have wings. Many have a bifurcated (split) tail that hangs low and downward that covers its rear, a representative metaphor that they hold gold inside their stomachs but will not let it out.[citation needed]

Imperial Pixiu used during the Qing dynasty developed the physical characteristic of a fatter, more rotund body, indicating a stomach that could be loaded with unlimited amounts of gold and all forms of wealth and good fortune.

Due to their similar appearances, Pixiu are often confused with stone lions and qilin, but they can easily be distinguished from those two animals by its pair of feathered wings with which it can fly between Heaven and Earth.[4]

Mythology[edit]

Pixiu are a type of ancient mythological, guardian animal species that have feathered wings, a head like a dragon and a body like a lion (sometimes described as a body like a horse).

One story of the Pixiu says that it violated a law of Heaven by defecating on the floor of Heaven. When it was found out, it was punished by a spanking from the Jade Emperor. The spanking was hard enough to cause its anus to be permanently sealed. The Jade Emperor further declared that the diet of the Pixiu would be restricted to gold, silver, and jewels.

Another story describes the Pixiu as the well-behaved, youngest son of the Dragon King and was spoiled by its parents. One day, Pixiu played on the Dragon King's desk and accidentally broke a seal that represented the power of the Dragon King. The Dragon King became very angry and used magic to turn Pixiu into an animal. He then sealed his rectum and declared that from then on, Pixiu could only eat things representing wealth.[8]

Pixiu have a reputation of being fierce creatures. The large fangs visible in their mouths are used to attack demons and evil spirits, draining their essence and converting it to wealth. Pixiu also guard against disease caused by these evil spirits. It is written that Pixiu patrol the Heavens to keep demons at bay and to protect their owners from all harm.[9]

It was believed that the ferociously devoted Pixiu would always and constantly guard its master, even after he passed from this life onto the next world. It was also believed that Pixiu would help their masters ascend to heaven by flying them up to Heaven on their backs.[6]

History[edit]

Pixiu appear to have their origin in the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) where they are found mentioned and were originally called Táo bá in chapter 96 of the Book of Han.

Book of Han, Tian Yi Chamber Library Collection

An annotation describes the female and male Táo bá to have antlers like a deer, where the male (Tiānlù) has one antler, and the female (Bìxié) two.

In tribute to the legend of the ferocity and prowess of the Pixiu in battle, it became synonymous with the army in ancient China. The word Pixiu, interpreted as meaning "fierce beast" and also "brave warrior", was used as a symbol on battle flags and banners.[6]

Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty declared that the Pixiu, who obtained and guarded the Master's gold, would be forever known as the "Treasure of the Emperor".[10] It is said the Emperor declared that only royal personage could possess a Pixiu and it was strictly forbidden for all others to own one, including officials.[10] This law was kept through to the end of the Qing dynasty.[10]

Architecture[edit]

Ceramic figures decorating the Hall of Supreme Harmony at the Imperial Palace Museum. The 10 mystical beasts indicate the highest status in the empire for this building. Picture taken late September 2002 by Leonard G.

During China's history, Pixiu were commonly displayed in ancient architecture to ward off yin qi (陰氣) and to harness auspicious qi.

Statues of Pixiu are commonly found on the four corners of the roofs of houses, palaces and halls of the most important people such as the Chinese Emperor. The Pixiu sits behind the dragon, the phoenix, the winged horse, the seahorse, and other, similar creatures.

A very large pair of winged, stone pixiu guarding a tomb in China.

In ancient China, stone statues of Pixiu were also used as tomb guardians of Han dynasty emperors and other royal persons.

Feng shui[edit]

In feng shui, Pixiu (aka Piyao in some modern cultural translations) is the heavenly variation of a creature of good fortune. They are said to have the power to assist anyone suffering from bad feng shui due to having offended Tai Sui.

See also[edit]

References and footnote[edit]

  1. ^ "天禄之家 WWW.tianlu.sg".
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-02. Retrieved 2014-09-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ 貔貅 [Pìxiū]. onmarkproductions.com.
  4. ^ a b Bates, Roy (2008). "Chapter 7". 29 Chinese Mysteries. Beijing, China: TuDragon Books Ltd. p. 49.
  5. ^ Bates, Roy (2008). "Chapter 7". 29 Chinese Mysteries. Beijing, China: TuDragon Books Ltd. pp. 48, 49.
  6. ^ a b c "Tianlu and Bixie". cultural-china.com/. Archived from the original on 2017-04-12. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  7. ^ "Book of Han".
  8. ^ Bates, Roy (2008). "Chapter 7". 29 Chinese Mysteries. Beijing, China: TuDragon Books Ltd. p. 51.
  9. ^ Bates, Roy (2008). "Chapter 7". 29 Chinese Mysteries. Beijing, China: TuDragon Books, Ltd. p. 49.
  10. ^ a b c Li, Jinn (2015). Pi Xiu Celestial Coming with Fortune. Estalontech (PublishDrive). ISBN 9789634280958.