Every mythological creature of Marvel’s Shang-Chi
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings, now in theaters.
Marvel Studios’ latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings, does her best to incorporate tons of Chinese culture into the film. This includes a mix of the best known and most obscure creatures in Chinese mythology. But these beasts and spirits aren’t just funny animals, as the film may portray them; with these creatures, there is more to the myth than it seems.
For those who would like to know the history of these beings and their importance for the culture Shang-Chi trying to capture, we’ve compiled a list of all the mythical beasts that appear in Shang-Chi. They are creatures of power, fortune and divinity, and we will bring you the related stories and their meanings as prescribed through thousands of years of Chinese history.
Shang-Chi and Lucy were right to be surprised by Morris. Faceless, six legs and two pairs of wings, this creature seems straight out of Trevor Slattery’s imagination, but this furry creature is actually based on a primordial god living in the mountains called DiJiang (帝 江 dì jiāng ), sometimes called the Divine Di Jiang (神灵 帝 江 shén líng dì jiāng). It appears in an ancient text as far back as 400 BC, titled Classic of mountains and seas (山海经 Shan Hai Jing).
The text is believed to be some sort of bestiary, filled with a wide variety of mythical creatures and their locations across China during the Warring States period from the 4th century BCE until the establishment of the Han Dynasty. somewhere around 200 BC. DiJiang was seen as a personification of Hundun (混沌 Hùndùn), which is essentially the chaotic force that gave birth to all things. The creature is said to love song and dance and live in a state of confusion, which it also inflicts on others.
Another creature straight from the Classic of the Mountain and the Seas, the fenghuang (鳳凰 fènghuáng) is often compared to a phoenix, although the two share few true similarities. The creature rules over all birds and is a hybrid of several beasts which vary according to the text that describes it. Shang-Chi doesn’t offer a good overview of the variant the filmmakers went with; they only showed them bright and obviously on fire.
Birds have been around in Chinese mythology for at least 8,000 years and have been used to symbolize good luck or virtue. In the past, “Feng” referred to male and “Huang” referred to female, but they were used together during the Yuan Dynasty, between 1271 and 1368, to describe the animal regardless of gender.
Probably from the Classic of the Mountain and the Seas, it is said that the Fenghuang live in the Kunlun Mountains in northern Tibet. They were used to decorate royal clothing, ceramics, weddings and more, often alongside dragons to symbolize virtue or the union of Yin and Yang. In fact, the ancient text states that each part of a fenghuang represents a different quality: the head represents virtue, the wing represents duty, the back represents decorum, the abdomen represents credibility and the chest represents mercy. .
Huli jing (狐狸精 húlijīng) are nine-tailed foxes that have inspired many modern works in film and television. They are described in Classic of the Mountain and the Seas as residing around Green-Hills Mountain or Sunrise Valley. They sound like babies and devour people. If eaten, huli jing offers protection against insect venom.
Over time, they became known as mischievous spirits whose presence could be interpreted as terrible omens or omens of great fortune. Subsequent changes to Classic of the Mountain and the Seas introduced a new aspect of the huli jing myth: they could turn into beautiful women, psychic mediums or light-hearted men, depending on the fox’s age. When he reaches the age of a thousand years, the huli jing can ascend to heaven and attain divinity.
Shishi (Guardian Lions)
These guardian lions often decorate the gardens of ancient Chinese palaces and temples. They are colloquially referred to as lion dogs or foo dogs / fu dogs, but they are stone lions, or shishi (石獅; shíshī). These creatures are believed to have been inspired by the lions that arrived in China through trade with Silk Road merchants during the Han Dynasty. Gradually they were redesigned and played an important role when Buddhism became a major religion during the Han Dynasty, as protectors of dharma – which is the “truth” on which Buddhism was founded, if we had to simplify it to the extreme.
Given the regal appearance of these stone lions, they continued to guard royal palaces even after Buddhism as a belief lost its place in China. Their use in Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings is therefore not entirely inappropriate, since they keep a sacred place. The only freedom they took were their eccentric manes and the huge fangs sticking out of their jaws.
Undeniably the most recognizable creature in Chinese myth, the serpent dragon (龙 lóng) appears in Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings and with a good dose of eminence. In ancient Chinese culture, dragons were associated with divine power, and the emperor, who was considered the son of heaven, usually surrounded himself with sculptures or drawings of these creatures. They are often associated with sky and water, and in many ancient texts, dragons are responsible for moving bodies of water such as rivers and waterfalls, and some, like the Dragon Kings, which take on an appearance more human, are even responsible. for the rain.
Dragons have been used to symbolize power, virtue, wisdom, strength, and fortune in China for thousands of years, since at least 6200 BC. They continue to play an important role in Chinese culture, still appearing as symbols in almost every aspect of daily life, from commonly used idioms to food and even architecture. In Hong Kong, for example, many skyscrapers are built with “dragon gates,” which would allow dragons to cross them from the mountains to reach the sea, symbolizing prosperity and ensuring a positive flow of qi.
You can see all of these ancient Chinese creatures in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, in theaters now.
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