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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The Origin Of Red Vengeful Spirit (紅衣厲鬼由來)
An opera scene from peach girl fight duke
A friend of mine throw me
this question: “Are vengeful spirits in red?”
My answer is that I think the
belief of a vengeful spirit in red (紅衣厲鬼) stems from the story of “peach
girl fight duke” (桃花女斗周公).
Folklore has it that when “The
Dark Lord of North” (玄天上帝) meditated on the Snow Mountain, he has a sword
with him for protection. But due to his negligence, this sword and sheath
absorbed the essence of sun and moon and transformed into spirits. The sword
became the Yang body (陽體) while the sheath became the Ying body (陰體); both of them have the magical
capability to transform into human shape.
The spirit of the sheath
was given a task to manage the jade pool and peach orchard; it was given the
name of “fairy of the peach flower” (桃花仙子). On the other hand, the sword spirit wanted to be
an immortal so it started to create troubles on “Swing Demon Mountain” (盪魔山). It was later being
captured by the heavenly soldiers (天兵) and prior to beheading; the Taoist Master (太上老君) pitied it and saved it
from being beheaded and this sword spirit was given a job as the “watcher of
the box” (盒童) in the master’s Tusita Palace (兜率宮).
As the saying goes, old
habits die hard; this sword spirit failed to behave and stole the master’s
secret magical rituals and secretly escaped from the Tusita Palace and subsequently
reborn as Zhou Qian (周乾) in a scholar’s family in the Shang Dynasty (商朝). On the other hand, the
peach flower lady was ordered by the Jade Emperor to capture this rebellious
sword spirit; she was born in the house of great grandfather Ren. Because of
her beauty, she was known as the “peach flower girl”.
Both Zhou Qian and the
peach flower girl were born with magical powers and they were destined to meet
and engaged in magical duel. Zhou Qian tricked the peach flower girl by
marrying her during certain demonic days. It was his hope to hurt the girl with
these demonic forces; but the girl has her own tricks also. On her wedding day,
she asked her servants to cover the path with red clothes and her sedan chair
sewed with the images of gods and goddesses; accompanied with the burning of
sandal wood and Boye leaves. She also worn deep red gown and her head was
covered with red head cover. When she alighted from the sedan chair, she would
be stepping on the red cloth and hence capturing all the demons with the heavenly
and earthly dragnets (天羅地網).
Their magical duel stirred
up such a commotion that has attracted the attentions of the heavenly minister
on duty and the Dark Lord was duly informed. On learning the incidents both of
Zhou Qian and the Peach Flower were summoned to see the Dark Lord. The Dark
Lord gave both golden elixir (金丹) and ordered them to guard the Zhenwu Temple on Wudang Mountain (武當山真武廟).
In later cases, people must
have mimicked this story and in the hope of getting even or revenge after death,
they wear red clothing before committing suicide. I don’t want to be wet
blankets to those who have died in saying that such action seldom work; and in
truth the spirits seldom comes in red or anything close to it. That is, if you can
see them of course.