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.

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