Chapter

<i>Shanxiao:</i> Mountain Goblins

Richard von Glahn

in The Sinister Way

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780520234086
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928770 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520234086.003.0004
Shanxiao: Mountain Goblins

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Spirits of the dead figured as the primary agents of demonic affliction in the Chinese religious imagination. But other malefic forces were at work as well. Among them was a class of petty demons known as shanxiao, changeling spirits inhabiting the wild mountains and forests. As such, the shanxiao were akin to the goblins and fairies of pagan Europe, or the forest-dwelling leshii in Russian folklore. But the shanxiao also betokened a greater divide in human affairs: the contested and shifting frontier between civilization and barbarism. The Chinese, like most peoples, envisioned strange lands beyond the pale of civilization rife with all types of bizarre and misshapen creatures. In their earliest incarnation, the Wutong spirits were categorized as a species of shanxiao. Ultimately, the Wutong were rehabilitated and transformed into proper gods, but their sinister origins among the shanxiao goblins were never fully effaced.

Keywords: shanxiao; demons; mountains; goblins; barbarism; civilization; Wutong; gods; spirits

Chapter.  8352 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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