1. Chinese
  2. Gods

Chinese Gods

Discover the ancient gods and goddesses of China, from creation deities Pangu, Nuwa, and Fuxi, to legends like Sun Wukong, Chang’e, Hou Yi, and the Jade Emperor.

Major Deities

  • Pangu

    In Chinese mythology, Pangu (盤古) is a horned and hairy beast considered to be the first living being in the universe. According to the Chinese creation myth, Pangu emerged from an egg containing the universe and created the earth and sky. He is also heavily associated with the concept of yin and yang.

  • Jade Emperor

    One of the most important and popular figures in Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor (玉皇) is the supreme ruler of Heaven and the first emperor of China. Despite his vast power, the Jade Emperor’s most prominent traits are his benevolence, fairness, and mercy. During the New Year, the Jade Emperor is said to judge the character of each individual over the past year and punish or reward them accordingly.

  • Xiwangmu

    One of the most powerful goddesses in the Chinese pantheon, Xiwangmu (西王母), or Queen Mother of the West, is an ancient deity that holds power over life and death. As the wife of the Jade Emperor, Xiwangmu tends to the Peaches of Immortality and serves as a guardian to all Taoist women. She also played a key role in giving human emperors the Mandate of Heaven.

  • Chang’e

    The beautiful goddess of the moon, Chang’e (嫦娥) is a Chinese deity known for stealing the elixir of immortality from her husband Hou Yi. Her story plays a pivotal role in the annual Mid-Autumn Festival and remains popular to this day.

  • Hou Yi

    In Chinese mythology, Hou Yi (后羿) is considered to be the greatest archer of all time. While he is perhaps best known for shooting down nine of the ten suns and saving the earth, he is also known as one of China's original star-crossed lovers alongside his wife Chang’e (嫦娥).

  • Guanyin

    The goddess of mercy and compassion, Guanyin is a key figure in many ancient and contemporary Chinese myths and legends. Guanyin has the ability to hear the sorrows and woes of the world and she embodies empathy, kindness, and grace. Stories of Guanyin often include her sidekick and disciple, Shancai, a formerly crippled Indian boy who was miraculously healed by Guanyin. The importance and influence of Guanyin can still be felt in Chinese culture today.

  • Sun Wukong

    Sun Wukong (孫悟空), also known as the Monkey King, is a trickster god who plays a central role in the famous Chinese adventure novel Journey to the West. Though he starts out as an angry and impatient deity, Sun Wukong eventually achieves enlightenment and learns to live at peace with the world around him.

  • Nezha

    In Chinese mythology, Nezha (哪吒) is a precocious teenage deity who serves as the patron saint of young adults. Hotheaded and stubborn, Nezha features in a number of stories that emphasize the importance of self-sacrifice and filial piety.

  • Dragon King

    Known as the Dragon King, Longwang is a fierce and powerful Chinese god who commands the oceans, weather, dragons, and creatures of the sea. He rules over his four brothers, who each oversee the waters in one of the cardinal directions. The Dragon King appears as a fearsome warrior or as a mighty dragon, at times angry and menacing. Yet he is also considered to be a lucky omen. Because of his connection to the sea, Longwang is more popular in the coastal communities of China.

  • Sanguan Dadi

    A trio of ancient Chinese deities, the Sanguan Dadi, or Three Emperors, monitor human behavior and interactions and report back to the Jade Emperor. With jurisdiction over the Earth, the Sky, and the Waters, the Sanguan Dadi either reward people for doing good deeds or dole out punishment for those who misbehave. The trio command respect and honor, particularly because they have the ability to determine the length of a person’s life.

  • Wufang Shangdi

    The Wufang Shangdi are a collective of five powerful Chinese deities that form a foundation for ancient beliefs. Called the Five Emperors, each of the gods of the Wufang Shangdi is unique, with distinctive personalities, traits, and abilities. They are each associated with a specific color. Each are powerful and significant on their own. Together, however, they are a physical representation of Tian, the Taoist energy force.

  • Eight Immortals

    The Eight Immortals, or Ba Xian (八仙), are a group of eight deities in Chinese mythology that represent all people in China—men, women, young, old, rich, poor, noble and peasants. Each member of the group wields a unique talisman that holds the power to give life or vanquish evil. The Ba Xian are legendary in Chinese culture and a forerunner to modern day superheroes.

Minor Deities

  • Yan Wang

    Yan Wang, the Chinese King of Hell, is the most frightening deity in the pantheon of Chinese gods. With his bright red skin, long black beard, and menacing expression, Yan Wang looked the part of a gatekeeper of Hell. With his faithful scribe, Yan Wang is tasked with recording the names and dates of death for every person in the world, as well as triaging the newly deceased into their appropriate places in Hell. Yan Wang, however, is fair and forgiving, despite his imposing appearance. He vets the good souls from the bad and sends the good ones to Heaven where they will be eventually reincarnated. The myths of Yan Wang are powerful cautionary tales that appear in every Buddhist culture.

  • Shennong

    Traditional Chinese herbal medicine owes its start to Shennong, a deity who is called the god of farming. Shennong is often described as a having cattle-like horns on the top of his head and a transparent stomach. He is shown wearing a garment made of plant material and eating some type of vegetation. Shennong identified, tested, and categorized hundreds of different plants growing in China. According to legend, Shennong was born mortal, despite his physical abnormalities, and became a god because of his experience with plants and because be brought agriculture to the people of China.

  • Mazu

    Mazu, the Chinese goddess of the sea, protects sailors, fishermen, and travelers. She can predict the coming of dangerous storms and often warns sailors with a flash of her bright red robe. In Chinese mythology, Mazu is said to have been real person, a young mute girl with supernatural abilities, who was transformed into a goddess after a terrible family tragedy. Shrines to Mazu dot the coastline of China and neighboring islands. The influence of Mazu even extends to the West, thanks to Chinese immigrants who brought her myths and stories to their new homes.

  • Zhong Kui

    Zhong Kui (鍾馗), King of Ghosts, was a originally a mortal who, treated unfairly due to his unsightly appearance, killed himself. When he died and went to Hell, Yan Wang looked past his ugliness and saw the potential for him to become a great ghost and demon hunter. Thereafter Zhong Kui devoted himself to protecting mankind from evil demons and ghosts.

  • Zao Jun

    In Chinese folklore, Zao Jun is a deity that resides in kitchen stoves or hearths. It is his task to keep harmony in the family and to annually report back about the family to the Jade Emperor. It is ironic that this deity, often called the Kitchen God, is so focused on the family unit. According to legend, he nearly destroyed his own family because of his infidelity, but was so repentant that he transformed from a mortal man into a god. Even today, images of Zao Jun can be found in kitchens across China.

  • Doumu

    The 14-armed Doumu (斗母) is closely associated with the Big Dipper in ancient Chinese mythology and an important female deity. Together with her male counterpart Tian (天), she makes up half of the heavenly energy that is a key foundation of Chinese philosophy. A kindly, benevolent goddess, she is often depicted holding important religious items in her many arms.

  • Cangjie

    Cangjie is a four-eyed Chinese deity credited with establishing the Chinese writing system that is still in use today. The legend of Cangjie is a merger of an historical figure and a god-like entity. As a court historian to the Yellow Emperor, Cangjie is tasked with devising a way to record significant information. Taking a cue from nature, he developed the logogram system of writing.

  • Caishen

    During Chinese New Year’s celebrations, people invoke the name of Caishen, the Chinese god of wealth and money, imploring him to be kind to them in the coming year. According to myth, Caishen uses a black tiger as his steed. He also carries with him a magical rod that can turn rock and metal into precious gold.

  • Lei Gong

    The Chinese god of thunder, Lei Gong is responsible for delivering punishments to dishonest, vicious, and wicked humans, as well as for demons who spread evil. He uses a drum to warn the perpetrators of their impending punishment. If they ignore his warning, he will smite them with his vengeful hammer. Lei Gong has an unusual origin story, having hatched from an egg. He is a menacing character who has claws and wings like a dragon and frightening blue skin.Lei Gong

  • Leizi

    More formally known as Dianmu (電母), Leizi is the Chinese goddess of lightning. As the wife of the thunder god, Lei Gong, she provides the visible flashes of light in the stormy sky to accompany the deep, rumbling sound of thunder that her husband produces on his drum.

  • Erlang Shen

    Erlang Shen is the Chinese god of engineering tasked with keeping the villages safe from annual flooding. He has a third eye in the middle of his forehead that he can use to see the difference between lies and the truth. Chinese mythology includes two different backstories for Erlang Shen that are commonly told. In one story, Erlang Shen is the son of a goddess and a mortal man. In the other, he is the son of an engineer that achieves immortality after saving the village from a river dragon that causes periodic floods.

  • Menshen

    Door gods Yù Lěi and Shén Tú, known as the the Menshen (門神), are a pair of deities who guard the thresholds of buildings to ensure that evil demons and bad omens cannot get inside. If they discover a demon lurking about, they capture it and feed it to their pet tigers.

  • Ji Gong

    Ji Gong, the Mad Monk, was a Chinese folk hero with a reputation for being a rule-breaker. A happy-go-lucky man who couldn’t make it as a monk, Ji Gong had some special abilities, including the ability to see into the future, and was often depicted with a bottle of wine in one hand.

  • Yue Lao

    The Chinese god of love and marriage, Yue Lao (月老), carries a red silk string that he can use to literally tie two lovers together, binding them in marriage. He is a matchmaker, but is also responsible for recording all marriages for posterity. Even today, people look to Yue Lao when seeking a spouse and romantic couples implore him to guide their love stories.

  • Huxian

    Huxian (狐仙) is a fox deity or “fairy” popular in Northern China. A trickster and shape shifter who seduces humans and leads them astray, Huxian’s most common incarnation is that of a nine-tailed fox.

  • Bixia

    A Chinese fertility goddess, Bixia (碧霞) oversees children and women, as well as the new dawn. According to an ancient legend, she returned the Yellow River to its original course to end a great and devastating flood.

  • Wenchang Wang

    The Chinese god of literature and culture, Wenchang Wang is a favorite deity among students, scholars, and writers alike. A kindly, elderly man, Wenchang Wang is thought to have been a real person, a warrior who selflessly gave his life to save the emperor. His benevolence led to his immortality.

  • Nuba

    Nüba (女魃) was a drought goddess and daughter of the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi (黄帝), whose appearance was met with dread by the people of ancient China. She brought hardship to humans so they held elaborate ceremonies and festivals to banish her from their communities.

  • Yu Shi

    Yu Shi (雨師) is a Chinese deity associated with rain, often depicted with snakes coming out of his ears. Despite his frightening appearance, Yu Shi often collaborates with the wind deity, Feng Popo (風婆婆), to bring an end to droughts.

  • Xihe

    The first wife of Di Jun, Xihe (羲和) is a Chinese sun goddess and the mother of the ten Suns. Legend has it her children appeared in the sky one at a time until a fateful day when they all went out together. Their immense heat threatened to scorch the Earth and the legendary archer Hou Yi had to shoot down nine of the ten suns in order to save mankind.

  • Jiutian Xuannu

    A controversial figure in Chinese mythology, much of Jiutian Xuannu power is tied into her sexual appetite. Jiutian Xuannu balances her sexual energy by overseeing warfare as well, for as an ancient author explained, both love and war can be a renewal process or a death, depending on how the event is handled.

  • Changxi

    The second wife of Di Jun, Changxi (常羲) is an ancient lunar deity and the mother of twelve Moons. Although Changxi’s myth predates the other more popular Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e, it is likely they both stem from a shared origin.

  • Lu Ban

    The Chinese god of carpentry, Lu Ban (魯班) is credited with inventing many tools of the trades, such as the saw, shovel, umbrella and carpenter’s square, to name a few. Lu Ban is considered a folk hero in Chinese culture, and the patron saint of builders and contractors.

  • Di Jun

    Di Jun (帝俊) is a Chinese emperor and father to the ten Suns that almost destroyed the Earth. So distraught was he at the scorching of the earth by his children, Di Jun supplied the arrows that Hou Yi, the legendary archer, used to shoot down nine of the ten suns. Di Jun is married to the sun goddess, Xihe, and the moon goddess, Changxi.