Classics of Mountains and Seas (山海经) is a collection of Chinese mythology, geography and medicine compiled about 3,000 to 2,500 years ago.

Here are some mythical creatures depicted in the book.

Strange Creatures on Mountains

These images of strange mountain creatures were illustrated for the Book of Mountain and Sea when it was published during the Warring States Period.

A beast with a dragon head and horse body is known as the deity of Mt. Zhongshan.


Very interesting how these seem to mirror western myths. Like a commonality of thought arising in time.

All Things Chinese
Thoughts transcend through time and the worlds, spread into the universe, and circulate around without an expiring date, so people (and all other beings and from all other realms) are communicating constantly beyond words and beyond people’s conscious realization.

In this regard, the ultimate battles are always among the thoughts, which occur before, during, and after tangible actions.

Therefore the genuine cultivation towards total liberation should focus on intangible thoughts (like Chan – the Chinese origin of Japanese Zen) not on the tangible body (like yoga), from knowing your own thoughts, controlling your own thoughts to replacing undesirable thoughts with full conscious comprehension.

A five-tail creature called Zheng, specialized in preying on man-eating beasts like tigers and leopards.

A single-eye three-tail cat-like creature called Huan, specialized in mimicking the sound of other animals.


Cyclops in Greek mythology. The three tails must have functioned in the myth also. Fascinating.

A nine-tailed white fox. As the legend goes, it was the matchmaker of China’s greatest hydraulic engineer The Great Yu, and his wife Tushan Shi.

A monkey-like creature known as Jufu, specialized in long-range stone hurling which terrified other beasts.

A man-eating beast called Gudiao, specialized in making a human baby’s crying sound.

Mountain Ghost. According to Man of Simplicity (抱朴子) by Daoist Ge Hong, Mountain Ghosts have a size of a little boy with a single leg.

Strange Creature in the Wilderness

Ghost Liar (讹兽), an expert in lying and cheating.

According to the Book of Supernatural (神异经), Ghost Liars have the body of a rabbit and the head of a man, with a friendly facial expression but a nasty habit of fabricating and spreading fake news.

Their meat is said to be super delicious. But anyone who consumes it will lose the ability to tell the truth. (西南荒中出讹兽,其状若菟,人面能言,常欺人,言东而西,言恶而善。其肉美,食之,言不真矣。)


Sounds like a lot of people have been eating ghost rabbits.

All Things Chinese
Corporate media outlets must have offered ghost rabbit meat as tea snacks for their staff.

Mother Ghost (姑获鸟). According to Strange Tales from Stories of Mountain and Rivers (奇异杂谈之山海经), Mother Ghosts are formed by the grieving thoughts of the women died of childbirth.

Strange Creatures in the Skies

A Chinese unicorn called Guanshu.


Seems to be a universal myth. This one-horned creature.

All Things Chinese
But the most popular mythical creature in Chinese mythology is qilin – multicorn 🤪

A celestial dog that swallows the sun and the moon from time to time, which caused solar and lunar eclipses.

Below is a description of the celestial dog and its eating habit in The Classic of Mountains and Oceans (山海经): In Yin Mountain, there is a celestial dog with a white head and ferocious nature. (阴山。其中多文贝,有兽焉,曰天狗,其状如狸而白首,其音如榴榴,可以御凶).

Thus in Chinese tradition, lunar, especially solar, eclipses are viewed as a sign foreshadowing ill-fated events.

Chinese also discovered the natural cause of solar/lunar eclipses 2,500 years ago, with the earliest Chinese record of solar eclipses dating back to 2,000 BC.

Shi Shen, a Chinese astronomer who lived during the Warring States Era and compiled the star catalogues, explained that eclipses were the results of the shadows cast by either the moon or Earth. To commemorate his contribution, the crater Shi Shen on the Moon is named after him.

Human Fish Deep in Water

Are there fish with a human head in the deep ocean? According to Danishes, yes. And according to ancient Chinese, the answer is also yes.

The illustration is an ancient image for the Book of Mountain and Sea, in which we see a pair of half-human half-fish creatures, male and female.

This is an image of a mythical human fish warrior from an artwork produced by an artist of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

These illustrations of strange ocean creatures appear in the Book of Mountain and Sea.

Fish Man (鲛人), a mermaid, specialized in weaving waterproof silk fabric. 

According to the Book of Supernatural Beings (搜神记), Fish Men/Women look like humans but with a fishtail. When they weep, their tears would turn into pearls; and their body oil can keep a lamp burning for a thousand years. (南海之外有鲛人,水居如鱼,不废织绩。 其眼泣则能出珠)

(Painters for the contemporary images include Chinese artist 杉泽)

A Mythical Creature In High Above

This stone carving block has been kept in a humble Buddhist temple named Blessing Monastery (福昌寺) in High Temple Village (高庙村), of Henan Province, for centuries. The image on the block depicts a creature with a human head and a bird’s body, considered one of the mythical protectors of the Chinese nation.

According to an ancient book The Vast West Wasteland (《大荒西经》): On the islands in the West Sea, there are divine beings, with a human face and a bird’s body (西海岛中,有神,人面鸟身).

The temple was first built in 1080 during the Song Dynasty (宋元丰二年), and rebuilt in the year 1447 under the reign of the Ming Emperor Zhengtong (明正统六年), now consisting of more than 50 buildings with a total built area of 10,000 square meters.

13 thought on “Mythical Creatures in Classics of Mountains and Seas”
  1. Is there another website where I could research about the ghost liar? I couldn’t find anything on Google.

  2. Hello my dear (oldXXX) young friend,
    Again, I do so appreciate you staying in touch with me. Just downloaded all the photos from 12/14 & just luv them. Hope all is well with you. Still keeping my head above water & someday hope to get my butt in gear & live the musicians life again. My friend I’m helping is now cancer free but still has to complete his rehabilitation. Things are looking up. I’ll be back soon.
    My very best to you, stay well & keep posting. Thanks pal…!!!

    1. Hello Lawrence (it’s you, right?), here is my seasonal greeting 😊

      It’s great to hear the good news about your friend, very happy for him.

      I’m glad you like those pictures. Since the sunken of the Titanic Google Plus, I found I have more time to work on this website … you can always find some positive outcomes from a negative event … ok, well, I mean I can 😂

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