Portraits of Stars and Planets

In Chinese mythology, most beings in the celestial worlds more or less look like humans. The difference between the bodies of the terrestrial humans and the celestial beings are that the latter is much more refined in substance, more graceful in appearance, lighter in weight, shining in colour and transformable in shape since it is not formed with flesh and blood but pure Qi.

The Big Dipper – The Celestial Ruling Group

The Big Dipper, ink painting by Ming Dynasty royal artist

This is part of a painting about a grand ritual in heaven. The seven young men in casual clothing are 7 stars in the Big Dipper while nine middle-aged guys with beards in formal official attire are dippers’ assistants.

The painting was created by royal artists during the Jintai Era (1450-1456) in the early Ming Dynasty and was presented on special ceremonies to help the deceased to move forward and find a new life.

Such ceremonies are known as Meeting of Water and Earth (水陆大会) and the paintings hung for the occasions are, accordingly, called Paintings of Water and Earth (水陆画).

Jupiter the Agent of Wood Qi

Planet Jupiter – ink painting by a Tang Dynasty artist

Traditional Chinese culture regards all celestial objects as living beings and five major planets in the solar system the agents channelling five different cosmic Qis.

Jupiter, a symbol of benevolence and fortune and the leading planet in the solar system, is said to direct Wood qi to Earth for life, growth and development and depicted in the Tang Dynasty painting as a celestial immortal with a head of a leopard and a wild boar as his personal vehicle.

Mars the Agent of Fire Qi

Planet Mars – ink painting by a Tang Dynasty artist

Mars, the planet representing radical transformation or violent confrontation and emitting Fire qi towards Earth, is depicted in a Tang Dynasty painting as having a head of a donkey with six arms, each holding a unique weapon.

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS

Eric Horrobin
That is an interesting symbol as I think in the Hindu faith one of their deities has 6 arms. The ancient world I do not think was as isolated as I have been led to believe. Or possibly a cosmic consciousness or awareness with ideas forming in similar times. Maybe? just a guess.

All Things Chinese
You are so right. Speaking and writing are just two of many communication methods, and rather primitive ones as they are physical and indirect, thus shallow in content and limited in scope.

A large portion of communication is carried out directly between consciousnesses at a cosmic level without being noticed by the majority of people as such communication cannot be detected by so-called Western-style scientific methods which chiefly if not solely relies on physical instruments to do the job.

It’s important to note that it is not just ONE consciousness in the universe and it is not one consciousness communicating with itself. Each sentient being is hosted by a portion of individual consciousness, and there are more consciousnesses roaming in the universe without a solid shelter either due to not being able to find one or because they are advanced enough to exist without a tangible form.

Ultimately, each consciousness lives in its own universe manufactured by its own imagination out of its particular yearning.

We appear in each other’s universe at some stage because we share certain segments of the imaginations (dreams).

It is like we appear on each other’s laptops. It’s not because you and I are one person, it’s only because we share the similar interest in talking about all things Chinese online (whether we agree or disagree with each other’s view). So our worlds overlap in this particular part as if we live in one same world. But beyond this part, your world and my world do not exist to each other.

Saturn the Agent of Earth Qi

Planet Saturn – ink painting by a Tang Dynasty artist

Planet Saturn is illustrated in a Tang Dynasty painting as a farmer riding on the back of a buffalo and releasing Earth qi accordingly.

Venus the Agent of Metal Qi

Planet Venus riding on a phoenix – ink painting by a Tang Dynasty artist

Planet Venus, often appeared in ancient Chinese paintings as a female immortal, is said to be a heavenly source for Metal Qi.

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS

E. H.
Was she the Goddess of love as the west believe or immortal love?

All Things Chinese

l am not aware she has ever romantically involved with anyone or for anybody.

The moon, in the appearance of an old man, is oddly the one tirelessly meddling in other people’s love affairs according to Chinese mythology.

E. H.
I knew the moon was a troublemaker. 😃😃😃

All Things Chinese
He is a matchmaker. 

Planet Venus playing pipa – a 13th-century Chinese mural

Planet Venus in contemplation – a 13th-century Chinese mural

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS

Eric Horrobin
Well, that is very interesting. Does Venus channel love qi?

All Things Chinese
The lady representative for Venus was fired by Chinese about a thousand years ago, replaced by an old man with long white brows and beard. The guy appears to be a chemist, spending most of his time at his lab in heaven experimenting and producing immortal pills.

The matchmaker’s job in Chinese mythology has always been assigned to the moon, which is why two of the three festivals in Chinese calendar related to romantic love are on a full moon day, and one of them is named Moon Day.

Eric Horrobin
Neat, thanks that is interesting. So the moon is the ruler of love.

All Things Chinese
Moon is the ruler of heart, which reflects the external stimulus – like the moon that reflects the light of the sun.

Eric Horrobin
I like that moon reflects. According to western astrology, I am ruled by the planet moon.

All Things Chinese
So you are a Cancer;-)

Eric Horrobin
Yes, you’re right, my zodiac sign is Cancer. 

Mercury the Agent of Water Qi

Planet Mercury – ink painting by a Tang Dynasty artist

Planet Mercury is depicted in a Tang Dynasty painting as a female magistrate in heaven.

COMMENTS FORM GOOGLE PLUS

John Roberts
I find the facial expressions of these statues to be most interesting in that they seem to be based on a form of stylised realism that rather accurately expresses the idealised emotions (especially serenity) that I think the artists were trying to convey to their audience. This contrasts strongly with comparable depictions in Christian religious art in Europe at this period where next to no realism is attempted, in particular, the visual artwork executed in the Byzantine/Orthodox tradition.

In this particular example, the expression seems to be one of arch knowing.

All Things Chinese
I think that also has a lot to do with Daoism itself, the only native faith/religion (if you ever can label it this way. Personally I don’t think it’s a religion at all) in China.

It explores, recognises, responds and sometimes utilizes and even tempers the Law of Nature (or Law of Universe); by doing so, it actually requires its followers not to submit to any force with blind faith. 

By the same token, the general public does not view Daoism as something fearfully sacred, something above life or something beyond reality. So it’s all okay to portrait the Daoist divine beings as men and women living next door. And sometimes to make fun of them. 

You are most welcome to leave your comments below