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July 14, 2013, 9:32 pm

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Harmless Chinese Mythical Lifeforms


A collection of relatively harmless Chinese Mythical Lifeforms

Below is a collection of Chinese mythical life forms that are rather harmless. The author wishes to re-emphasise that that this is basically a translation and compiling exercise, not a creative one.

Each life from entry below would contain the following sections:

Physical Description

Special Properties: traits from which interactions with PCs could arise (optional depending on whether the original source details them or not)

Lore: Mythical origins/how they are incorporated into Chinese culture (optional depending on whether the original source details them or not)

Translation Quirks (optional): alternative ways of translating/interpreting particular sections and other things I want to provide notes about including particular Chinese terms, other bits about Chinese culture and potential translation inaccuracies (feel free to skip this section if uninterested).


Shadow Wood

Physical Description:

A tree distinguishable because in the day-time, each of its leaves has one hundred of the Chinese character that means “shadow” on it while at night its flowers will shine like stars. This tree will only bear fruit every 10 000 years. Its fruits are as large as a melon, with a green skin and black seeds.

Special Properties:

Consuming the fruit of this tree will cause the body to become lighter (could also be interpreted as a bonus to speed and jumping abilities)


Reputedly one of the fauna or flora that have taken on sentience (or at least become different in some way) from being ancient and/or having absorbed (or possibly developed on their own) a certain amount of “essence” of nature. In Chinese, such life forms are referred to as “Yao Jing” where Yao refers to anything and everything out of the common and Jing can be translated to “essence”.

Translation Quirk:

At first, I thought each leave of the Shadow Wood has 100 shadows rather than having 100 Chinese characters of the word “shadow” on it. In Chinese, usually a word is composed of at least 2 characters. For the term “shadow”, it is far more common for it to be represented by 2 Chinese characters, the first already meaning “shadow” on its own and the second one meaning “son” on its own but when used in combination with other characters is really more of a “space filler”. In addition, the character that means “son” and the character that means “word” in Chinese are quite similar in form.

Golden Ivy Moss (aka Nightglow Moss)

Physical Description:

An egg-shaped moss of a golden colour

Special Properties:

It will glow when put in water.


A gift from a foreign country to China during the Jin Dynasty (the Dynasty straight after the Period of the Three Kingdoms)

Ivy Bloom

Physical Description:

A spinach-like plant, whose flowers can take on five different colour depending on the time of the day. In particular, its flowers are purple in the morning, green at noon, yellow in the afternoons, indigo near sunset and red at night.

Face Tree

Physical Description:

A tree with branches that sprout peach-like fruits with human faces


Another lifeform classified as Yao (see Lore section for Shadow Wood)

Leaning Mulberry

Physical Description:

Made up of two large mulberry trees that lean towards and support each other.


The place where Xi He’s chariot containing one of Three Legged Crows rose to the sky from (see Three Legged Crow entry in Good Omen Chinese Mythical Lifeforms)

Construction Wood

Physical Description:

A tree without any off-shoots, with interweaving branches and roots at the top and bottom respectively. Its leaves are like nets and of an indigo colour. Its branches are violet and much like old-fashioned TV antennas found on rooftops*. Its flowers are black, its fruits yellow and olive-shaped. The whole tree has a shape akin to a cow. Its barks peel off easily.

*The actual text makes the comparison to a certain type of tree but I can’t find the English translation for this specific type of tree so I just substitute it with what the tree reminds me of upon finding out what the tree mentioned actually looks like


It was said that these trees grow on the shore of what is now known as the Black River that flows past the Gan Su province and Inner Mongolia. According to legends, Construction Wood was used by Huang Ti to construct a ladder that connects Heaven to the mortal realm that deities use to ascend to Heaven.

Yan Wood

Physical Description:

A tree that bears apple-like fruits that are edible once its skin turns red.

Zhu Yu

Physical Description:

A lump of grass with similar shape to Chinese leek or Chinse chives that sprouts a few flowers of indigo colour

Special Properties:

It will fill the stomach but only when pulled freshly from the soil.


Ao (pronounced ou as in ouch)

Physical Description:

A massive turtle


When Nu Wa mended the hole in the sky, she was said to have broken off the four legs of an Ao to mark the furthest point in the four directions. There are also a legend of there being three mountains where the divine dwell in that are borne on the back of an Ao.

In the main room of the Imperial Palace in the periods stretching from the Tang Dynasty to the Song Dynasty, there are stone sculptures of a Dragon and an Ao placed on the central stone block that acts as a step up to the throne. All scholars who passed the test to become an official of the Court will line up in a queue below this stone block. Only the one who passed the Court Official test with the highest score had the honour of standing in the position facing the head of the Ao figurine. From this, the Chinese idiom (one of the special 4 Character phrases) for describing the champion in any endeavour “Be in the sole view of the Ao’s Head” is born.

Spin Turtle

Physical Description:

A turtle with the head of a bird, the beak of an eagle and the tail of a snake

Special Properties:

Its call is akin to wood being split open. Wearing its shell can prevent deafness and consuming it can cure lumps in the rectal area (such as those associated with frequent constipation) or foot callouses.


Fabled animal local to a strange body of water

Moon Rabbit (aka Jade Rabbit)

Physical Description:

A normal rabbit


The Moon Rabbit lives on the Moon to keep Chang E company (Chang E is a beautiful woman, the wife of Hou Yi, who according to Chinese legends had eaten both of the Immortally Pills that were meant for her and her husband and thus had risen to the Heaven alone). It was said that Change E had asked the Moon Rabbit to make a medicine for her to go back to the Mortal Realm to reunite with her husband. Hence, the Moon Rabbit is often depicted as working with a mortar and pestle.

Ri Ji

Physical Description:

A normal cow

Special Properties:

Its meat (up to 2-3 Chinese pounds in weight) will grow back fully the day after being cut off with a knife.


A species supposedly local to the area now known as the province of Gan Su

Fu Worm (aka Reverse Nose Worm)

Physical Description:

A worm that can grow to over 100 Chinese pounds. It has needles on its nose and is of a reddish purple colour like the ribbon used in accompaniment with letters in ancient China

Three Legged Turtle

Physical Description:

As its name indicate, this type of turtles only has one leg at the back.

Special Properties:

Consuming its meat can make one more resistant to diseases as well as serving as a cure for swelling.

Dan Prawn

Physical Description:

A giant prawn as long as ten zhang (equivalent to 32m) and whose whiskers are as long as eight Chinese feet (equivalent to 2.56m). It is a pair of wings and its nose is like a saw.


Ma Dan (someone’s name but I have no idea who this person is) had broken off one of its whiskers to use as a walking stick. When he abandoned the stick for flying, the whisker tuned into a round pill.

Translation Quirk:

The Dan character here can refer to a round pill that is often associated with magical/supernatural/divine properties or origins. Sometimes, it also a synonym for the colour red.

Dan Fish

Physical Description:

A fish surrounded by a red light whenever it appears.

Special Properties:

Smearing one’s feet with its blood allows one to walk on water.

Fire Mouse (aka Firelight Beast)

Physical Description:

Same as a normal mouse

Special Properties:

Humans can weave clothes out of its skin. After burning, it is possible to extract the essence from it. Such clothes are called Huo Huan Bu (Cloth of the Fire Washing)

He Luo Fish

Physical Description:

A fish with one head but two bodies

Special Properties:

Its meat is deliciousand is an effective cure for swelling and pimples etc. Its call sounds like the barking of a dog.

Red Ru

Physical Description:

A fish with a human’s face

Special Properties:

Its call is like that of Yuan Yang, Eating its meat can cure illnesses.

Ran Yi Fish

Physical Description:

A six-legged fish with a snake’s head

Special Properties:

Eating this fish can prevent nightmares and misfortunes

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Comments ( 6 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

June 27, 2013, 1:58
This will be an ongoing project for me so more entries are forthcoming. Locked sub to maintain consistency in formats 
Voted Dossta
June 27, 2013, 12:49
You were right Moon -- these are a fascinating read. I preferred the flora to the fauna for some reason. Probably because the flora all had far more detailed physical descriptions. I loved the Shadow Wood and the Ivy Bloom especially.

One suggestion: I know you like to keep to the format, but I feel that the empty sections are just adding clutter to this sub. If there is nothing under Lore, Special Properties, Translation Quirks, etc, consider omitting that section entirely. I don't believe that the omission will confuse anyone, since you labeled those sections optional in the intro.

Looking forward to seeing more of these.
June 27, 2013, 17:55
Actually, at one pt I did consider omitting the Special Properties and Lore section headings as well just like the Translation Quirk. But b/c I didn't label them as optional, I sort of opted for the current approach for consistency of format. But then I think you are right, omitting them wouldn't confuse anyone so I might as well get rid of empty headings.
Voted Gossamer
June 30, 2013, 6:39
I may not be the right person to do this, but I feel that someone should. So, on the behalf of the Community, I would just like to thank you ML, for undertaking such a big project. Even if it isn't neccesarily your own creation, I can certainly see a use for this.

PS. I thought the moon rabbit was making rice-cakes, or is that more a Japanese thing?
June 30, 2013, 18:57
Yep, the Moon Rabbit and rice cakes is a Jap thing.
Voted Murometz
March 4, 2014, 18:05
All quirky and interesting! So easy to just steal an idea or lifeform from this post, and expand it if need be. Really fun scroll!

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