The origins of the Chinese traditional gods behind Wuhan’s Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals

By Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/4 20:05:00

Aerial photo taken on Feb. 2, 2020 shows the Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) Hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province. Photo: Xinhua


The names of Wuhan's two new hospitals for combating the deadly novel conronavirus, Huoshenshan and Leishenshan, demonstrate Chinese people's connections to the country's traditional God of Fire and God of Thunder.

Huoshenshan Hospital, a 1,000-bed hospital with a quarantine area of 34,000 square meters, was put into use on Monday, while construction of Leishenshan Hospital, which has 1,300 beds, will be completed on Wednesday.

Huoshenshan means Mountain of the Fire God, while Leishenshan means Mountain of the Thunder God. 

God of Thunder

Worship of thunder gods is an ancient and global cultural phenomenon. It is the most widely worshiped type of god, according to a report of the Paper.

In China, the Thunder God is the god of punishment. Those who violate human ethics and commit unforgivable crimes will be struck to death by a bolt of lightning.

The images of the god changed throughout the centuries according to Chinese historical records and ancient murals. According to Mountains and Seas, a book recording ancient myths that was completed before the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), the earliest image of the Thunder God has human head but a dragon's body.

After the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220), the image of the god turned into a strong man who was half-naked. 

Like Thor, the god of thunder in Norse mythology, the Chinese Thunder God also held a weapon in hands, but the difference is Thor possesses the magic hammer Mjolnir while the Chinese god uses a circle of drums and an awl to produce thunder and lightning.

In a mural of a royal noble's tomb from the Northern Dynasties, the God of Thunder is encircled by 13 drums. He looks as if he is stepping on different drums in the wall painting, and the drums continued to whirl under the furious taps, giving off a continuous and startling roar, according to the Paper.

The image of the Thunder God has always been muscled, strong-willed and furious in Chinese fairy tales, so the name was chosen for the hospital becuase it is believed it can suppress and defeat the deadly virus.

God of Fire

Huoshenshan Hospital's name is not only related to the ancient Chinese god but also contains elements of the Chinese philosophy of wuxing, also known as Five Elements, which covers the five types of energies that become dominant at different times. 

The five elements are metal, wood, water, fire and earth. In traditional Chinese medicine, each of these are also linked to the body's five major organs and are used to describe the interaction between these organs.

These five elements have two relations: mutual generation and mutual overcoming. Depending on the pairing, a certain element can help or give birth to another element and can also suppress a different one.

"In Traditional Chinese Medicine, metal represents the lungs. In wuxing,  fire overcomes metal," a Chinese medicine doctor surnamed Duan in North China's Shanxi Province told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"I think the hospital's name contains fire to suppress the lung infection caused be novel coronavirus."

"The novel coronavirus is also vunerable to high temperatures, so I think this is a good name," Duan added.

The Chinese God of Fire, also known as Zhurong, is described as the invincible nemisis of the God of Plagues in Chinese mythology as he can drive diseases away.

Zhurong is also said to be an ancestor of the eight lineages of the royal families of the Chu State of the Warring States (475BC-221BC). The state of Chu was located in the area that is today's Central China's Hubei Province, where the virus originated.

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