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Portrait of the Bai Ze on a Japanese picture scroll.

Bai Ze (traditional Chinese: 白澤; simplified Chinese: 白泽; pinyin: Baí Zé; Wade-Giles: Pai Tse), or hakutaku (白沢) in Japanese, is a fantastic beast from Chinese legend which is said to advise only kings of virtue.


Etymology

Bai Ze literally means "white marsh".


Appearance

Bai Ze is generally depicted as looking somewhat like a massive lion and can be distinguished by the presence of single or double horns. Often it will have extra eyes on its face or back. It is usually considered to be quite intelligent and well-read.


Story

According to the legend, Bai Ze was encountered by the Yellow Emperor while he was on patrol in the East. The creature could talk and explained that he only visited the greatest and most auspicious of rulers. The Bai Ze dictated to Huang Di a guide to the forms and habits of all 11,520 types of supernatural creatures in the world, and how to tame and exorcise the bad ones and deal with the good ones. The emperor had this information written down in a book called the Bai Ze Tu (白澤圖). This book no longer exists, but many fragments of it survive in other texts.


In Japan

According to legend a creature called kutabe, thought to be identical to the Bai Ze of China, once appeared on Mount Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture and predicted that a deadly plague would sweep through in the next few years. The beast prescribed that its own image be used as a talisman to ward off the disease, and since then the hakutaku has been worshipped as a guardian spirit of herbal medicine.


References

  • Harper, Donald (December 1985). "A Chinese Demonography of the Third Century B.C.". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 45 (2): pp. 491-492.
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.