Mirror Myths – Chinese Fauna of Mirrors

When you look in the mirror, are you sure that it’s you looking back at yourself, or is it something else, something entirely more sinister?

This week in our journey through the mirror myths of various cultures and ages, we look at the very apt Chinese Legend of the Mirror World.

During less advanced times, many cultures believed that mirrors were windows into parallel worlds. Ethereal worlds. Worlds which mirrored ours, but really were very different.

The Ancient Chinese subscribed to this belief system. They thought that the reflections they saw in the mirror were not reflections at all, but were in fact, another species entirely – and one whose purpose in pretending to be our reflections was nothing short of ominous.

These creatures, according to Ancient Chinese folklore, only mimicked us so that they could learn our ways and eventually, when they were ready, emerge through the mirrors that served as windows into their worlds and take our places. Of course, since these evil beings were pretending to be our reflections, once they emerged, neither we, nor they would continue to have reflections.

Legend has it, that in Ancient China, these creatures once clambered forth through our mirrors and sprang a full scale attack on humanity, driving into our world by the thousands only to begin to devour their human counterparts once they arrived.

Unlike with the majority of myths and legends relating to mirrors, or anything else for that matter, the creepiest facet of this particular tale, is that it is recorded in historical Chinese writings as an actual event – and even given a specific year, 2697BC, in which it is meant to have happened.

It is written that the attack was finally thwarted and thrown back, when the great Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, devised an alchemical trap which lured the creatures in and subsequently imprisoned them on their side of the mirrors once more.

The artwork and legends of China in 2697BC tell of the other world and their creatures in great detail, referring to them as the Fauna of Mirrors. They believed that although the world through the mirror looked like ours, it was in fact just a façade and the mirror world held no similarity to ours at all.

There were said to be several ranks of demon that inhabited the other world. Those whose job was to mirror people and learn to behave as we do, were the lowest level of demon, their only interest was to kill us and devour our souls. Above them were the ranks of demons that were never seen, bringers of war whose abilities to shape shift would enable them to cause untold violence and destruction once they had access to our world.  The highest rank belonged to their leader; a great tiger.

According to Chinese legend, the tiger was discovered by Huang Di as it was trying to impersonate the form of one of his pet tigers, he then cast a spell which locked the demon general in the tiger form for ten thousand years. The emperor warned that the prison he had made for the creatures would not hold forever and they would return one day to try to take our world for themselves once again.

The final type of creature on the other side of the mirror was known as the fish. It’s told to be the flash of light that is sometimes seen from the corner of the eye as we turn towards or away from a mirror. These fish serve as gatekeepers to our world and Huang Di warned that the day we stop seeing them will be the day that the Fauna of Mirrors will once again have access to our world and that all of mankind will be in danger.

So when you think you see movement in the mirror out of the corner of your eye, rather than worry what it might be, or think you’re going mad, think about this; maybe it’s one of the fish guardians Huang Di set to guard the gateway from the demon world against invasion.

So we’ll leave you with this thought; rather than worrying about seeing things in the mirror that aren’t there, maybe it’s when we stop thinking we’ve seen something that we should start to worry … 

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