50 Legendary Artifacts From Chinese Mythology
Unlike other ancient cultures, there are very few famous legendary artifacts or weapons in classic Chinese mythology.
Few gods or demons wield artifacts that are specifically named. Even with the exception, names given were assigned by storytellers or scholars in later centuries, and have little to do with actual religious or folkloric beliefs.
For the above reason, this list includes magical weapons, relics, and instruments from the Chinese classic fantasy novels of Journey to the West and Investiture of the Gods. Note that this does not discount the integrity of the list. While these artifacts are markedly fictitious, the two 16th century sagas are so beloved in China they are considered synonymous with Chinese mythology. It is also not an exaggeration to say most Chinese are more familiar with the artifacts in these sagas, than those from ancient Chinese myths.
Names in brackets are written in Simplified Chinese characters i.e. the form used in the People’s Republic of China.
It is not possible to include every single supernatural artifact named in Journey to the West and Investiture of the Gods; this list will extend to the length of a novella. Listed are the more unique and famous ones.
Legendary artifacts from the above-mentioned novels will be marked as such:
- From Journey to the West (J)
- From Investiture of the Gods (I)
- Armaments of the Four Heavenly Kings: In practically all Chinese depictions of the Buddhist Four Heavenly Kings, each deity is shown wielding a distinctive weapon. Investiture of the Gods names these as:
- Chi Guo Tian Wang (持国天王): The Eastern King. He wields the Yu Pipa (玉琵琶), a jade pipa capable of controlling the weather and elements. In some depictions, the instrument induces drowsiness too.
- Zeng Zhang Tian Wang (增长天王): The Southern King. His weapon is the Qingfeng Sword (青锋剑), a blade with inscriptions that could summon winds and even a fire-spewing serpent.
- Guang Mu Tian Wang (广目天王): The Western King. He wields the Hunyuan San (混元伞), a precious parasol that releases chaos. In some pop entertainment depictions, the parasol also capture enemies.
- Duo Wen Tian Wang (多闻天王): The Northern King. Other than whips, he is assisted by a divine ferret. Note that in most Chinese temples though, Duo Wen Tian Wang is shown holding a golden pagoda instead.
- Bajiao Shan (芭蕉扇): In Journey to the West, there were two Bajiao Shan, or Banana Leaf Fan. One was an armament of the Gold and Silver Horn Demon Brothers. The more famous one was the signature artifact of the Princess of the Iron Fan. The Princess’ one was capable of summoning cyclones and storms with just a casual flap, and in the story, needed by Sun Wukong to extinguish the Flaming Mountains. (J)
- Baolian Deng (宝莲灯): The Precious Lotus Lantern. This was the incredibly powerful artifact of Chinese folkloric goddess Sansheng Mu. After Sansheng Mu was imprisoned within Mount Hua for marrying a mortal, her son used the lantern to free her.
- Baopi Nang (豹皮囊): The Leopard Skin Bag. One of the treasures of Nezha and used by the boy warrior to store his many other legendary artifacts. (I)
- Dashen Bian (打神鞭): The Immortal-Thrashing Whip. Described as a wooden baton in Investiture of the Gods, this weapon was gifted to Jiang Ziya by Yuanshi Tianjun at the start of the Shang-Zhou conflict. Of note, although the baton was empowered by many Taoists inscriptions, it could only be used on beings whose names were scribed in the Fengshen Bang (see below). (I)
- Ershisi Dinghai Shenzhu (二十四定海神珠): The 24 Ocean Calming Pearls. Aglow with five colors, these primordial treasures were among the most powerful weapons in Investiture of the Gods. (I)
- Fantian Yin (番天印): The Heavenly Upheaval Stamp. Shaped like an elaborate Chinese imperial stamp, this awful weapon specializes in head bashes – victims were completely pulped. Owned by Guangcheng Zi before passed to his disciple, Yin Jiao. (I)
- Fenghuo Lun (风火轮): The Wheels of Fire and Wind. Nezha primarily used these as his vehicle; he traveled by standing atop them. In combat, Nezha also used these to summon supernatural fire. (I)
- Fenghuo Putuan (风火蒲团): The Futon of Wind and Fire. “Futon” here refers to the sitting cushions used by Taoists and Buddhists during meditation; this legendary artifact itself the “seat” of Laozi. Imbued with the elemental powers of wind and fire, the futon could capture enemies and objects. It could also summon a formidable heavenly warrior as a familiar. (I)
- Fengshen Bang (封神榜): The Scroll of Godly Coronation. In Investiture of the Gods, Jiang Ziya “appointed” new deities using this. On the scroll was written the names of those destined to be gods. (I)
- Huang Jinshen (幌金绳): The Shimmering Golden Rope. One of the many treasures of the Gold and Silver Horn Demon Brothers. Once released, it will bind an enemy by itself. Previously the waist sash of Laozi. (J)
- Huntian Ling (混天绫): The Red Armillary Sash. One of the most famous weapons of Nezha, the red sash could self-regenerate when cut, bind enemies by itself, and when swirl in the sea, create tempests. (I)
- Hunyuan Jindou (混元金斗): The Golden Chalice of Primordial Chaos. In Investiture of the Gods, this legendary artifact easily imprisoned many of the strongest warriors of the Zhou faction. Among fans of the saga, it is considered one of the deadliest artifacts. (I)
- Huohuan Bu (火浣布): Fire-Washed Cloths. In Chinese folktales and ancient texts, this was a sort of fire-resistant cloth spun in Mount Kunlun. If soiled, one simply needs to toss the cloth into a bonfire and all stains will drop off. In modern times, the name is used to describe cloth made from asbestos fiber.
- Huojian Qiang (火尖枪): The Fire-Tipped Spear. One of the many magical weapons of Nezha and capable of spewing fire from its tip. (I)
- Wanya Hu (万鸦壶): The Pot of Ten Thousand Crows. The crows were fiery in nature, and when paired with “Wanli Qi Yunyan” (万里起云烟; Ten Thousand Miles of Smoke), could incinerate an entire city. (I)
- Jin Jiao Jian (金蛟剪): The Scissors of the Golden Python. This formidable pair of magical shears could assume various forms. In its original shape, it could effortlessly clip enemies into two with just one snip. (I)
- Jin Zhuan (金砖): The Golden Brick. A hurling weapon of Nezha. (I)
- Jindou Yun (筋斗云): The Somersault Cloud. The beloved vehicle of Sun Wukong, it enabled the Monkey King to travel ten thousand miles with a single leap. (J)
- Jiulong Shenhuo Zhao (九龙神火罩): The Shroud of Nine Fiery Dragons. The most powerful weapon of Nezha and gifted to him by his master after his resurrection. When invoked, the shroud summons nine fire-breathing dragons to incinerate enemies. (I)
- Kunwu Jian (昆吾剑): The Sword of Kunwu. Said to be the legendary sword wielded by King Mu of the ancient Zhou Dynasty during his war with the Kun Rong Tribe.
- Linglong Baota (玲珑宝塔): The Exquisite (Golden) Pagoda. One of the most unique artifacts introduced in Chinese classical fantasy fiction, this incredible pagoda could magically imprison most beings. When not in used, it was but a few inches tall, no different from a table decoration. The representative treasure of Li Jing, the “Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King,” the artifact was based on the depictions of Bishamon in Buddhist mythology. (I)
- Liuhun Fan (六魂幡): The Banner of Six Souls. In Investiture of the Gods, Tongtian Jiaozhu pasted the names of the six most important Zhou leaders onto this triangular banner. Had he been able to complete the subsequent ritual, he would have instantly killed all six. Fortunately, the banner was stolen by a Shang defector. (I)
- Luobao Jingqian (落宝金钱): The Treasure-Defeating Golden Coin. A very useful projectile that could shoot down airborne weapons of enemies. (I)
- Pangu Fu (盘古斧): The Legendary Axe of Pangu, the primordial giant in ancient Chinese mythology credited with creating the world. Using this axe, Pangu split the sky from the earth. He also separated the Yang from the Yin. In Investiture of the Gods, author Xu Zhonglin reimagined this as a banner named Pangu Fan (盘古幡).
- Pantao (蟠桃): Chinese divine peaches. Typically described as requiring several millennia to cultivate, these magical fruits appeared in many Chinese myths and folktales. They are said to bestow immortality. Culturally, they also represent longevity.
- Qiankun Quan (乾坤圈): The Universal Ring. One of the most famous armaments of Nezha, the other being the Red Armillary Sash, this indestructible ring could both bash and immobilize enemies. Note that though describe as a ring, it’s more of a loop with a diameter of at least a foot long. It could also vary in size. (I)
- Qibao Miaoshua Shu (七宝妙刷树): The Tree of Seven Treasures. Made from Bodhi wood and various kinds of precious metals and gems, this dazzling artifact could “brush away” i.e. capture anything. Wielded by Zhu Ti Dao Ren and based on the Buddhist concept of “sapta ratna^ni,” or the Seven Treasures. (I)
- Qingjing Liuli Ping (清净琉璃瓶): The Lapis Lazuli Bottle of Purity. This elegant relic was the mythical treasure of Cihang Zhenren in Investiture of the Gods. As Cihang was the novel’s version of Avalokiteshvara, the name is nowadays sometimes used to describe the ceramic bottle of dew held by Chinese portrayals of the Bodhisattva i.e. Guanyin. (I)
- Qinglong Yanyue Dao (青龙偃月刀): The Green Dragon Crescent Blade. Similar in form to the western fauchard, and weighing 82 Chinese jin, this formidable polearm is renowned throughout the Chinese world as the powerful armament of Guan Yu, the historical embodiment of honor. In modern Chinese literature, it is also referred to as Guan Dao.
- Qixing Baojian (七星宝剑): The Precious Sword of the Dipper. One of the many armaments of the Gold and Silver Horn Demon Brothers. (J)
- Ruyi Jingu Bang (如意金箍棒): The Golden, “As-You-Wish” Cudgel of Sun Wukong the Monkey King. Originally a magical needle used by Da Yu to redirect the waters of the world, it became Sun’s signature weapon after he stole it from the Dragon Court of the Eastern Ocean. The cudgel itself was indestructible and capable of extending or shrinking to unbelievable sizes. (J)
- Sanbao Yuruyi (三宝玉如意): The Jade Ruyi of Three Treasures. In Investiture of the Gods, this was the signature artifact of Yuanshi Tianjun and considered one of the most powerful weapons in the saga. (I)
- Shangbao Qinjin Ba (上宝沁金耙): The Precious Sheet-Metal Rake. The weapon of Zhu Bajie in Journey to the West, it is also known as the Jiuchi Dingba (九齿钉耙). Appearance-wise, it resembles an iron farmer’s rake with elaborate carvings. (J)
- Shanhe Sheji Tu (山河社稷图): The Diorama of Civilization/Community. A supremely powerful artifact owned by Nüwa in Investiture of the Gods, the diorama contained within it an entire miniature world. In later chapters, Yang Jian used the diorama to fool and defeat the Seven Brothers of Mount Mei. (I)
- Shuanggu Jian (双股剑): The legendary Twin Swords of Liu Bei, Emperor of Shu Han during China’s Three Kingdoms period.
- Taiji Tu (太极图): The Diagram of Taiji; Taiji being one of the central concepts and symbols in Taoism. In Investiture of the Gods, this was the legendary artifact wielded by Laozi. It was described as containing the natural laws of the universe and capable of controlling/suppressing all elements. (I)
- Ten Legendary Swords of Ou Yezi (欧冶子) and Gan Jiang (干将): Ou Yezi was a mythical Chinese sword-maker from the Spring and Autumn Period. According to legend, he forged several fantastical blades for the ancient Kingdom of Chu. He also forged several other together with Gan Jiang i.e. another legendary sword maker. In later centuries, these swords were grouped as the Ten Legendary Swords of China. They are:
- Chunjun (纯钧)
- Ganjiang (干将)
- Gongbu (工布)
- Juque (巨阙)
- Longyuan (龙渊)
- Moye (莫邪)
- Shengxie (胜邪)
- Tai’e (泰阿)
- Yuchang (鱼肠)
- Zhanlu (湛卢)
- Tengkong Jian (腾空剑): The Airborne Sword. Described in Chinese folktales as one of the weapons of Zhuanxu, a mythical emperor of China. The sword supposedly descended from the skies when China was invaded by barbarians. Of note, “Tengkong” means airborne in Chinese.
- Wuhuo Qilingshan (五火七翎扇): The Five Fires Fan of Seven Plumes. A mythical fire-based weapon originally owned by Qinqu Daode Zhenjun, and later given to his disciple Yang Ren. Capable of incinerating enemies with a single flap. (I)
- Wuse Bi (五色笔): The Five-Colors Brush. In Chinese folktales, anything drawn by this amazing brush will materialize or spring to life.
- Xiangyao Baozhang (降妖宝杖): The Demon Subduing Rod. This was the signature weapon of San Wujing i.e. the faithful third disciple of Tang Sanzang (Tripiṭaka). In Chinese television series and movies, it is usually shown as an iron rod with decorative carvings, and capped by a crescent blade. (J)
- Yangzi Yu Jingping (羊脂玉净瓶): The Jade Suet Bottle. One of several weapons wielded by the Gold Horn Demon, and originally the water canteen of Laozi, the bottle could instantly capture a living being. It also possesses the ability to reduce a captured enemy to goo. This legendary artifact was powerful enough to frustrate even Sun Wukong. (J)
- Yinyang Jin (阴阳镜): The Mirror of Yin and Yang. This useful treasure was a relic of Mount Kunlun, with the “Yang” side capable of reviving the dead and the “Yin” side capable of instantly killing a being. (I)
- Zhangba Shemao (丈八蛇矛): The Eight-Feet Serpent Lance. Armament of the ferocious Zhang Fei of Three Kingdoms fame.
- Zhanxian Feidao (斩仙飞刀): The Immortal Slaying Flying Dagger. Despite its name, this fearsome weapon was actually a miniature humanoid within a gourd. When invoked, the humanoid emerges to decapitate an enemy within seconds. It also captures the souls of targets, thus preventing resurrection. One of the most feared artifacts in Investiture of the Gods, this was the weapon that slayed Da Ji i.e. the villainess behind the entire conflict. (I)
- Zhaoyao Jing (照妖镜): The Demon Revealing Mirror. In Journey to the West, this was a minor artifact owned by “Pagoda Bearing Heavenly King” Li Jing, capable of revealing the true forms of demons. In modern times, the name is often used in Chinese supernatural movies to describe objects with similar capabilities. (J)
- Zhinan Che (指南车): The South-Pointing Chariot. Also known as the Compass Chariot, this vehicle was supposedly created by legendary Chinese emperor Huang Di for the purpose of guiding his troops through the magical fogs spewed by his mortal enemy, Chi You.
- Zhuxian Jianzhen (诛仙剑阵): The Immortal-Killing Sword Array. Powered by four magical swords, this deadly array was capable of massacring anything that enters it, including gods and immortals. Tongtian Jiaozhu created this array during his penultimate confrontation with the Zhou army. (I)
- Zijin Hong Hulu (紫金红葫芦): The Purple-Gold Red Gourd. One of several legendary artifacts wielded by the Silver Horn Demon, and originally the elixir container of Laozi, the gourd could instantly capture a living being. It also possesses the ability to reduce a captured enemy to goo. The gourd was powerful enough to frustrate even Sun Wukong. (J)
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