Tian Gou: The White-Headed Fox Cat that Eating the Sun and Moon

Tian Gou | Heaven Dog

A Beast Capable of Warding off Danger

《Classic of Mountains and Seas》

Three hundred miles to the west lies the Yin Mountains. The Zhuoyu River flows from there, southward to the Fan Marsh. Within it are numerous wenshells, and there is a beast called the Tian Gou. It resembles a fox with a white head, and its sound is like the sound of pomegranates. It can ward off danger.

Tian Gou Eating the Sun and Moon

Legend has it that in ancient times, there was a young noble named "Mu Qianlian". He was inclined towards Buddhism and was kind-hearted. He was extremely filial to his mother, but Mu Qianlian's mother, being a goddess, had a fierce temperament and strong likes and dislikes.

Once, Mu Qianlian's mother had a sudden malicious idea: to play a trick on the monks who recited Buddhist scriptures and observed vegetarianism. She decided to serve meat instead of vegetarian food and planned to serve dog meat buns. She ordered the making of 360 dog meat buns, claiming them to be vegetarian buns, intending to offer them to the monks at the temple. Mu Qianlian got wind of this and tried to dissuade his mother, but she wouldn't listen. In haste, he informed the abbot of the temple. The abbot then prepared 360 vegetarian buns, secretly hiding them in the sleeves of each monk's robe. When Mu Qianlian's mother came to offer alms, she distributed a dog meat bun to each monk. Before the meal, while the monks were reciting Buddhist scriptures, they switched the dog meat buns with the vegetarian ones hidden in their sleeves and ate them instead. Seeing that all the monks had eaten her buns, Mu Qianlian's mother clapped her hands and laughed, saying, "Today the monks are eating meat! The monks are eating dog meat buns!" The abbot clasped his hands together and repeatedly chanted, "Amitabha Buddha, forgive us, forgive us!" Afterward, the 360 dog meat buns were buried behind the temple.

When the Jade Emperor in heaven learned of this incident, he was extremely angry. He condemned Mu Qianlian's mother to the 18 layers of hell, where she transformed into a vicious dog, never to be reincarnated. Mu Qianlian, being a filial son, learned of his mother's damnation. He practiced diligently day and night and eventually became Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. To save his mother, he used his staff to open the gates of hell. Mu Qianlian's mother and all the evil spirits escaped from hell and wreaked havoc in the mortal world. Enraged, the Jade Emperor ordered Mu Qianlian to descend to earth and incarnate as Huang Chao. The later legend of "Huang Chao slaughtering eight million people" is said to be related to his mission of capturing these escaped evil spirits from hell. After escaping from hell, Mu Qianlian's mother, transformed into a vicious dog, went to the heavenly court to settle scores with the Jade Emperor. Unable to find the Jade Emperor there, she pursued the sun and moon, intending to swallow them and plunge the heavens and earth into darkness. This vicious dog chased relentlessly day and night. When she caught up with the moon, she swallowed it whole; and when she caught up with the sun, she did the same. However, the vicious dog, transformed from Mu Qianlian's mother, was most afraid of drums, gongs, and fireworks. Terrified, she regurgitated the swallowed sun and moon.

After being rescued, the sun and moon resumed their course, shining brightly again. The vicious dog, unwilling to give up, continued to pursue them, resulting in solar and lunar eclipses time and again. People referred to these phenomena as "Tian Gou eating the Sun" and "Tian Gou eating the Moon". During solar and lunar eclipses, many people in cities and villages would bang drums and gongs and set off fireworks to drive away the Tian Gou.