Bai Ze

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Portrait of the Bai Ze on a Japanese picture scroll.

Bai Ze (白澤, 白泽, Baí Zé, Pai Tse), or hakutaku (白沢 in Japanese), is a fantastic beast from Chinese legend. Its name literally means "white marsh".

The Bai Ze was encountered by the Yellow Emperor while he was on patrol in the east. 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 overcome their hauntings and attacks. 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.

The common Japanese image generally depicts the hakutaku as a bovine creature with nine eyes and six horns, arranged in sets of three and two on both its flanks and its man-like face. It is also depicted as having the body of a lion and eight eyes. It is considered to be intelligent, well read with the ability to understand human speech.


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