The Door Spirits
Origins and Functions of the Door Spirits
The Door Spirits are the spirits who guard the doors of houses. The worship of the Door Spirits was recorded in the pre-Qin documents in China. The section "Extensive Records of Funerals" in the Book of Rites annotated, "the sovereign worships the Door Spirits with trifling gifts". In the Han dynasty, the Door Spirits referred to Shentu and Yulei. Judgements on Opinions quoted the Book of Mountains and Seas, saying, "in the deep blue sea stands the Dushao Mountain, on which grows a big peach tree lying coiled for 3,000 li. The east and south of the branches are called the Ghosts' Gates, through which the ghosts enter and exit. On the gates there are two persons, namely Shentu and Yulei, who are in charge of inspecting and governing the ghosts. The evil and harmful ghosts are bound with reed ropes to be fed to tigers. So the Yellow Emperor holds rituals and exorcises ghosts on time. He sets up a big person made of peach wood, draws Shentu, Yulei and tiger on the door, and hangs reed ropes in order to ward off ferocious demons". In the Southern and Northern dynasties, there was the custom of drawing the picture of the Door Spirits Shentu and Yulei who wore suits of amour and held battle axes on their doors. Shentu was portrayed with a white face and happy appearance while Yulei was portrayed with a red face and angry appearance by later generations. Such portraits were passed on through generations. According to the Comprehensive Collection of Investigations into the Divinities of the Three Doctrines since their Origin, in the Tang dynasty, emperor Taizong felt unwell and heard the howling of demons outside his bedroom at night. When Emperor Taizong told this to his subjects, Qin Shubao (i.e. Qin Qiong) petitioned to the emperor that together with Hu Jingde (or Weichi Jingde), he would like to stand outside the bedroom door in martial attire to guard the emperor. Emperor Taizong ratified his petition, and as desired, nothing happened that night. Hence emperor Taizong ordered artisan-painters to draw pictures of Qin Shubao and Hu Jingde in martial attire and hang them on the gates of palaces, and then the evil spirits disappeared. The latter generations followed the custom, so Qin Qiong and Hu Jingde (or Weichi Jingde) were said to be the Door Spirits. Qin Qiong was portrayed with a white face and Hu Jingde with a black face. When the spirits were ranked in the Daoist books of the Song dynasty, the Door Spirit was always ranked as the lowest among all the divinities, because its functions were merely to guard the doors of rooms and ward off demons, harassment and invasion.
The divine birthday of the Door Spirits is on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month. Among the people there exist the customs of worshiping the Door Spirits and pasting their pictures on the gates in the season of the new spring. Some renowned places producing traditional pictures printed from engraved wooden plates, such as Yangliuqing, Weifang and Taohuawu, are also famous for the printing of the Door Spirit's pictures. The pictures of the Door Spirits are rich and varied. Some Door Spirits wear tiger helmets and some wear robes and ornaments. Some jubilant designs, such as those of deer, bats, precious horses and bottles and saddles, also decorate the New Year pictures to pray for good luck.