In Chinese Daoism, there are deities for almost everything.
玄武 Xuan Wu is a Daoist deity. Like many Daoist deities, he is surrounded in myth and history.His first appearance is from pre-history – 玄武 Xuan Wu is one of China’s four mega-constellations and he rules the northern heavens.
During the time of the Mongolian invasions of China, and prior to the establishment of the Yuan dynasty, leading Daoist Qiu Chuji made a remarkable journey from Shandong, China, to Mongolia, to visit the Mongolian emperor Chinghis Khan. Beijing’s White Cloud Temple ( Baiyunguan) has a mural depicting this r journey.
The deity 玄武 Xuan Wu became popular around this time.By the tenth century, he became immortalised as a deity -one in every two villages in northern China used to have temples to Xuan Wu. (Chao, 2011). The deity is also known as
真武,zhen wu, the perfect warrior
He is resident on Wudangshan, where a particular style of Daoist gongfu emerged. Zhen Wu became known as the military god. During the Jurchen invasion of China, which eventually led to Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty and founding of the Yuan, Daoists on Wudangshan were part of the resistance to the invasion. Worshippers of Zhen Wu came to live on the mountain.
“Only the Northern Emperor of the Dark Heaven has the most mercy for my country” reads a fifteenth century ( Song Dynasty) plaque to Xuan Wu in a Beijing temple.(Giuffrida, 1999)
Xuan Wu was regarded as a protector of his country and people, as well as being a heavenly god, resident in the northern sector of the sky.
So for security of Heaven and Earth, you could turn to no better deity than
真武,zhen wu, the perfect warrior.
- Zhou Xuan Yun is a Wudangshan Daoist who runs the website Daoist Gate, http://daoistgate.com/. He discusses 真武,zhen wu, the perfect warrior, here
2. Chao Shin Yi’s book “Daoist Rituals, State Religion and Popular Worship Practices, Zhenwu Worship, published in 2011by Routledge, references the study of Xuan Wu temples in northern China.
3. Noelle Giuffrida wrote a 1999 thesis on Xuan Wu – its available on the world wide web.