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Genesis: Historical research

Guardians of Hearth in the Russian and Chinese mythological traditions

Popova Anastasiia

Senior Educator, Department of Chinese Language, Moscow City Pedagogical University

105064, Russia, g. Moscow, per. Malyi Kazennyi, 5-B, of. 507

Other publications by this author

Serebryakova Anastasiia Igorevna

Bachelor, Department of Chinese Language, Moscow City Pedagogical University

127238, Russia, Moscow, Dmitrovskoe highway, 34, building 2, office 204










Abstract: One of the most frequently encountered characters in the mythology of various cultures are household spirits, deities-guardians of the hearth, who have lived side by side with humans since ancient times. In this article, on the basis of Russian and Chinese sources, the authors conduct a comparative analysis of the images of the patrons of the household in such aspects as the names given to them by the bearers of culture, versions of origin, appearance, marital status, functions that these deities performed, rituals of worship. The subject of the research is the images of the Domovoy and God of the hearth of Zao-wang in Russian and Chinese cultures. The aim of the work is to find similarities and differences about Domovoy and Zao-wang, to comprehend the interaction of a person with the domestic spirit in Russia and China, which is relevant in the light of the strengthening of relationship between the two countries and contributes to a better understanding of both Chinese and Russian culture. The novelty lies in the absence of such a comparative study in Russian science. As a result of the work, it was revealed that the characters of the keeper of the hearth in the Russian and Chinese traditions have both similarities and differences. Similar features of home spirits are due to global cultural processes, while their differences are determined by worldview and other features of the regions.


Chinese mythology, Russian mythology, Domovoy, Zao Wang, Zao Shen, Kitchen God, Tutelary deity, patron of the household, house spirit, Chinese folk culture

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

A distinctive feature of both Chinese and Russian folklore is their versatility, a wide range of beliefs and ideas. Despite the difference in the cultural heroes of these peoples due to geographical factors, moral norms and aesthetic ideas, the myths of the Chinese and Russian people have similar ideas about the world order and higher powers. One of the common characters in the mythology of the Slavs and the Chinese is the keeper of the hearth, which in the Russian tradition is called a brownie, and in the Chinese – Tsao-wang. In this work, based on the material of Russian and Chinese sources, a comparative analysis of the images of patrons of the household is carried out, the similarities and differences of these heroes are revealed. The subject of the study is the images of the brownie and the God of the hearth Tsao-wang in Russian and Chinese cultures. Russian Russian and Chinese conceptualization of the house and its patrons is aimed at finding common features, which is relevant in the light of the rapprochement between Russia and China and contributes to a better understanding of both Chinese and Russian culture.

The following tasks were set:

1) To present the image of the Russian and Chinese keepers of the hearth – brownie and Tsao-wang, respectively;

2) Describe the current state of these two cults;

3) To conduct a comparative analysis of images of domestic spirits based on the following criteria: connection with ideas about the hearth; legends about the appearance; appearance; methods of naming; functions; forms of veneration; holidays associated with the patrons of the hearth; connection with a pet – a horse.

Brownie (or brownie, Grandfather) – in Slavic folklore, the spirit is the owner of the house, protecting its inhabitants and livestock. In the "Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian language" by S. I. Ozhegov, the following definition of a brownie is given: "In Slavic mythology: a fairy-tale creature living in a house, an evil or kind spirit of the house" [10, p. 170].

According to popular beliefs, the ancestor of the family became a brownie. In some cases, it was the spirit of the "right deceased", i.e. the one whose soul was pure and who was properly buried. In other cases, it was an unclean spirit, a cursed soul, a devil [15, p. 116]. Under the influence of Christianity, the following legend about the appearance of a house-dweller appeared. God, having created the world, threw all devils from heaven to earth. Those who got into the house became brownies, those who got into the water – water, those who got into the forest – goblins, etc. Unlike other evil spirits, the brownies turned out to be good spirits, so the families managed to get along with them [8, pp. 28-29].

Along with the male image of the Brownie, there are female paired correspondences to this character: in some cases it is the wife and daughter of the Brownie, in others – independent characters — mythological housewives of the house [6, p. 120].

Russian Russian domestic spirit also has children in addition to the wife – domoviha, in Russian mythology, the number of which was equal to the number of children in a family living in a house guarded by a brownie.

It is impossible to judge unambiguously about the appearance of a brownie. The spirit was attributed the appearance of a man, an old man with a thick beard. Often the Grandfather was very similar to the deceased or living owner of the house. Nevertheless, in the appearance of the brownie, the features of evil spirits "appeared": woolen coat, claws, the absence of one ear. The brownie was dressed in an old zipun, a blue caftan or a red belted shirt [6, p. 121]. It was believed that the brownie was able to turn into an animal, for example, a cat, a snake, a weasel, a frog and other creatures. The true appearance of the Grandfather was hidden.

Fig. 1 I. Ya. Bilibin. Goblin

Most often, the housekeeper lived by the stove, in the barn, could choose other places that a person could not occupy, otherwise he would be ill [15, pp. 106-107, 109-110].

The Slavs believed that the main occupation of a brownie is to help in the household and everyday life. If the spirit was treated correctly, then he treated the owners kindly: dried grain, kept the fire in the oven, protected the house from other spirits. According to beliefs, the brownie had a special attitude to animals, in particular, to horses: he watered and fed them, braided his mane into braids [15, p. 118]. However, if the brownie was offended, they did not show him proper respect, and there was a discord in the family, then the Grandfather could get angry and start messing with the owners. So, they said that the spirit began to make noise, beat dishes, scare tenants, throw off their blankets at night. When the brownie did not like the horse, he drove her around the barn, prevented her from eating, the animal became skinny and sick. In such cases, they tried to sell the horse and buy a new horse that would appeal to Grandfather [6, p. 122].

Another thing of the domestic spirit, as the Russian people believed, was the prediction of the future, a warning against trouble. When the housekeeper had a premonition of misfortune, he howled, knocked, slammed doors, could crush a person in a dream. If misfortune was not expected, the brownie stroked the person with a shaggy hand, if someone from the family members was in trouble, then the stroking hand felt like a naked, hairless one [6, pp. 122-123].

Изображение выглядит как рисунок, картина, искусство, Предмет коллекционирования  Автоматически созданное описание

Fig. 2 A postcard with the image of a Brownie (1900-1917)

Sometimes Grandfather could get angry at something and start hooliganism, in which case the household tried to appease him: they presented him with bread, meat, milk as a gift. If this failed to restore the good mood of the brownie, then various rituals were performed to "pacify" him, for example, a bear or goat unpleasant to the brownie was brought into the stable, a lime stick was waved in the yard, a knife was stuck over the door [6, p. 124].

To maintain good relations with the spirit, the family treated him to food on holidays, presented him with scraps of cloth and other gifts [6, p. 123]. When moving to another house, the brownie was always called with him, otherwise the Grandfather could take offense and start bringing troubles both in the new and in the old house. If someone else's brownie remained in the new home, they tried to "escort him out" before the guardian spirit of the family came, otherwise quarrels began between them. Moreover, the Russians tried to prevent the appearance of a second brownie in the house, for which they hung amulets in the stable [6, pp. 123-124].

Some sources mention the day of veneration of the brownie, which fell on February 10 (January 28, old style) and coincided with the Orthodox feast of the Memory of St. Ephraim the Syrian [3, p. 40],[4, p. 119]. On this day, the Russians cajoled the Grandfather, presenting him with treats as a gift and uttering conspiracies.

Currently, the cult of the brownie is rarely found among the Russian population, faith in the domestic spirit is maintained only in remote sparsely populated villages. The reason for this can be seen in the influence of Christianity, which considered the brownie to be an evil force, which was forbidden to worship. This principle persists today: for example, in 2019, Archbishop Seraphim (in the world Vladimir Setrakovich Melkonyan) opposed the return of "the people to the dark ages of paganism" in connection with the installation of brownie figures on the historic Honey Bridge and the Amber Museum building in Kaliningrad [17]. However, it is worth noting that such a reaction is inherent in a limited, usually the most deeply religious circle of the population.

In general, it cannot be said that the house-keeper has completely lost its position in the Russian cultural space. In particular, a lot of superstitions have been preserved in folklore, originally associated with the image of the Grandfather, the belief in which is still maintained: so, before traveling or traveling, the family is obliged to "sit down on the path", thereby asking the brownie permission to temporarily leave the house. At this moment, the housekeeper gives advice to the family on how to save themselves on the journey and return unharmed [5, p. 91]. Another example is the expression "Fuck me!", which is pronounced when frightened. Among the ancient Slavs, Chur was the embodiment of ancestors, often associated and merged with the image of a brownie. Exclaiming: "Fuck me!", people asked for help and support from the deity.

In addition, Grandfather occupies a prominent place in fairy tales and children's cartoons, a vivid example of this is the series of animated films "Kuzya the Housekeeper" (1984), based on the fairy tales of Tatiana Alexandrova.

Изображение выглядит как игрушка, кукла, статуэтка, на открытом воздухе  Автоматически созданное описание

Fig. 3 A frame from the animated film "Kuzya the Housekeeper"

It is impossible not to note another modern trend – recently, homemade "amulets" in the form of brownies have become very popular: magnets, dolls, pendants, usually accompanied by wishes of happiness, wealth, love, etc.

Thus, the house–dweller is a bright character of Russian culture. His image is complex and contradictory: in the view of the Russian people, he was at the same time the embodiment of an ancestor who was worshipped, and an evil spirit who could harm a person, hinder the quiet running of the household.

Next, consider the image of the keeper of the house, formed over several millennia in Chinese culture. It is impossible not to agree with the fact that throughout the development of Chinese history, the people of this great country created, accumulated and transmitted their cultural achievements, life principles, spiritual values to new generations [11, p. 81]. The analogue of the brownie in the Chinese folk religion is Tsao-wang. The ruler of the Hearth Xiao-Wang (???Z?ow?ng), or the God of the hearth Xiao-Shen (??, Z?osh?n), ruler of the hearth Xiao-Jun (??, Z?oj?n), Mr. Lord of the hearth Xiao-Vanya (???, w?ngy? Z?o), the Ruler of fate Eastern cuisine Donu Siming (????, D?ngch? s?m?ng), and even the bodhisattva Siming (????, S?m?ng p?s?) – it's all just part of the names of God of the hearth, the Keeper of family wealth and well-being [21, p. 13]. Considering the cult of Tsao-shen from a linguistic point of view, it should be noted that initially in the Chinese language the word "hearth" was written with a hieroglyph representing a cave with a frog sitting in it [13, p. 679]. This ancient meaning has been preserved through the centuries in the traditional spelling of the hieroglyph "hearth" – ?, but with a change in the form of the addition of the key "earth" (?, t?). The simplified spelling of this hieroglyph (?, Z?o) is an ideogram of the keys "fire" (?, hu?) and "earth" (?, t?), which reflects the essence of the Chinese hearth – fire, bred on the ground. This refers to the modern understanding of Tsao-wan as the god of fire, as well as to one of the traditional variants of his name – the N?nf?ng hu? d?j?n, i.e. the Southern Lord of Fire [13, p. 679].

The famous Chinese folklore researcher Liu Shouhua notes that there were legends in which an old woman was the deity of the hearth, and sacrifices to the hearth could be considered as "a reward for life and cooking." The scientist writes: "It is quite reasonable to praise the merits of ancient women, but these legends have not spread" [26, p. 40].

References to Tsao-wan can be found in ancient classical sources. For example, in chapter 13 "General Reasoning" of the philosophical treatise "Huainan-tzu" (????, Hu?in?n z?) of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC–9 AD)), created no later than 139 BC, there are these words: "Emperor Yan-di created fire, and when he died, he became a furnace."[23] The philosopher Kun Yingda (???, 574-648), who lived during the reign of the Sui and Tang dynasties, wrote in his commentary to the chapter "Ritual Vessels" of the Book of Rituals (??, L?J?): "The Lord Zhuan Xu, his son's name was Li and he was Zhu Zhong and they sacrificed to him as the spirit of the Hearth" [24].

There are many versions of the origin of Tsao-wang. According to one, it was a man named Zhang, who lived at the expense of his wife. On New Year's Eve, Zhang's wife sent him to her parents to take rice from them. The girl's father and mother were very sorry for their daughter and therefore put silver at the bottom of the rice bag. Lazy Zhang didn't want to carry such a heavy bag home, so he gave it to a stranger. Upon learning about this, the wife became very angry with her husband and killed him. But, since it happened on New Year's Eve, she temporarily buried the corpse under the hearth. After a while, the woman began to regret her act and hung a memorial plaque with her husband's name over the hearth, on which she began to pray. Her example was followed by other families, and so the image of a creature associated with the hearth appeared, which spread throughout China [13, pp. 679-680].

According to the second legend, Tsao-wang was the heavenly chef of the Jade Emperor. One day, the Heavenly Emperor decided to arrange a holiday and ordered Tsao-shen to prepare elaborate dishes for the feast, and serve chrysanthemum cakes for dessert – the ruler's favorite treat. Tsao-wan served very tasty dishes to the table, and when it came to dessert, Tsao-shen decided to try it himself. The cook got so carried away that he didn't notice how he ate all the cakes. He had to confess what he had done to the guests, and the Jade Emperor decided to punish Tsao-jun by banishing him from heaven to people. Tsao-wan had to live in the human kitchen now, to monitor the families and their behavior. However, the emperor was very fond of chrysanthemum cakes, so he ordered Tsao-wang to return to Heaven once a year, on the 23rd of the last month according to the lunar calendar, to report on people's affairs, and for one thing to please the ruler with dessert. This is how the god of the hearth appeared in China [14, p. 19-21].

There is another story about the appearance of Tsao-wang. Once upon a time there was a very greedy emperor who ate wherever he went. One day he wandered into the village and met a beautiful girl there who had a basket with a date cake. Although the emperor had eaten a lot of things in his life, he had never tasted such a delicacy. He ordered the girl to give him the pie, and the girl obeyed. The emperor really liked the date cake, and he decided to take a craftswoman to cook sweets for him every day. He tried to grab the girl by the hand, and she outwitted him and threw the emperor on the stove. The emperor, no matter how hard he tried, could not get off the stove: he was too fat. All this happened on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month. And so the emperor remained on the stove, becoming its patron. He himself can no longer eat any food and is only forced to watch others eat [27].

Finally, there is such a version about the origin of the Hearth God: the spirits could not keep track of the actions of people and turned to the Jade Emperor with a request for help. Then the emperor appointed Saint Zhang Zhan from Mount Kunlun as Tsao-wang. At the behest of the heavenly lord, Zhang turned into five household deities, who, in turn, turned into ten thousand Tsao-wangs and began to observe all the families of China [13, pp. 679-680].

Chinese researcher Guan Xiaoying, relying on folklore, cites the following legend: they say that all the gods of the Hearth are wandering ghosts who died in the battle between Zhou Wu–wang and the Shan ruler Zhou-wang, but were not canonized in the list of gods of Jiang Ziya[1]. Jiang Ziya was worried that they would resent and do bad things, so he called these soldiers who died in battle kitchen gods. So he could not only prevent their aimless wandering and provoking trouble, but also forced them to manage every house in the world [22, p. 289].

Such a number of legends serves as proof that Tsao-wang is loved and revered by the people.

In Chinese culture, Tsao-wang performed many functions. The most important of them was related to fire. Tsao-jun cooked food on fire, raised smoke and helped him reach heaven during rituals [18, p. 135].

The second task of the Hearth King is to monitor the affairs of the family and report them to the Jade Emperor. Ge Hong also wrote in his treatise "Baopu-tzu" ("The Sage embracing the primordial"): "On the night of the last day of each month, Tsao-shen also ascends to heaven to tell about the evil deeds of people" [1, p. 103]. However, according to beliefs, the 23rd day of the last month of the year according to the lunar calendar was considered more important, when Tsao-wang mounted his horse and went to heaven with an annual report. Heavenly officials considered the good and bad deeds of family members, rewards were sent down to people for good deeds, and punishment for the wicked. A week later, on the 1st day of the New Year, Tsao-shen returned to the house, bringing happiness or punishment with him. In this regard, the customs of seeing off and "cajoling" the hearth god were practiced in China. Offerings were put up for him: tea, water, vegetables and, above all, sweets – in order to "glue" the mouth of the deity and not allow him to tell the Jade Emperor about the faults of the household [18, p. 125]. As a sign of reverence for God, special icons were made with the image of Tsao-wang–zhim (??, zh?m?), which were hung in the kitchen and burned at the end of the year, which was accompanied by prayers and requests to bring prosperity and wealth to the family. In the Russian collection of the GMIR, the nianhua is kept with the image of the moment of sending Tsao-wang and his wife to heaven, on it a paper icon-zhima with the image of the God of the hearth is burned in front of the altar along with paper money placed in a basin [2, p. 131].

Изображение выглядит как картина, рисунок, одежда, цветочный горшок  Автоматически созданное описание

Fig. 4 Nianhua with the image of the moment of sending the deity of the hearth of Tsao-wang and his wife to heaven from the collection of GMIR (D-3338-VII)

Worship Tsao-Wang later became Taoism, there was dedicated to him Taoist Scriptures, such as "the honourable Supreme Canon of the Cave implemented to placate Xiao-Jun of" (???????, T?ish?ng d?ngzh?n ?n Z?oj?n), "Canon of the honourable Supreme ruler of the heavenly space of gratitude Xiao-WAN" (?????????, T?ish?ng l?ngk?ng b?xi? Z?ow?ng j?ng)". In the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) eras, they were included in the "Taoist Canon". In addition, the "Tsao-jun Sutra" (????, Z?oj?n b?oju?n), which contains the twelve commandments of Tsao-jun [16, p. 294], has gained great popularity among followers. The popular veneration of Tsao-wang has a long history, thousands of families worshipped him, after strengthening in Taoism, he became even more popular.

As the guardian of the family, Tsao-wang also performed apotropaic functions – a splint with his image was designed to ward off evil spirits, but also in general protective functions – when cooking, people lit a fire in the oven. This could pose a certain danger, so the Chinese considered Tsao-wang the god of fire prevention [22, p. 289].

For farmers, Tsao-jun was also the spirit of the earth, since his birthday fell on the month of chou (?,ch?u) – the 12th month of the lunar calendar, which in the Feng shui system coincided with the element "earth" [18, p. 135]. This was complemented by the fact that when the king of the hearth returned to earth, he brought spring with him, i.e. the rebirth of nature.

The cult of Tsao-wang has found its place in the folk paintings of Nianhua, which hang in all the houses of China and are a common New Year's gift. It is the nianhua that give ideas about the appearance of Tsao-wang. In the New Year's pictures, God appears in the form of an elder dressed in an official suit. His face expresses calmness and wisdom. On nianhua, the keeper of the hearth is often depicted with his wife Tsao-wang nainai (??,, Z?ow?ng n?inai), a retinue of assistants and unchangeable attributes such as the gui scepter (?, gu?), incense burners, jewelry, a book with records of good and bad deeds, symbols of wealth: peonies, the yaoqianshu money tree (???, y?oqi?nsh?), gold and silver bars, etc.

These paintings were of an intimate, i.e. family nature, as evidenced by the presence of a rooster – a symbol of the household, a dog – a watchman of the house, scenes such as women making fire, making noodles and modeling a traditional New Year's dish – dumplings [18, p. 133].

In addition to the spouse, attributes of well-being and prosperity, in the paintings of Nianhua, folk artists often depicted a ritual table in front of Tsao-jun, with incense burners, sacrificial products and other offerings. Such images probably replaced daily sacrifices in everyday life and at the same time expressed people's worship of the kitchen god. Additionally, the importance and deep reverence of Tsao-wang was expressed in the symmetrical placement of images of many small figures looking at him around the central figure of the deity [25, p. 139].

Изображение выглядит как текст, рисунок, зарисовка, Человеческое лицо  Автоматически созданное описание

Fig. 5 The Zhima icon with the image of Tsao-wang and his retinueAnd at present, the cult of Tsao-jun is widespread in China.

He is revered as the patron god of cooks and waiters [13, p. 679]. The victims of Tsao-wan are mostly brought in the villages of China, whereas in large cities it is more difficult, primarily due to the lack of a hearth in the house. Nevertheless, some residents of megacities continue to believe in the god of the kitchen and hang his image over the gas stove.

In addition, the Chinese celebrate an important holiday associated with Tsao-wan – the Small New Year, or Xiao Nian (?,, xi?oni?n), which falls on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month. During the Small New Year in China, they are preparing for the Spring Festival. The first thing families do is clean up the house: they "sweep out" the old, clean the doors, windows, furniture, because it is believed that in the last lunar month of the year, spirits and ghosts are wondering whether they should go to Heaven or stay on Earth. To convince the spirits to go to their own world, people restore order in their homes. The period of celebrating the New Year in China is accompanied by the closure of shops, so the second thing in Xiao Nian is the purchase of stock products, as well as red envelopes, icons depicting Tsao Wang and his horse, smoking sticks, calendars, children's toys and clothes, fireworks. Finally, families prepare festive dishes (since cooking during the New Year was traditionally discouraged), such as meat, black pudding, rice cakes, etc. [19].

Thus, the Chinese no longer so devotedly revere the keeper of the hearth, but the echoes of his cult are still heard in common traditions and customs.

Let's move on to comparing the two cults. It is obvious that the brownie and Tsao-wang are essentially different deities, but they have very similar qualities. First of all, it is worth noting the connection of both spirits with such an amphibian as a frog. As mentioned above, there was a frog in the ancient form of the hieroglyph "hearth". A. M. Reshetov reasoned about the reason for using this animal to write the word in the work "Tsao-wang – the Chinese god of the hearth". The scientist noted that the frog in the representation and life of the Chinese played an important role, in particular, in the construction of housing. Guided by the rules of Feng shui, the Chinese paid special attention to the humidity of the place for the house, their dwelling was characterized by dampness – an environment suitable for frogs. The Slavic peoples had a similar requirement: when choosing a place to build a house, fortune-telling was carried out using sheep's wool. If the wool was damp overnight, then the place was recognized as suitable [12, pp. 233-234]. Hence, one of the guises of the house frog is not an accident and not another addition to his other forms of appearance, but a consequence of the influence of the environment on the worldview. Here we conclude that the frog plays a far from the last role in the Russian and Chinese cultural processes: in these two completely different peoples, it was subconsciously associated with home and hearth.

Comparing the legends about the origin of the patrons of the hearth, we see that there are much more stories about the origin of Tsao-wan than there are stories about the brownie. It is not known how the ancestor of the family turned into a brownie among the Slavs, this fact was apparently taken for granted. The existing versions about his appearance are somehow connected with the Christian religion: either God drove evil spirits to earth, and they became brownies, or the "correct" dead person from the point of view of Christianity became a brownie, or vice versa, the "wrong" deceased. Probably, before the adoption of Christianity by the Slavs, there were other stories, but they have not reached our days, because the pagan Slavs did not have a letter, and Christianity suppressed ancient Russian beliefs and sought to replace them with its mythology. In Chinese culture, Tsao-wang is one of the central heroes of fairy tales, a very popular deity, as evidenced by the variety of stories about him.

If we talk about the gender of the domestic spirit, then comparing Russian and Chinese culture, we can see that it is mainly a man, although a female character could also act as a domestic patron. Another similar fact deserves attention – both the Brownie and Tsao-wang appear to be family people, they have spouses, but mythology pays little attention to them.

It is interesting to observe the similarities and differences between the names of brownie and Tsao-jun. The name of the brownie is primarily associated with the word "house". His other names are also known: golbeshnik[2], zapechnik; the owner, the beaten highway, Grandfather, grandfather-brother, brother, breadwinner; dashing, fat devil, the other half, etc. [6, p. 121]. In general , the names of the brownie can be divided into the following groups: 1) related to the residence of the brownie; 2) reflecting the understanding of the brownie as an older relative; 3) identifying the brownie with evil spirits. As for the names of Tsao-wang, they emphasize either his divine essence (shen means "god" in Chinese), or his status as the master of the kitchen (wang – prince, jun – sovereign, dijun – lord). The Chinese also often name the patron of the hearth Tsao-wan ye (???, Z?ow?ng y?). Here we see that both the Russian and Chinese people have a common idea of the keeper of the hearth as an elder, wise ancestor.

If we talk about the appearance of the Russian and Chinese household deities, then it is impossible not to note their common feature – age. Both the brownie and Tsao-wang were identified with the elderly. For many peoples of the world, old age is a sign of wisdom, which is why the Russian and Chinese hearth keepers were old men: they accumulated a lot of life experience and passed it on to their families. However, there are many differences in the appearance of spirits. First of all, animal features were attributed to Grandfather, which indicated his demonic origin, while the face of Tsao-jun coincided with the appearance of a man. The costume of the patrons of the house was not the same. In addition to the fact that the outfits of the house-dweller and Tsao–wang did not coincide due to cultural peculiarities - the Russian and Chinese people had different costumes, the Chinese deity differs from the Slavic one also in that Tsao-wang wore an official, not a house suit or common clothes, which refers to his role as a speaker on family affairs before The jade emperor.

Next, let's compare the functions of Grandfather and Tsao-shen, their roles in farming. Both gods are both helpers and executors of punishments at the same time. Both the brownie and Tsao-wang, with due respect and reverence, maintain order in the house, in particular, they work in the kitchen; they protect the household from troubles and evil forces. However, the scope of Grandfather's work is wider than that of Tsao-wang: in addition to the above cases, he also takes care of cattle and predicts the future.

For disrespectful attitude to themselves, both domestic spirits punish families, but here their methods differ. The housekeeper independently expresses his dissatisfaction, starting to beat the dishes, interfere with work, scare the household. Tsao-jun does not impose the punishment himself, but is an intermediary in this case: Tsao-wang tells about the bad behavior of people of the highest authority – the Jade Emperor, who himself determines the penalty from the family. Here it becomes clear that if a brownie is like a family member, an elder, a wise ancestor (which, according to myths, he is by his origin), then Tsao-wang is rather an official who watches over his subordinates.

Similar features can be seen in the rituals of veneration of both deities – people tried to appease their hearth keepers. Both Tsao-shen and Grandfather were presented with treats, but it is worth noting that if the Chinese tried to persuade Tsao-jun to speak only good things about them in a "kind way", then in case of disobedience of the house-keeper, the Russians intimidated him with the help of animals or ritual gestures. This shows that the brownie in the view of the Slavs was rather an evil force, which in certain situations had to be "tamed", whereas the Chinese treated their deity with much more reverence.

When studying the two cults, it can be noticed that both in China and in Russia there are holidays of worship of domestic deities. However, if in China the Small New Year was and is a ubiquitous holiday, then the infrequent mention of the name day of the brownie indicates that this holiday was only relatively common among the Russian population. We assume that the reason for this is the coincidence of the Domovik holiday with the Orthodox feast of the veneration of Ephraim the Syrian, who was able to displace the pagan ceremony.

Finally, we note the image that accompanies both Grandfather and Tsao-wang – the horse. In the view of the Russian people, the horse had a solar nature: at dawn he ascended to the sky and ran along it, illuminating the world, at night he descended, going into the underworld of the dead. This gives the horse a dual nature: on the one hand, the horse is the sun, liberating the world from darkness and driving away dark forces. For this reason, the Slavs made numerous amulets in the form of a horse, decorated their houses with horse symbols, etc. On the other hand, the horse travels in the afterlife, which means it is a guide to the mysterious world of the dead. Based on this idea, the Russians sacrificed a horse in rituals associated with the worship of their ancestors. This also implies another ability of the horse – to know the fate of a person, because he, communicating with the other world, gained access to knowledge unknown to people. Therefore, there were various fortune-telling involving horses, for example, fortune-telling on the betrothed [9, pp. 54-55]. It is not surprising that the brownie felt a special sympathy for the horse: this animal, like Grandfather, was a link between the family and its ancestors, protected the household from evil spirits, had the gift of divination.

As for the Chinese tradition, the ideas about the horse are similar to the ideas of the Russian people. In Chinese mythology, there was a special image of a horse – the dragon horse lunma (longm), which dragged the sun across the sky. Also, the horse in China was associated with yang (?, y?ng) – light, light, masculine. Hence the fact that the horse was a good omen, so sacrifices were made in honor of horses in ancient China. But the horse in the minds of the Chinese was not only a divine creature to whom sacrifices were made, sometimes she herself became a victim when performing various rituals. Thus, archaeological excavations indicate that horses were sacrificed in ancestor worship rituals, and the horse was often buried with the deceased so that it would serve him even after death. In this case, the horse was an intermediary between Heaven and Earth [20, pp. 129-131]. The role of intermediary made the horse the best mode of transport for Tsao-wang when he made his journey to the Jade Emperor. And the fact that Chinese families presented gifts not only to the God of the hearth, but also to his horse: they put saucers with water and hay in front of him, put a red cord – bridle [8, p. 116], emphasizes the divine nature of the horse in the Chinese worldview. The horse always accompanied Tsao-jun, because it also personified well-being, played an important role in the cult of ancestors.

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Fig. 6 The icon-zhima with the image of Tsao-wang, his wife, entourage and faithful horse

 Thus, as a result of the research, we have revealed that the images of the hearth keeper in the Russian and Chinese traditions have both similarities and differences. Similar features of household spirits are caused by global cultural processes, while their differences are determined by ideological and other features of the regions. Despite the current trends towards the rejection of old beliefs, the memory of both the brownie and the Tsao-wan remains in the minds of the Russian and Chinese people, and for a long time will play an important role in their cultural space.


[1] Jiang Ziya (???, Ji?ng Z?Y?, ca. XII–XI centuries BC, years of life unknown) was a military adviser to the Zhou Wen-wang, general of his son, Wu-wang, and the founder of the kingdom of Qi (specific principality of Zhou).

[2] Golbets is a kind of scaffold, fence, closet or cauldron in a peasant hut, between the stove and the shelves.

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