The Eight Pillars also knew as Eight Pillars of the Sky are a concept from Chinese mythology.

Located in the eight cardinal directions, the eight pillars are a group of eight mountains or pillars which have been thought to hold up the sky.

They are symbolically important as types of Axis Mundi and cosmology. Their functions in mythology ranged from pillars that functioned to hold apart the Earth and the Sky (or Heaven), as ladders allowing travel between the two, and as the location of various paradises or wonderland with associated magical people, plants, and animals.

The Eight Pillars are a central aspect of Chinese mythology, and also have been used extensively in poetic allusion. Some variations exist, such as only having four pillars.

Places

Various mythological geography is associated with the Eight Pillars, including the eight mountain pillars themselves along with surrounding or intervening terrain, such as the Moving Sands.

The eight mountain pillars include Kunlun, Jade Mountain, Mount Buzhou, and five more (Yang Lihui 2005: passim). Kunlun functions as a sort of ladder which could be used to travel between earth and Heaven. Accordingly, any person who succeeded in climbing up to the top of Kunlun would magically become an immortal spirit.

Buzhou Mountain

Mount Buzhou was an ancient Chinese mythological mountain which, according to old texts, lay to the northwest of the Kunlun Mountains, in a location today referred to as the Pamir Mountains.

It is the mountain said to have supported the heavens, against which the Chinese water god Gonggong smashed his head in a fit of anger, requiring the goddess Nüwa to repair the sky.

Nevertheless, once the spacer between the Earth and Sky was damaged, the land of China was permanently tilted to the southeast, causing all the rivers to flow in that same direction.

Kunlun

Kunlun Mountain has been described in various texts, as well as being depicted in art. Sometimes Kunlun appears as a pillar of the sky (or earth), sometimes appearing as being composed of multiple tiers, with the commonality of “mystery, grandeur, or magnificence” being emphasized in the mythological descriptions.

The base of the Kunlun Mountain is said to penetrate as far into the earth, as its above-ground part proceeds towards the sky. As the mythology related to the Kunlun developed, it became influenced by the later introduction of ideas about an Axis Mundi from the cosmology of India.

The Kunlun became identified with (or took on the attributes of) Mount Sumeru. Another historical development in the mythology of Kunlun, (again with Indian influence) was that rather than just being the source of the Yellow River, Kunlun began to be considered to be the source of four major rivers flowing to the four quarters of the compass.

Jade Mountain

Jade Mountain is a mythological mountain in Chinese mythology and residence of The Queen Mother of the West.

Jade Mountain is mentioned in Chapter 2 of the Han Dynasty text Classic of Mountains and Seas as being the residence of the Queen Mother of the West. It is thought that Jade Mountain, along with the Queen Mother of the West, date back to much earlier; the 4th century BCE Zhuangzi also describes her residence as being on a mountain.

Associated geography

Various other mythological geography is associated with the Eight Pillars. This includes the four rivers flowing from Kunlun Mountain and the Moving Sands.

Deities

Various deities inhabited or visited one or more of the eight mountain pillars. These include Xiwangmu and others on Kunlun.

Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu)

Although not originally located on Kunlun, but rather on a Jade Mountain neighboring to the north (and west of the Moving Sands), Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of Meng Hao in the West, in later accounts was relocated to a palace protected by golden ramparts, within which immortals (xian) feasted on bear paws, monkey lips, and the livers of dragons, served at the edge of the Lake of Gems.

Every 6000 years the peaches which conferred immortality upon those who ate them would be served (except the time when they were purloined by Monkey King).

Originally a plague deity with tiger teeth and leopard tail, she became a beautiful and well-mannered goddess responsible for guarding the herb of immortality (Christie 1968: 78-79).

Xian (Immortals)

The immortals, or xian, were Daoist immortals (humans who had metamorphosed into a superhuman form). The xian were often seen as temporary residents, who visited by means of flying on the back of a magical crane or dragon.

Wu shamans

The Wu or shamans were people that practiced divination, prayer, sacrifice, rainmaking, and healing, generally through the use of spirit flight. They generally seem to have become immortals.

Poetry

The Eight Pillars are a subject of a poetic allusion from the ancient poems “Li Sao” and “Heavenly Questions” by Qu Yuan; and, on through later times, in Classical Chinese poetry.

The immortals, or Xian, were Daoist immortals (humans who had metamorphosed into the superhuman form), which was presided over by Xiwangmu. The xian were often seen as temporary residents, who visited by means of flying on the back of a magical crane or dragon.

*This article uses material from the Wikipedia articles Eight Pillars, Jade Mountain (mythology), and Mount Buzhou which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0 (view authors).