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Xing Tian. Public domain.

Monster ABC: X is for Xing Tian

The next time the universe decapitates your dreams, you’d do well to adopt the Chinese deity Xing Tian as your role model. His literal decapitation at the hands of his foe, The Yellow Emperor, didn’t slow him down one bit. He calmly assessed the situation, grew eyeballs out of his nipples, a mouth out of his belly button, and kept on fighting. Although your specific approach might vary from Xing Tian’s, the lesson remains: never give up. Keep fighting, even when you lose your head.

A truth universally acknowledged, and previously mentioned: X is a problematic letter for alphabet authors working within the English language. Q is tough, but X is the worst. There are very few words in English that begin with X, forcing many alphabet authors to make the shameful compromise of substituting in words that merely include the letter X. We at Hazy Dell Press have a strong moral compass and would never play our readers like that. When writing our children's board book, Monster ABC, we knew we needed a true X monster and, as with the other monsters in the book, it couldn’t be a made-up monster like “X-Ray man” or “Xenophobia Monster” (something tells us he’s loud and orange)—it had to be a monster that pre-exists somewhere in the collective unconscious.

Who is Xing Tian?
And while Mesoamerica saved the day with the letter Q, we have our Chinese friends to thank for the letter X.

Xing Tian. Hazy Dell Press.

In the Classic of Mountain and Seas, or Shan Hai Jing, a classic Chinese text written over many centuries by unknown authors beginning in the 4th Century BC, Xing Tian is described thusly:

“刑天與帝爭神,帝斷其首,葬之常羊之山,乃以乳為目,以臍為口,操干戚以舞.”

And roughly translated into English:

“Xing Tian fought against The Yellow Emperor. The Yellow Emperor cut off his head, and the head was buried in the Changyang Mountains. But Xing Tian, with his breasts as eyes, and his navel as mouth, continued to fight with his axe and shield.”

The Yellow Emperor is no pushover—he's the Chinese diety said to be the originator of Chinese civilization. Xing Tian probably shouldn't have been picking a fight with a deity of this caliber, but please don't ever tell Xing Tian the odds—he cares nothing for statistics. The Yellow Emperor was not only hugely powerful, he had already vanquished Xing Tian's previous emperor. Instead of capitulating to the might of the conqueror, Xing Tian went at him with an axe, only to have his head sliced off with a sword. He watched his head roll inside of a mountain and casually shrugged it off. Even without a head, Xing Tian doesn't have a single eff to give.

Xing Tian couldn't care less that the Yellow Emperor ended up on a 1938 Chinese bank note. Federal Reserve Bank of China - Public Domain

Just. Keep. Fighting.
According to Lihui Yang in Handbook of Chinese Mythology, Xing Tian symbolizes “the indomitable spirit which never surrenders and maintains the will to resist no matter what tribulations one may undergo or what troubles one may encounter.” We can look to Xing Tian as a role model, no matter the odds, and no matter how loud, orange or xenophobic our foe happens to be.

Sources: WIkipedia; Yang, Lihui, et al. (2005). Handbook of Chinese Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press; Hazy Dell Press.