Variations: Baoxiao

Mount Gouwu in China has much jade at its peak and much copper at its base. It is the dwelling-place of a beast called the Paoxiao. A Paoxiao looks like a goat with a human face armed with tiger’s teeth. Its eyes are behind its armpits (Wenxuan instead states that its mouth is under one armpit), and it has human hands. It is a man-eater that makes sounds like a baby.

Guo Pu described the paoxiao as exceedingly savage and gluttonous, liable to start biting itself before finishing its human prey. He also equated it with the ornamental taotie, a symbol of gluttony, but this connection is dubious at best.

Mathieu compares the unusual appearance of the Paoxiao with that of an animal delousing itself.


Mathieu, R. (1983) Étude sur la mythologie et l’ethnologie de la Chine ancienne. Collège de France, Paris.

Strassberg, R. E. (2002) A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. University of California Press.


  1. Well I’m getting a hard-copy of a Chinese Bestiary soon and my girlfriend being a native Chinese speaker who incessantly comments on the poor quality of translations I’ll be sure to let you know of any extra meanings hidden in the subtleties of the Chinese language, lost to us poor, poor Westerners (Westerners in this sense meaning anybody who isn’t Chinese … x) ) Love the design by the way, super sinister, especially the work on the face and lower jaw. Definitely not a creature I’d like to run into … I found an art dump a while back which has fantastic, traditional-style illustrations (well, not really but inspired by a somewhat traditional style) from A Classic of Mountains and Seas, you should check them out if you haven’t come across them already! Can’t find a decent link to the artist but you can check out their work here:

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  2. The Paoxiao’s name is written 狍鸮, literally reading as “shrieking owl,” but is also a homophone for “roar.” While it is confused with the Taotie by Guo Pu, who annotated the Classic of Mountains and Seas, the connection between the creatures really is tenuous. The Taotie first appears in Warring States texts as an explanation for the beast head motifs that decorate bronze vessels. There was no description for what it looked like aside from it eating its own body in its gluttony, leaving only a head to be carved on cooking ware. The Han Dynasty Book of Gods and Strange Things describes the Taotie as humanoid and wearing a pig’s head as a crown. However, sheep, cattle, and other horned beast faces do appear on bronze vessels from the Shang and early Zhou, so it’s possible people decided that these beasts were the image of the Taotie, and thus linked it with the goat-like Paoxiao.

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