门神 (Ménshén), literally “door gods”, are protective characters that appear in pairs at the entrance of many Chinese homes, usually painted on the doors, sometimes carved in wood or stone.
Back in the day, they performed the important duty of warding off evil spirits and only allowing invited guests to enter the house (and possibly of showing off to the neighbors).
Visible all across China, many of the fearless ghostbusters are legendary or historical people, since raised to god-status. The most famous door gods are said to have been servants of a Táng dynasty emperor. They stood guard outside his bedroom to give him peace of mind – and apparently started a trend!
Today, they’re mostly just decorative, but they’re still culturally relevant. For example, if you look particularly funny in a photo, your friends may joke that they’ll print you out and put you on their door.
Evil spirits: You shall not pass! Baidu Baike