China, often thought of as a place of great antiquity and graceful culture, is presented through its imagery of dragons, temples, shrines and palaces. Encountering China, it is important to know that there is a respectful, worshipful culture behind every action and intention, and that like people everywhere, the Chinese also seek good fortune and happiness from their Gods.
This book has chapters on the many different kinds of Gods. Perhaps we might say – whatever needs humans have – there is a God or spirit deity for that. So Chinese Gods include (among others) creator gods, the Supreme Goddess, Kuan Yin the Universal Goddess of Mercy, the Lady of the Moon and other Lunar Spirits; Gods of Prosperity and Good Fortune, whom, across all religions and cultures, usually attract fervent devotees. There are Gods of the Household, Gods of Invention, Protectors and Guardian Spirits, Gods of Health and Happiness. And then we have Patron Gods of Trades and Crafts (not unlike the Patron Saints of the Catholic Church for trades and crafts) and the Immortal Sages get a mention.
In a sense this book reflects the experience of the author, Xueting Christine Ni, who grew up in a small neighbourhood with many “grandmothers” around, all of whom had their household deities and worshipped them. In microcosm, the closer one gets to the heart of a culture, the more one is likely to find solemnity of worship of local and household deities. The large churches and cathedrals do not cater to such a personal form of worship, but perhaps, provide a spiritual foundation for such to take place.
Pan Gu – The Creator Origin
The myth of Pan Gu tells of creation coming forth from a splitting open of a Cosmic Egg within which resided the deity Xu Zheng.
Kuan Yin (variant spelling Kwan Yin, Quan Jing, etc.)
The Universal Goddess of Mercy is perhaps the best known of the Chinese Pantheon, the one who hears the cries of suffering humanity and pours down drops of mercy upon them.
Yu Shi, Master of Rain
Veneration of rain developed as part of a primitive awe for the natural elements. Rain was a particularly important element because it affected all the outdoor activity – hunting, and most importantly, the growing of crops.
Xi Wang Mu – The Supreme Goddess
Prehistoric Chinese societies were matriarchal. One of the most powerful goddesses is Xi Wang Mu, Great Mother of the West. Her first appearances described her as a half-monster, half-human, much different from the serene matronly form she is depicted today.
Chang’E and Jade Rabbit Yu Tin
Chang’E is a lunar deity who seems to have evolved over time to have a companion, the Jade Rabbit. Originally, the legends were about the shadows on the moon featuring an animal grinding the elixir of life with mortar and pestle, and Chang’E obtaining this.
Wu Lu Shen – Gods of Household Prosperity
Wu Lu Shen is one of the Wu Si or five offerings, deities intimately connected to the daily lives of people in ancient China. These are gods of household, kitchen, door and paths. “Paths” refers to the four points of the compass.
Zao Shen, Kitchen God
A deity of the kitchen has been worshipped in China as far back as the Shang dynasty. Zao Shen is literally, “god of the stove”.
Shen Nong The Divine Farmer
One of the wisest, most creative and most resourceful of China’s ancient gods is Shen Nong, who is venerated for the invention of agriculture, Chinese medicine and several other trades.
Tian Hou, Celestial Queen of the Sea
The goddess of Sea began life as a local protector – of sailors and fishers – and earned the veneration of emperors. Her powers expanded from safeguarding those at sea to protecting the land against drought and pestilence.
He He He Sheng The Sages of Harmony
He He He Shen – the gods of harmony, also known as He Shen, are gods of the mental realm. “He” means harmony. He Shen are considered patron gods of social harmony and friendship.
Chairman Mao, you ask?
From La Croix:
Tibetans get home decor order: Hang Xi, Mao portraits
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has outlawed the worshipping of images of the Dalai Lama and is now forcing Tibetans to hang up portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and CCP founder Mao Zedong up their walls. (Photo supplied)
The Chinese government is again restricting Tibetans from worshipping portraits of the Dalai Lama, despite protests from scores of Tibetans who have died by self-immolation in demonstration against Beijing’s ‘colonial rule’ and its attempts to eradicate Tibetan culture.
But this time it is also mandating that Buddhist temples and monasteries remove his image and hang up pictures of President Xi Jinping and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) founder Mao Zedong instead.
Authorities in Hezuo City of Amdo County in the Tibet Autonomous Region issued a notice in December 2018 requesting 38 village committees, eight community resident committees, and 249 (resident) villager groups in four sub-district offices and six townships across the city to “clean up” images of the Dalai Lama — a euphemistic way of telling them to tear the images down, starting with those in public view at places of worship — and hang up portraits of Mao and Xi instead.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Weiser Books (June 1, 2018)