Mazu

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Mazu (媽祖) is a Chinese sea goddess. Some say she was a tenth century shaman called Lin Moniang () who was deified as the protector of seafarers. Myths and legends ascribe various heroic deeds to her, all to do with the sea.

So popular a goddess is she that Mazu is regarded as the Queen of Heaven (天后, Tianhou), the wife of the Jade Emperor. She is also known as Heavenly Consort (天妃); and Holy Heavenly Mother (天上聖母, Tianhou Shengmu). However, some legends say that she is celibate.

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Mazu, flanked by Qianliyan [left] and Shunfeng’er [right].
One story tells that the demons Qianliyan and Shunfeng’er competed for Mazu’s hand in marriage, but when she defeated them both in combat, they swore eternal loyalty to her and became her guardians. Thus, you can find their statues or images at Mazu temples.

 

 

 

The Jade Emperor

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The Jade Emperor (玉皇) is the chief of the Daoist gods. His names include Heavenly Grandfather (天公Tiān Gōng) and the Great Emperor of Jade (玉皇上帝Yu Huang Shangdi or 玉皇大帝Yu Huang Dadi).

The Jade Emperor is said to have inherited his post from the first of the Three Pure Ones, the Jade Pure One (Yuqing 玉清), also known as The Celestial Worthy of the Primordial Beginning (Yuanshi Tianzun 元始天尊). In time, the Heaven-honoured One of the Dawn of Jade of the Golden Gate (金闕玉晨天尊) will replace Yuanshi Tianzun.

The Jade Emperor lives in his palace in heaven with his wife the Jade Empress, Tianshang Shengmu (天上聖母, Holy Heavenly Mother), who is often conflated with Mazu (媽祖), and their large family.

Worship of the Jase Emperor:

The Jade Emperor’s Birthday (天公誕) is said to be the ninth day of the first lunar month.[10] On this day Taoist temples hold a Jade Emperor ritual (拜天公bài Tiān Gōng, literally “heaven worship”) at which priests and laymen prostrate themselves, burn incense and make food offerings.

In the morning of this birthday, Chinese, Taiwanese as well as Hokkien and Peranakan Malaysian Chinese and Singaporean Chinese who practice BuddhismTaoism and other traditional Chinese religions set up an altar table with 3 layers: one top (containing offertories of six vegetables (六齋), noodles, fruits, cakes, tangyuan, vegetable bowls, and unripe betel, all decorated with paper lanterns) and two lower levels (containing the five sacrifices and wines) to honor the deities below the Jade Emperor.[10] The household then kneels three times and kowtows nine times to pay homage and wish him a long life.[10]

In PenangMalaysia, a focal point of the Jade Emperor’s Birthday celebrations is Thni Kong Tnua, which gained worldwide fame as one of the featured locations for The Amazing Race 16.[11] The temple, built in 1869, is located at the foot of Penang Hill at the Air Itam suburb near George TownPenang‘s capital city.[12] Aside from Thni Kong Tnua, the Chew Jetty in the heart of George Town is another focal point of the Jade Emperor’s Birthday celebrations; the festivities in this particular location was captured for a 2014 Malaysian film, The Journey.[13]

~ From Wikipedia

N.B. The most interesting thing I’ve read about the Jade Emperor is that one of his secondary wives is the Horse Head goddess, who cares for silkworms. Unfortunately, I don’t think she actually has the head of a horse, but was merely spirited away after a horse’s skin wrapped itself around her.

Queen Mother of the West

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In her earliest incarnation, in pre-Daoism fifteenth century BCE, she was depicted with tiger’s teeth and panther’s tail. As the Daoist goddess Xi Wangmu (西王母), or Queen Mother of the West, she was made feminine and beautiful, but is still sometimes depicted riding a tiger or in the company of tigers.

By second century BCE she was known to be the dispenser of prosperity, longevity, and eternal bliss.

In the garden of her palace in the mythological Mount Kunlun,  the Queen Mother of the West grew immortality peaches which ripened every three thousand years.

Some tales name her as the creator of the Daode jing (道德經). She is said to have then shared the text with Laozi (老子). Naturally, there are tales that have the Queen Mother playing second fiddle to the old man. Whatever the case may be, she is said to embody the Daoist female principle of yin and is extensively referred to in Tang Dynasty poetry about Daoist women.

Unlike the Western meaning of Queen Mother (the mother of a monarch), Xi Wangmu’s title means that she is both a Queen and a Mother.

 

 

Star Mother

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Dǒumǔ (斗母) is the mother of the Big Dipper, who are of course seven of the nine stars that make up the Nine Emperor Gods. Her other names include Dǒumǔ Yuánjūn (斗母元君) or Lady Mother of the Chariot; Tàiyī Yuánjūn (太一元君) or Lady of the Great One; Tiānhòu (天后) or Queen of Heaven; Dàomǔ (道母) or Mother of the Way; and Tiānmǔ (天母) or Mother of Heaven.

As the Nine Emperor Gods are seen as nine-fold manifestations of Dòufù (斗父 ) or Father of the Great Chariot, the God of Heaven, Dǒumǔ is both wife and mother of the God of Heaven. She is also identified as the ambiguous goddess of life and death Xi Wangmu, or the Queen Mother of the West.

 

Nine Gods

The Nine Emperor Gods are the sons of Father Emperor Zhou Yu Dou Fu Yuan Jun (斗父周御國王天尊) and the North Star Dou Mu Yuan Jun (斗母元君).

They are the seven (visible) stars that make up the Big Dipper, plus another two (invisible) ‘assistant’ stars.

The Nine Emperor Gods are often wrongly conflated with folk heroes like the sea pirates of the Ming dynasty who plotted to overthrow the Qing dynasty. They are actually high ranking Star Lords who preside over the movement of planets and coordinate mortal Life and Death issues.

Their parents, Dou Fu and Dou Mu, hold the Registrar of Life and Death.

The festival for the Emperor Gods lasts nine days, from the eve of the ninth lunar month.

 

The Eight Immortals: Zhongli Quan

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When Zhongli Quan ( 钟离权) was born, light filled the room and it was evident from his features, which included a broad forehead, thick ears and scarlet lips, that he was destined for greatness.

Known also as Han Zhongli (汉钟离) because is said he was born during the Han dynasty, Zhongli Quan became a member of court and an army general. During a battle with Tibetan forces, Zhongli’s troops were overpowered, forcing him to flee to the mountains. There he encountered an elderly man who gave him shelter and taught him the art of alchemy, Daoist philosophy and magic. Thereafter, Zhongli was told to serve his people, which he did, helping the less fortunate in various ways.

Eventually, as a result of his use of powers for good and meditation, he ascended to the shimmering cloud of the immortals.

HanZhongLiZhongli is depicted as a smiling, bearded fat man with a bare midriff. He carries either a peach (symbol of immortality) or a feathered fan with which he wields power over the seas and the forces of life and death).

He is the patron of military soldiers.

 

 

The Eight Immortals: Zhang Guolao

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Zhang Guolao (張果老) was a Taoist occultist, alchemist and hermit who lived on Zhongtiao Mountain in Hengzhou during the Tang Dynasty. Fond of wine, Zhang made his own from herbs. He was also a master of qigong (氣功).

Known for his eccentricity, Zhang was apparently fond of making himself invisible, causing flowers to wilt by pointing at them and even catching birds in midflight.

ZhangGuoLaoHe is usually depicted riding a white donkey or mule, which he sits on facing its rear. It is said that, at the end of any journey made, Zhang Guolao would fold up his donkey and place it in his pocket or a small receptacle. When he wished to ride once more, Zhangwould then spit water at it and it would then gain its size and form again.

Although shown as an elderly man (lao 老 means old), Zhang is the patron deity of young families and the bringer of male heirs.