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Saturday, July 6, 2013
One God Many Identities (五顯大帝)
Before I go on to talk
about some Taoist magic related to pilferage and gambling, I would like to tell
you a very special deity mainly worshipped by the southern Chinese Taoist
communities. There is a saying that goes, “The foxes rule north, but the 5
obvious rule the south (of China).”
Literary this god is known
as “the emperor of 5 obvious” (五顯大帝), “the god of 5 obvious” (五顯神)”, the god of 5 abilities” (五通神)”, the 5 saints” (五圣)”, the 5 gentlemen” (五郎) and etc. I will call this god
as “5-god” to save my typing. The spouse of the 5-god is called “the old grandmother”
(太媽). Basically I
believed that this 5-god is a Taoist deity, but there is another source pointed
5-god to Buddhist origin.
It is actually confusing to
trace the descriptions of this god from ancient texts: Some of the texts refer
the god as the spirit of 5 planets, old mountain spirit, a monkey spirit or
even a tree spirit. There are two very extreme descriptions about this 5-god.
On one end, it is said to be a demon of lust and fond of having sex, similar to
the western incubi; on the other hand, it is said to be the patron of merchants
This 5-god was so popular
in the old China that until there is a saying from the scholars:
(I scorned at the folks who are afraid of poor and persisted to ask for
fortune from the 5-god.)
Having said so, this 5-god
is less popular than the 5-brothers now-a-days. I don’t know if there is a link
between the two, perhaps someone would enlighten me.