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 and gamblers.


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.

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