台灣大百科全書

Gods of Wealth
財神爺 中文版本

Classification:Religion > Worship and Religion > Orthodox Deities > Gods of Wealth
Contributor: Wang Shyhjiunn
The Gods of Wealth are the Chinese gods in charge of wealth. According to available historical documents the worship of the Gods of Wealth among the people can be traced back to the Song (宋) Dynasty (960–1279) and it can be inferred that this can be linked to the flourishing economic life after the Song Dynasty. Many different deities are worshipped as Gods of Wealth and according to their character these deities can be divided into three categories: Orthodox Gods of Wealth (正財神), Gods of Easy Money (偏財神) and Quasi-Gods of Wealth (準財神).

Orthodox Gods of Wealth are gods directly charged with the task of overseeing wealth. The Martial and Civil Gods of Wealth are typical examples of this type of god. The Civil God of Wealth in general refers to either Bi Gan (比干) of the Shang (商) Dynasty (ca. 1600BCE-1046BCE) or Fan Li (范蠡, also known as Tao Zhugong [陶朱公]) from the State of Yue (越) who lived during the Spring-and-Autumn Period (770BCE-476BCE). In most cases the god meant when referring to the Martial Gods of Wealth is either Zhao Gongming (趙公明, True Lord of the Golden Dragon of Wish-Fulfilment and the Dragon Tiger Dark Altar of Orthodox Unity [金龍如意正一龍虎玄壇真君]; shortened to Lord of the Dark Altar [玄壇爺] or Zhao of the Dark Altar) or to Guan Yu (關羽). Zhao Gongming is often depicted with a black face and thick beard, wearing a suit of armor, feet astride a black tiger, in one hand an iron staff and in the other a gold ingot. In Taiwan he is often made the main god of a temple solely in his capacity as God of Wealth. He is also the God of Wealth of the middle road of the Gods of Wealth of the Five Roads. The other four road gods are Zhao Gongming’s officers (also said to be his sworn brothers). The god of the east road is the Treasure Inviting Lord of Heaven Xiao Sheng (蕭升), the god of the west road is Treasure Collecting Lord of Heaven Cao Bao (曹寶), the god of the south road is the Wealth Inviting Herald Chen Jiugong (陳九公) and the god of the north road is the Immortal Officer of Lucky Money Yao Shaosi (姚少司, also called Yao Eryi [姚邇益]).

The Gods of Easy Money are gods or wandering spirits that allow people to profit from chances, such as Jigong (濟公), the Third Crown Prince (三太子), Liao Tianding (廖添丁), lonely ghosts (有應公), the Eighteen Lords (十八王公) and many others. Their forms are somewhat humorous and it was believed that they were relatively morally weak gods and spirits. Often they are called upon by those playing in the lottery, engaged in stock speculation and the like to provide winning numbers. In Taiwan there are even temples devoted primarily to Han Xin (韓信), the god of gambling and games.

The Quasi-God of Wealth are primarily responsible for other duties, but these are also connected to wealth, and include deities connected to the earth and family wealth such as the Earth God (土地公) and the Stove God (灶君), various Trade Gods, responsible in charge of bringing about bustling business, as well as gods responsible for gaining official ranks and riches; the last group includes such gods as Lord Emperor Wenchang (文昌帝君) and Lord Kuixing (魁星爺).

The concept of the previously mentioned Gods of Wealth of the Five Roads is based on ideas from the text Fengshen Yanyi (封神演義, meaning “The Investiture of the Gods” or “The Creation of the Gods”) and may have also have been influenced by the theory of the Five Movements (the five phases of the Chinese elements). Worship of the Gods of Wealth of the Five Roads expresses the hope of receiving wealth from all five directions (Chinese thought acknowledges the middle as direction along with the four cardinal directions). In other regions a Civil God of Wealth (Bi Gan), Martial God of Wealth (Zhao Gongming), the Righteous God of Wealth (Guan Yu), the God of Riches and Wealth (Shen Wansan [沈萬三] a man who gained immense wealth at the beginning of the Ming [明] Dynasty [1368-1644]) and a God of Easy Money (Su Fulu [蘇福祿], who was brought to China by overseas trade) make up the Gods of Wealth of the Five Roads; The God of Easy Money here is a god in charge of the wealth of remote regions, reflecting his background of trade and emigration. Su Fulu is a Hakka (客家, a Chinese ethnicity in the south-east of China) and he is often worshipped as Great Old Uncle Earth (the Earth God).

In Taiwan the worship of the Gods of Wealth not only takes the form of various sacrifices, as primary or joint recipient, in temples, on private altars and yin temples (陰廟), but also manifests itself in a multitude of ceremonies and symbols related to wealth. For example, a temple to the Gods of Wealth opened a “Gods of Wealth bank,” that among other things lends “lucky money” and “civil and martial riches” to devotees.“Filling the treasury” and other rituals of praying for wealth are also common. Furthermore, the five Buddhist gods of wealth from the Thai and Tibetan tradition are becoming increasingly popular among Han (漢) Chinese.

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Chinese Keyword
五路財神 , 趙公明 , 偏財神 , 祈財儀式 , 玄壇爺

English Keyword
Chen Jinggu , Shunyi temple inscription , overcoming childhood crises , 16-years-old coming of age ceremony , Ritual for promoting sexual fertility

References

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