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The Jade Emperor is depicted in this 16th century ink and color painting on silk.

The Jade Emperor (Chinese: 玉皇; Pinyin: Yù Huáng or 玉帝 Yù Dì) in Chinese folk culture, is the ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below including that of Man and Hell, according to a version of Taoist mythology. He is one of the most important gods of the Chinese traditional religion pantheon. In actual Taoism, the Jade Emperor governs all of the mortals' realm and below, but ranks below the Three Pure Ones.

The Jade Emperor is known by many names, including Heavenly Grandfather (天公 Tiān Gōng) which is used by commoners; the Pure August Jade Emperor, August Personage of Jade (玉皇上帝 Yu Huang Shangdi or 玉皇大帝 Yu Huang Dadi); the Xuanling High Sovereign; and his rarely used, formal title, Peace Absolving, Central August Spirit Exalted, Ancient Buddha, Most Pious and Honorable, His Highness the Jade-Emperor, Xuanling High Sovereign (太平普度皇靈中天至聖仁義古佛玉皇大天尊).

A crater on Saturn's moon Rhea, discovered by Voyager 2 spacecraft, is named after him.

Chinese mythologyEdit

There are many stories in Chinese mythology involving the Jade Emperor.

OriginEdit

It was said that the Jade Emperor was originally the crown prince of the kingdom of Pure Felicity and Majestic Heavenly Lights and Ornaments. At birth, he emitted a wondrous light that filled the entire kingdom. When he was young, he was kind, intelligent and wise. He devoted his entire childhood to helping the needy (the poor and suffering, the deserted and single, the hungry and disabled). Furthermore, he showed respect and benevolence to both men and creatures. After his father died, he ascended the throne. He made sure that everyone in his kingdom found peace and contentment. After that, he told his ministers that he wished to cultivate Tao on the Bright and Fragrant Cliff.

After 1,550 kalpas, each kalpa lasting for 129,600 years, he attained Golden Immortality. After another one hundred million years of cultivation, he finally became the Jade Emperor. (Using the given figures, this period before his becoming the Jade Emperor lasted for a total of about 200,880,000 years.)

Vanquishing evilEdit

One of the myths describes how the Jade Emperor became the monarch of all the deities in heaven. It is one of the few myths in which the Jade Emperor really shows his might.

In the beginning of time, the earth was a very difficult place to live; a much harsher place to live in than it is now. People were having tremendous difficulty coping with existence; not only did they have to deal with harsh conditions, but also with all kinds of monstrous beings. At this time, there were also not many gods or deities to protect them. Furthermore, a lot of powerful, evil demons were defying the immortals of heaven. The Jade Emperor was still at the time an ordinary immortal who roamed earth to help as many people as he could. He was, however, saddened by the fact that his powers were limited and could only ease the sufferings of humans. He decided to retreat in a mountain cave and cultivate his Tao. He passed 3,200 trials, each trial lasting about 3 million years.

Unfortunately, a powerful, evil entity—a demon of sorts, which dwelt on earth—had the ambition to conquer the immortals and gods in heaven and proclaim sovereignty over the entire universe. This evil entity also went into retreat and meditation to expand its power, though later than the Jade Emperor. He passed through 3,000 trials each trial lasting for about 3 million years too. After it passed its final trial, it felt confident that no one could defeat it anymore. It re-entered the world again, and recruited an army of demons with the purpose of attacking heaven.

The immortals, being aware of the threat, gathered themselves and prepared for war. The gods were unable to stop the powerful demon and it defeated them all.

Fortunately, the Jade Emperor finished his cultivation in the midst of this war. He was changing the land to make it more liveable for men and repelling all kinds of monstrous beasts. Suddenly, he saw an evil glow emitting from heaven and knew something was amiss. He ascended and saw that a war was going on, he saw that the demon was too powerful to be stopped by any of the gods present. He went up and challenged the demon, and a battle ensued between them. Mountains shook and rivers and seas toppled; however, the Jade Emperor stood victorious due to his deeper and wiser cultivation, not for might but for benevolence. After defeating the demon, all the other demons were scattered by the gods and immortals.

Because of his noble and benevolent deeds, the gods, immortals and humans proclaimed the Jade Emperor the supreme sovereign of all.

CreationEdit

The world started with 無極 (wuji: nothingness) according to the Chinese creation myth, Jade Emperor was the head of the pantheon but not responsible to the creation process itself.

According to another version of creation myth, the Jade Emperor fashioned the first humans from clay, but as he left them to harden in the sun, it rained, misshaping some of the figures, thus explaining the origin of sickness and physical abnormalities (The most common alternative Chinese creation myth states that human beings were once fleas on the body of Pangu.)

The story above is also told as Nüwa, who fashions evil out of the mud from the Yellow River by hand. Those she made became the richer people of the earth. After getting lazy, she used a rope and swung it around. The drops that fell from the rope became the poorer humans.

In The Journey to the WestEdit

In the popular novel Journey to the West by Wu Chengen, the Jade Emperor is featured many times in the story.

The princess and the cowherdEdit

In another story, popular throughout Asia and with many differing versions, the Jade Emperor has a daughter named Zhinü (Simplified Chinese: 织女; Traditional Chinese: 織女; Pinyin: zhī nǚ or Chih'nü, literally: weaver girl). She is most often represented as responsible for weaving colorful clouds in the heaven. In some versions she is the Goddess Weaver, daughter of the Jade Emperor and the Celestial Queen Mother, who weaves the Silver River (known in the West as the Milky Way), which gives light to heaven and earth. In other versions, she is a seamstress who works for the Jade Emperor.

Every day Zhinü descended to earth with the aid of a magical robe to bathe. One day, a lowly cowherd named Niu Lang (Chinese: 牛郎; Pinyin: niú láng) spotted Zhinü as she bathed in a stream. Niu Lang fell instantly in love with her and stole her magic robe which she had left on the bank of the stream, leaving her unable to escape back to Heaven. When Zhinü emerged from the water, Niu Lang grabbed her and carried her back to his home.

When the Jade Emperor heard of this matter, he was furious but unable to intercede, since in the meantime his daughter had fallen in love and married the cowherd. As time passed, Zhinü grew homesick and began to miss her father. One day, she came across a box containing her magic robe which her husband had hidden. She decided to visit her father back in Heaven, but once she returned, the Jade Emperor summoned a river to flow across the sky (the Milky Way), which Zhinü was unable to cross to return to her husband. The Emperor took pity on the young lovers, and so once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, he allows them to meet on a bridge over the river.

The story refers to constellations in the night sky. Zhinü is the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra east of the Milky Way, and Niu Lang is the star Altair in the constellation of Aquila west of the Milky Way. Under the first quarter moon (7th day) of the seventh lunar month (around August), the lighting condition in the sky causes the Milky Way to appear dimmer, hence the story that the two lovers are no longer separated in that one particular day each year.

The seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar is a holiday in China called Qixi Festival, which is a day for young lovers much like Valentine's Day in the West. In Japan, it is called Tanabata (star day), and in Korea, it is called Chilseok. If it rains on that day, it is said to be Zhinü crying tears of happiness in being reunited with her husband.

The zodiacEdit

There are several stories as to how the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac were chosen. In one, the Jade Emperor, although having ruled Heaven and Earth justly and wisely for many years, had never had the time to actually visit the Earth personally. He grew curious as to what the creatures looked like. Thus, he asked all the animals to visit him in heaven. The cat, being the most handsome of all animals, asked his friend the rat to wake him on the day they were to go to Heaven so he wouldn't oversleep. The rat, however, was worried that he would seem ugly compared to the cat, so he didn't wake the cat. Consequently, the cat missed the meeting with the Jade Emperor and was replaced by the pig. The Jade Emperor was delighted with the animals and so decided to divide the years up amongst them. When the cat learned of what had happened, he was furious with the rat and that, according to the story, is why cats and rats are enemies to this day.

The cat however, does have a place in the Vietnamese zodiac, replacing the rabbit.

His predecessor and successorEdit

The Jade Emperor was originally the assistant of the Divine Master of the {C Heavenly Origin, Yuanshi Tianzun. Yuanshi Tianzun is said to be the supreme beginning, the limitless and eternal creator of Heaven and Earth, who picked Yu-huang, or the Jade Emperor, as his personal successor. The Jade Emperor will eventually be succeeded by the Heavenly Master of the Dawn of Jade of the Golden Door (金闕玉晨天尊).[1] The characters for both are stamped on the front of the arms of his throne. In two folk automatic writing texts in 1925 and 1972 Guan Yu became the 18th Jade Emperor in about 1840 AD,[2][3][4] however some have disagreed that Guan Yu has succeeded, and thus the Jade Emperor and Guan Yu are often worshiped separately.[5] In Tienti teachings, the current jade emperor has 55 predecessors.[6]

Worship and festivalsEdit

The Jade Emperor's Birthday is said to be the ninth day of the first lunar month. 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.

Chinese New Year's Eve is also a day of worship as it is said to be the day the Jade Emperor makes his annual inspection of the deeds of mortals and rewards or punishes them accordingly. On this day incense is burned in the home and offerings are made to the Jade Emperor and also to Zao Jun, the god of the kitchen who reports to the Emperor on each family.

A temple in Hong Kong is located at A Kung Ngam and is also called "Yuk Wong Po Tin" (玉皇寶殿 Yu Huang Bao Dian). In the mid 19th century, people from Huizhou and Chaozhou mined stones in the hill for the development of the central urban area. They set up a shrine to worship Yuk Wong. At the beginning of the 20th century, the shrine was developed into a small temple and was renovated many times. The latest renovation was in 1992.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Jade Emperor. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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