Ancient Chinese worshiped hundreds of different gods. Among them, there were at least 200 gods that were glorified in the whole of China.
The gods were said to have shaped the world and human beings. Also, they enabled the functioning of the whole universe.
Individual gods had separate areas of power and influence. Some of them – including some local spirits and deified humans – had shrines and temples dedicated to them.
These gods were believed to live in high castles, far above human settlements. The mystical places populated by gods included the Kunlun Mountains, Mount Penglai, Mount Tai, and the Jade Mountain.
Despite the physical distance, these deities were believed to have active roles in the lives of the mortals.
The Most Important Gods
Tudi Gong and Other Spirits
- Before they started worshiping Shangti, ancient Chinese believed in the Tudi Gong. The Tudi Gong were local gods or earth spirits who had power in one specific area of land. Each city, town, village, farm, and field had its own Tudi Gong.
- People wanted to have those deities on their side, so they did their best to honor them properly. This belief is still present in a modernized form in China; even the concept of Feng Shui is based on it.
- Similar to Tudi Gong were Kuei-Shen. These were nature spirits that lived in trees, gardens, near streams, and other natural dwellings.
- Different kinds of spirits were the guei. Those are the spirits of the deceased who sometimes returned to haunt the living.
- The Baxian (Pa Hsien) used to be mortals, too, but they were rewarded by eternal life. People prayed to the Baxian to watch over them.
Yinglong (Dragon King)
- One of the oldest and best known gods in China was the Dragon King named Yinglong. This god was the master of rain, which means that the crops depended on him, and also he could send heavy rain and terrible storms to punish people when they ignored him. Yinglong was also known as the Lord of the Sea and guardian of kings and heroes.
- Pangu or P’an Ku was an ancient Chinese god of creation, who emerged from a cosmic egg and separated the Yin and the Yang principles.Then he turned the yin into the earth and the yang into the sky. It took him thousands of years to make his creation perfect; then he died, and parts of his body became the sun, the moon, forests, rivers, animals, and everything else on the earth, except for humans.
- Half woman and half dragon, Nuwa was glorified as the mother of humankind. According to the ancient belief, this hard-working goddess shaped human beings using the mud of the Yellow River and breathed into them to give them life. Then one day she got tired and invented marriage so that people no longer needed her to reproduce.
- Fuxi was considered the father of humans. While Nuwa was believed to have created the first people, Fuxi did his fatherly role by teaching them how to use fire to keep warm, cook food, and bring light. He also made the first fishing nets and thought people how to get food from the sea.In addition to these basic needs, Fuxi was the teacher of writing, music, and divination. People worshiped him as their teacher, father, and protector, and often called him and Nuwa for protection.
- Depicted as a mischievous monkey, this god was famous for causing trouble. According to the legend, he was so naughty and made so much trouble that other gods killed him and sent him to the underworld – but he used another trick to get out of it.He sneaked into the chambers of the king of the underworld and erased his name from the king’s book.This trick not only brought him back to life; now that his name was no longer in the book of the underworld king, Sun Wukong could never die again.
- Lei Shen was the bad-tempered god of thunder. He had a large drum, and he beat on it with a hammer. This god was easily irritated and very unpleasant. He particularly couldn’t stand people who wasted food and would kill anyone who did it.Legend has it that he threw his thunderbolts at innocent people, too, albeit by mistake. He accidentally killed a woman named Dian Mu, but she was then raised from the dead to become the goddess of lightning. After that, her role was to flash the light to show the snippy god where to throw his thunderbolts to avoid hurting innocent people.
- Shangti was the “Lord on High,” the god above all others, the master of law, justice, order, and life. This god directed the whole universe and watched over the lives of all people, especially those who ruled over others. He decided who should become a king or emperor, how long they would rule, and who should succeed them.
Queen Mother of the West
- The queen of the gods and spirits and goddess of immortality lived in a golden castle in the Kunlun Mountains. She was believed to have the power to give eternal life to her followers and to punish those who angered her.
- Yan Wang, also known as Lord Yama, was the god of death and the supreme king of the underworld. This deity had the final say in the judgment of souls. Ultimately, he decided whether a soul will be penalized for their wrongdoings in life, be reincarnated, or become a god.
There were so many gods and goddesses in the Chinese pantheon; we’ll mention a few of them.
- Guanyin was the goddess of mercy and compassion and the protector of sailors and fishermen.
- Caishen was the god of wealth.
- Chang’e was the goddess of the moon.
- Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were the god and goddess of love
- Zao-Shen, the Kitchen God, resided in the kitchen in every home and was in charge of the domestic happiness and the prosperity of the family.
- Menshen were gods of peaceful sleep, who protected people’s homes from evil spirits, ghosts, and nightmares.
What’s the name of local gods that lived in and had power over a specific area?
Those were the Tudi Gong.
According to ancient Chinese belief, which gods created the universe and the humans?
Pangu created the universe, and Nuwa made the first humans.
Which god was the king of all gods?
It was Shangti.
What was the other name of the Dragon King?
His name was Yinglong.
Who decided about the destiny of those who died?
Yan Wang, the king of the afterlife.
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