Life History of Real Jiang Taigong
Jiang Taigong, native of Donghai in Zhou Dynasty, was said to be a descendant of Emperor Yandi of remote ages. One of his forefathers had been a holding high position during the reign of Emperor Shun. Later, because of his achievement in helping Yu the Great to harness rivers, he was granted the fief of Lu (west of today’s Nanyang City in Henan Province) and addressed as Marquis of Lu. Jiang Taigong was also called Lu Shang or Lu Wang. To show him respect, later generations called him Jiang Ziya. In ancient times “zi” was an honorific title for men.
King Wen way on the journey to seek talents and met Jiang ZIya by chance. Jiang Ziya was a learned man and always wanted an opportunity to put his talents into practice. However under the reign of King Zhou, the last ruler of Shang Dynasty, he was unable to serve him as King Zhou was a tyrant.
Most of his life was spent in obscurity and poverty. He only was able to use his abilities when he was seventy years old. Jiang had heard that King Wen, chief of Zhou clan in the late Shang dynasty, was amiable and easy to approach, respecting the elder and loving children, placing those able and virtuous people in important positions. Thus Jiang moved to Wenshui. Building a hut near Panxi, he made a living by fishing, while waiting for the important post to be conferred by King Wen that would enable him to use his wisdom in assisting King Wen. Despite waiting for the wise ruler for a long time, Jiang hair turned grey and his hope seems futile. However as destined one day he heard the sound of horses and people’s voices coming from afar. A delicate featured man dressed up as a King approached him. When told the distinguished visitor was the King Wen of Zhou, who was eagerly seeking talents, he felt very happy and finally was appointed the Prime Minister!
He carried out political and military reforms. Domestically, he emphasizes on developing production; externally, he deployed forces to conquer small neighboring clans to expand territories and weaken the Shang Dynasty.
With his assistance King Wen defeated Quanrong, conquered Shang Dynasty’s Chongguo, and moved the capital from Qishan to Fengcheng. The territory of Zhou gradually increase and stretched from Mi (today’s Lingtai in Gansu Province) in the west of Yu (Around todays Qinyang County in Henan Province) in the east. Then Zhou territory further expanded to the valley of Yangtze, Hanshui and Rushui rivers. Its political, economic and military strength greatly surpassed the Shang Dynasty, paving the way for the founding of the Zhou Dynasty.
Unfortunately, King Wen died before he fulfilled his ambition of overthrowing the Shang. His son Ji Fa, historically known as King Wu, succeeded to the throne.
With the assistance of Jiang, he sent troops to fight King Zhou of Shang, and carried out his father’s plan to establish the Zhou Dynasty. The regime is called Western Zhou in history. Due to his merits in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty, Jiang was granted the area of Qi (the central and eastern parts of today’s Shandong Province) as his fief, and regarded as the founder of Qi.
Jiang Taigong in Legend
There are numerous legend about Jiang Taigong. One account said that his parents died when he was a child and he followed his aunt to Zhaoge, the capital of Shang. At the age of twelve he started working as a butcher because his aunt’s family needed his help. But he failed at his job and wandered away from Zhaoge, until he met King Wen and found success.
One legend said Jiang fished for three days and three nights without catching anything. Later someone taught him the way of angling. Following the advice, Jiang finally caught a carp. Upon opening it’s belly, he found a cloth roll with characters reading “Lu Wang (namely Jiang Taigong) will be granted the area of Qi as his fief”.
Based on another legend King Wen dreamed of the Heavenly Emperor calling him “Chang (King Wen was named Ji Chang), I am going to grant you a good mentor and assistant. His name is Wang”. He then saw Jiang taigong beside the Heavenly Emperor. It was the same night Jiang Taigong had the same dream. Soon afterwards when meeting Jiang, King Wen asked. “Is Wang your name?”
“Yes,” replied Jiang, smiling. “It seems that I had seen you somewhere,” said King Wen. After Jiang told him the exact date he had the same dream with King Wen, he took Jiang and offered him an important position.
This legend is the most popular among all. Jiang Taigong was originally a famous general of King Wen and a respected figure. He was even believed ton have become a supernatural being. So anyone who wants to drive evil spirits out of his house would put on the wall a poster with characters reading. “Jiang Taigong is here. All evil spirits keep off.”
Jiang Taigong is depicted as an elderly man with white beard and hair, dressed up in imperial robe, one hand holding a flag (flag denotes his power to control or dispatch armies) and the other hand holds a sword.
Jiang Taigong famous quote, ”Jiang Taigong is here. Other gods withdraw and keep off”. Thus declared Jiang Taigong at a platform after he granted titles to other gods. “Since I had offered a title to them, I should at least place myself above them”, he declared.
From then onwards, when people were building a new house, they would paste up a banner reading “Jiang Taigong is here, hundred affairs are not forbidden as taboo”, (姜太公在此, 百事無禁忌) this would prevent evil spirits from occupying the building.
Wen Chang Di Jun
The popular Chinese Taoist god of literature and writing, invoked by scholars to assists them in their works. He is especially venerated by people who require help with their entrance examinations for an official career.
In reality, Wen-chang is a constellation of six stars in the vicinity of the Great Bear. It is said that when these stars are bright, literature flourishes. He visits the Earth frequently in human shape. Taoists texts mention seventeen separate existences of the stellar deity on Earth
In addition to the ancestors of whose worship it really consists, Taoism has in its pantheon the specialized gods worshipped by the scholars. The chief of these is Wen Chang, the God of Literature. The account of him (which varies in several particulars in different Chinese works) relates that he was a man by the name of Chang Ya, who was born during the T’ang dynasty in the kingdom of Yeh (now known as ZheJiang Province), and went to live at Tzŭ T’ung in Szechuan, where his intelligence raised him to the position of President of the Board of Ceremonies. Another account refers to him as Chang Ya Tzŭ, the Soul or Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, and states that he held office in the Chin dynasty (A.D. 265–316), and was killed in a fight. Another again states that under the Sung dynasty (A.D. Page 105960–1280), in the third year (A.D. 1000) of the reign-period Hsien P’ing of the Emperor Chun Tsung, he repressed the revolt of Wang Chun at Ch’ing Tu in Szechuan. General Lei Yu-chung caused to be shot into the besieged town arrows to which notices were attached inviting the inhabitants to surrender. Suddenly a man mounted a ladder, and pointing to the rebels cried in a loud voice: “The Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung has sent me to inform you that the town will fall into the hands of the enemy on the twentieth day of the ninth moon, and not a single person will escape death.” Attempts to strike down this prophet of evil were in vain, for he had already disappeared. The town was captured on the day indicated. The general, as a reward, caused the temple of Tzŭ T’ung’s Spirit to be repaired, and sacrifices offered to it.
The object of worship nowadays in the temples dedicated to Wen Chang is Tzŭ T’ung Ti Chun, the God of Tzŭ T’ung. Various emperors at various times bestowed upon Wen Chang honorific titles, until ultimately, in the Yuan, or Mongol, dynasty, in the reign Yen Yu, in A.D. 1314, the title was conferred on him of Supporter of the Yuan Dynasty, Diffuser of Renovating Influences, Ssŭ-lu of Wen Chang, God and Lord. He was thus apotheosized, and took his place among the gods of China.
Thus the God of Literature, Wen Chang Di Jun, duly installed in the Chinese pantheon, and sacrifices were offered to him in the temples dedicated to him. But scholars, especially those about to enter for the public competitive examinations, worshipped as the God of Literature, or as his palace or abode (Wen Chang), the star K’uei in the Great Bear, or Dipper, or Bushel—the latter name derived from its resemblance in shape to the measure used by the Chinese and called tou. The term K’uei was more generally applied to the four stars forming the body or square part of the Dipper, the three forming the tail or handle being called Shao or Piao. How all this came about is the next story.
A scholar, as famous for his literary skill as his facial deformities, had been admitted as first academician at the metropolitan examinations. It was the custom that the Emperor should give with his own hand a rose of gold to the fortunate candidate. This scholar, whose name was Chung K’uei, presented himself according to custom to receive the reward which was rightfully due to him. At the sight of his repulsive face the Emperor refused the golden rose. In despair the miserable rejected one went and threw himself into the sea. At the moment when he was being choked by the waters a mysterious fish or monster called ao raised him on its back and brought him to the surface. K’uei ascended to Heaven and became arbiter of the destinies of men of letters. His abode was said to be the star K’uei, a name given by the Chinese to the sixteen stars of the constellation or ‘mansion’ of Andromeda and Pisces. The scholars quite soon began to worship K’uei as the God of Literature, and to represent it on a column in the temples. Then sacrifices were offered to it. This star or constellation was regarded as the palace of the god. The legend gave rise to an expression frequently used in Chinese of one who comes out first in an examination, namely, tu chan ao, “to stand alone on the sea-monster’s head.” It is especially to be noted that though the two K’ue’s have the same sound they are represented by different characters, and that the two constellations are not the same, but are situated in widely different parts of the heavens.
Images of Wen Chang portray him as an official or as a scholar. He is always seen holding an auspicious scepter “Ru Yi” or a register book. Usually accompanied by his two faithful attendants, namely Tien Lung (Deaf Celestial) and Di Ya (Mute Terrestial). His birthday is celebrated on the third day of second lunar month.