Chinese Gods

Below are qoted from Lun Hêng, translated from the Chinese and annotated by Alfred Forke.

The chief deities worshipped during the Chou period were: — 

Heaven and its parts : — the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. Among the latter the Five Planets take the first place, but the 28 Solar Mansions and other constellations, such as the Dipper and the Stars of Longevity were likewise adored. 

Earth and its parts, Mountains and Rivers, the Soil, and the Grain growing on it, and some of its phenomena: — Earth-quakes, Water (Inundations), and Droughts. 

Meteorological phenomena: — Wind and Rain, Heat and Cold, Thunder and Lightning. 

The Four Seasons and the Four Quarters. 

The Five Parts of the House: — The Gate, the Door, the Wall, the Hearth, and the Court. 

Deified Heaven was often looked upon as an emperor, the Em- peror on High or the Supreme Ruler, and so were the Planets, called the Blue, Red, Yellow, White, and Black Emperors. The other stars and constellations were their officials. All these deities have, as a rule, no distinct personality, and still quite clearly show the traces of their origin. The " Prince of the Wind," the " Master of Rain,"' the " Thunderer," the " Door God," and the " Spirit of the Hearth " or " Kitchen God " were perhaps more than the others apprehended as personal gods. 

The Spirits of the Soil and Grain were at the outset probably not different from the other spirits animating nature, but according to very old traditions two persons: — Kou Lung and Ch'i have after their deaths been deified and raised to the rank of tutelary genii of the land and grain. These apotheoses of men after their death became more frequent in later ages. Under the Ch'in dynasty Ch'ih Yu, a legendary personage renownded for his military exploits, was worshipped as War God. The three sons of the mythical Emperor Chuan Hsü after their death became Water Spirits and Spirits of Epidemics, and a woman, who had died in childbed, and whose ghost had appeared to somebody after her decease, was made Princess of Demons under the Han dynasty. 

Here we have ancestral worship. Every family used to revere the ghosts of its deceased ancestors, but only in such exceptional cases as those quoted above did these ghosts later on become national gods.  

The cult of the afore-mentioned deities was continiued during the Han epoch, and with some few alterations has gone on up to the present day. It is the State religion of China, sanctioned by government, and practised by the Son of Heaven and his highest officials. Buddhism and Taoism are only tolerated. Confucianism is no religion, but the official moral system, which completely agrees with the cult of nature. 

The sacrifices to the spirits of nature were in ancient times performed by the Emperor, the Feudal Princes, and the officials, acting as high-priests for their people. The people used to sacri- fice only to their own ancestors and to the Spirits of the Door or the Hearth. The oblations were burnt-offerings of animals and libations of wine. There was no clergy to mediate between the gods and the people. These rules were less strictly observed during the Han epoch, when occasionally priests sacrificed in the place of the Emperor, and even priestesses were allowed to make offerings in their temples. In out-of-the-way places, where no officials were near, the people could themselves worship the gods, whose service else was incumbent upon the magistrates.