A complex of deities at an outdoor fountain-altar with incense burners at a pilgrimage area in Weihai, Shandong. At the centre stands Mazu, surrounded by the four Dragon Gods (龍神) and various lesser deities. Distant behind Mazu stands the Sun Goddess (太陽神).
Chinese traditional religion is polytheistic; many deities are worshipped in a pantheistic view where divinity is inherent in the world. The gods are energies or principles revealing, imitating, and propagating the way of heaven (Tian天), which is the supreme godhead manifesting in the northern culmen of the starry vault of the skies and its order. Many gods are ancestors or men who became deities for their heavenly achievements. Most gods are also identified with stars and constellations. Ancestors are regarded as the equivalent of Heaven within human society, and therefore, as the means of connecting back to Heaven, which is the "utmost ancestral father" (曾祖父zēngzǔfù).
There are a variety of immortals in Chinese thought, and one major type is the xian, which is thought in some religious Taoism movements to be a human given long or infinite life.
Gods are innumerable, as every phenomenon has or is one or more gods, and they are organised in a complex celestial hierarchy. Besides the traditional worship of these entities, Confucianism, Taoism, and formal thinkers in general give theological interpretations affirming a monistic essence of divinity.
"Polytheism" and "monotheism" are categories derived from Western religion and do not fit Chinese religion, which has never conceived the two things as opposites.Tian bridges the gap between supernatural phenomena and many kinds of beings, giving them a single source from spiritual energy in some Chinese belief systems. However, there is a significant belief in Taoism which differentiates tian from the forces of earth and water, which are held to be equally powerful.
Since all gods are considered manifestations of 氣qì, the "power" or pneuma of Heaven, in some views of tian, some scholars have employed the term "polypneumatism" or "(poly)pneumatolatry", first coined by Walter Medhurst (1796–1857), to describe the practice of Chinese polytheism. Some Taoists consider deities the manifestation of the Tao.
In the theology of the classic texts and Confucianism, "Heaven is the lord of the hundreds of deities".
Modern Confucian theology compares them to intelligence, substantial forms or entelechies (inner purposes) as explained by Leibniz, generating all types of beings, so that "even mountains and rivers are worshipped as something capable of enjoying sacrificial offerings".
Unlike in Hinduism, the deification of historical persons and ancestors is not traditionally the duty of Confucians or Taoists.[clarification needed] Rather, it depends on the choices of common people; persons are deified when they have made extraordinary deeds and have left an efficacious legacy. Yet, Confucians and Taoists traditionally may demand that state honours be granted to a particular deity. Each deity has a cult centre and ancestral temple where he or she, or the parents, lived their mortal life. There are frequently disputes over which is the original place and source temple of the cult of a deity.
God of Heaven
Like other symbols such as the manji symbol,wàn卍 ("myriad things") in Chinese, and the Mesopotamian 𒀭 Dingir/An ("Heaven"), and also the Chinese 巫wū ("shaman"; in Shang script represented by the cross potent ☩),Tiān refers to the northern celestial pole (北極Běijí), the pivot and the vault of the sky with its spinning constellations. Here is an approximate representation of the Tiānmén天門 ("Gate of Heaven") or Tiānshū天樞 ("Pivot of Heaven") as the precessional north celestial pole, with α Ursae Minoris as the pole star, with the spinning Chariot constellations in the four phases of time. According to Reza Assasi's theories, the wan may not only be centred in the current precessional pole at α Ursae Minoris, but also very near to the north ecliptic pole if Draco (Tiānlóng天龍) is conceived as one of its two beams.[note 1]
Chinese traditional theology, which comes in different interpretations according to the classic texts, and specifically Confucian, Taoist, and other philosophical formulations, is fundamentally monistic, that is to say, it sees the world and the gods who produce it as an organic whole, or cosmos. The universal principle that gives origin to the world is conceived as transcendent and immanent to creation, at the same time. The Chinese idea of the universal God is expressed in different ways. There are many names of God from the different sources of Chinese tradition.
The radical Chinese terms for the universal God are Tiān天 and Shàngdì上帝 (the "Highest Deity") or simply, Dì帝 ("Deity"). There is also the concept of Tàidì太帝 (the "Great Deity"). Dì is a title expressing dominance over the all-under-Heaven, that is, all things generated by Heaven and ordered by its cycles and by the stars.Tiān is usually translated as "Heaven", but by graphical etymology, it means "Great One" and a number of scholars relate it to the same Dì through phonetic etymology and trace their common root, through their archaic forms, respectively *Teeŋ and *Tees, to the symbols of the squared north celestial pole godhead (Dīng口). These names are combined in different ways in Chinese theological literature, often interchanged in the same paragraph, if not in the same sentence.
Names of the God of Heaven
Besides Shangdi and Taidi, other names include Yudi ("Jade Deity") and Taiyi ("Great Oneness") who, in mythical imagery, holds the ladle of the Big Dipper (Great Chariot), providing the movement of life to the world. As the hub of the skies, the north celestial pole constellations are known, among various names, as Tiānmén天門 ("Gate of Heaven") and Tiānshū天樞 ("Pivot of Heaven").
Other names of the God of Heaven are attested in the vast Chinese religio-philosophical literary tradition:
Tiāndì天帝—the "Deity of Heaven" or "Emperor of Heaven": "On Rectification" (Zheng lun) of the Xunzi uses this term to refer to the active God of Heaven setting in motion creation;
Tiānzhǔ天主—the "Lord of Heaven": In "The Document of Offering Sacrifices to Heaven and Earth on the Mountain Tai" (Fengshan shu) of the Records of the Grand Historian, it is used as the title of the first God from whom all the other gods derive.
Tiānhuáng天皇—the "August Personage of Heaven": In the "Poem of Fathoming Profundity" (Si'xuan fu), transcribed in "The History of the Later Han Dynasty" (Hou Han shu), Zhang Heng ornately writes: «I ask the superintendent of the Heavenly Gate to open the door and let me visit the King of Heaven at the Jade Palace»;
Tiānwáng天王—the "King of Heaven" or "Monarch of Heaven".
Tiāngōng天公—the "Duke of Heaven" or "General of Heaven";
Tiānjūn天君—the "Prince of Heaven" or "Lord of Heaven";
Tiānzūn天尊—the "Heavenly Venerable", also a title for high gods in Taoist theologies;
Tiānshén天神—the "God of Heaven", interpreted in the Shuowen Jiezi as "the being that gives birth to all things";
Shénhuáng神皇—"God the August", attested in Taihong ("The Origin of Vital Breath");
Tian is both transcendent and immanent, manifesting in the three forms of dominance, destiny, and nature of things. In the Wujing yiyi (五經異義, "Different Meanings in the Five Classics"), Xu Shen explains that the designation of Heaven is quintuple:
Huáng Tiān皇天 —"August Heaven" or "Imperial Heaven", when it is venerated as the lord of creation;
Hào Tiān昊天—"Vast Heaven", with regard to the vastness of its vital breath (qi);
Mín Tiān旻天—"Compassionate Heaven", for it hears and corresponds with justice to the all-under-Heaven;
Shàng Tiān上天—"Highest Heaven" or "First Heaven", for it is the primordial being supervising all-under-Heaven;
Cāng Tiān蒼天—"Deep-Green Heaven", for it being unfathomably deep.
Couplets or polarities, such as Fuxi and Nuwa, Xiwangmu and Dongwanggong, and the highest couple of Heaven and Earth, all embody yin and yang and are at once the originators and maintainers of the ordering process of space and time.
Immortals, or xian, are seen as a variety of different types of beings, including the souls of virtuous Taoists, gods,zhenren, and/or a type of supernatural spiritual being who understood heaven. Taoists historically worshipped them the most, although Chinese folk religion practitioners during the Tang dynasty also worshipped them, although there was more skepticism about the goodness, and even the existence, of xian among them.
In Taoism and Chinese folk religion, gods and xian are often seen as embodiments of water. Water gods and xian were often thought to ensure good grain harvests, mild weather and seas, and rivers with abundant water. Some xian were thought to be humans who gained power by drinking "charmed water".
Stoneware figure of a Daoist (Taoist) deity. From China, Ming Dynasty, 16th century CE. The British Museum
Yudi (玉帝 "Jade Deity") or Yuhuang (玉皇 "Jade Emperor" or "Jade King"), is the popular human-like representation of the God of Heaven.Jade traditionally represents purity, so it is a metaphor for the unfathomable source of creation.
Doumu (斗母 "Mother of the Great Chariot"), often entitled with the honorific Tianhou (天后 "Queen of Heaven")[i] is the heavenly goddess portrayed as the mother of the Big Dipper (Great Chariot), whose seven stars, in addition to two invisible ones, are conceived as her sons, the Jiuhuangshen (九皇神 "Nine God-Kings"), themselves regarded as the ninefold manifestation of Jiuhuangdadi (九皇大帝, "Great Deity of the Nine Kings") or Doufu (斗父 "Father of the Great Chariot"), another name of the God of Heaven. She is, therefore, both wife and mother of the God of Heaven.
Pangu (盤古), a macranthropic metaphor of the cosmos. He separated yin and yang, creating the earth (murky yin) and the sky (clear yang). All things were made from his body after he died.
Xiwangmu (西王母 "Queen Mother of the West"),[ii] identified with the Kunlun Mountain, shamanic inspiration, death, and immortality. She is the dark, chthonic goddess, pure yin, at the same time terrifying and benign, both creation and destruction, associated with the tiger and weaving. Her male counterpart is Dongwanggong (東王公 "King Duke of the East";[iii] also called Mugong, 木公 "Duke of the Woods"), who represents the yang principle.
Yi the Archer (Hòuyì后羿) was a man who sought for immortality, reaching Xiwangmu on her mountain, Kunlun.
Yinyanggong (陰陽公 "Yinyang Duke"[iii]) or Yinyangsi (陰陽司 "Yinyang Controller"), the personification of the union of yin and yang.
Three Patrons and Five Deities
Wǔfāng Shàngdì 五方上帝 — The order of Heaven inscribing worlds as tán壇, "altar", the Chinese concept equivalent to the Indian mandala. The supreme God conceptualised as the Yellow Deity, and Xuanyuan as its human form, is the heart of the universe and the other Four Deities are his emanations. The diagram is based on the Huainanzi.
Statue and ceremonial complex of the Yellow and Red Gods in Zhengzhou, Henan.
Temple of the Three Officials of Heaven in Chiling, Zhangpu, Fujian.
三皇Sānhuáng — Three Patrons (or Augusts) or 三才Sāncái — Three Potencies; they are the "vertical" manifestation of Heaven, spatially corresponding to the Three Realms (三界Sānjiè), representing the yin and yang and the medium between them, that is the human being:
伏羲Fúxī, the patron of heaven (天皇Tiānhuáng), also called Bāguàzǔshī (八卦祖師 "Venerable Inventor of the Bagua") by the Taoists, is a divine man reputed to have taught to humanity writing, fishing, and hunting.
女媧Nǚwā, the patron of earth (地皇Dehuáng), is a goddess attributed for the creation of mankind and mending the order of the world when it was broken.
神農Shénnóng — Peasant God, the patron of humanity (人皇Rénhuáng), identified as Yándì (炎帝 "Flame Deity" or "Fiery Deity"), a divine man said to have taught the techniques of farming, herbal medicine, and marketing. He is often represented as a human with horns and other features of an ox.
五帝Wǔdì — Five Deities, also Wǔfāng Shàngdì (五方上帝 "Five Manifestations of the Highest Deity"), Wǔfāng Tiānshén (五方天神 "Five Manifestations of the Heavenly God"), Wǔfāngdì (五方帝 "Five Forms Deity"), Wǔtiāndì (五天帝 "Five Heavenly Deities"), Wǔlǎojūn (五老君 "Five Ancient Lords"), Wǔdàoshén (五道神 "Five Ways God(s)"); they are the five main "horizontal" manifestations of Heaven, and along with the Three Potencies, they have a celestial, a terrestrial, and a chthonic form. They correspond to the five phases of creation, the five constellations rotating around the celestial pole and five planets, the five sacred mountains and five directions of space (their terrestrial form), and the five Dragon Gods which represent their mounts, that is to say, the material forces they preside over (their chthonic form).
黃帝Huángdì — Yellow Emperor or Yellow Deity; or 黃神Huángshén — Yellow God, also known as Xuānyuán Huángdì (軒轅黃帝 "Yellow Deity of the Chariot Shaft"), is the Zhōngyuèdàdì (中岳大帝 "Great Deity of the Central Peak"): he represents the essence of earth and the Yellow Dragon, and is associated with Saturn. The character 黃huáng, for "yellow", also means, by homophony and shared etymology with 皇huáng, "august", "creator", and "radiant", identifying the Yellow Emperor with Shangdi (the "Highest Deity"). Huangdi represents the heart of creation, the axis mundi (Kunlun) that is the manifestation of the divine order in physical reality, opening the way to immortality. As the deity of the centre, intersecting the Three Patrons and the Five Deities, in the Shizi he is described as "Yellow Emperor with Four Faces" (黃帝四面Huángdì Sìmiàn). As a human, he is said to have been the fruit of a virginal birth, as his mother Fubao conceived him as she was aroused, while walking in the country, by a lightning from the Big Dipper (Great Chariot). She delivered her son after twenty-four months on the mount of Shou (Longevity) or mount Xuanyuan (Chariot Shaft), after which he was named. He is reputed to be the founder of the Huaxia civilisation, and the Han Chinese identify themselves as the descendants of Yandi and Huangdi.
蒼帝Cāngdì — Green Deity; or 青帝Qīngdì — Blue Deity or Bluegreen Deity, the Dōngdì (東帝 "East Deity") or Dōngyuèdàdì (東岳大帝 "Great Deity of the Eastern Peak"): he is Tàihào太昊, associated with the essence of wood and with Jupiter, and is the god of fertility and spring. The Bluegreen Dragon is both his animal form and constellation. His female consort is the goddess of fertility, Bixia.
黑帝Hēidì — Black Deity, the Běidì (北帝 "North Deity") or Běiyuèdàdì (北岳大帝 "Great Deity of the Northern Peak"): he is Zhuānxū (顓頊), today frequently worshipped as Xuánwǔ (玄武 "Dark Warrior") or Zhēnwǔ (真武), and is associated with the essence of water and winter, and with Mercury. His animal form is the Black Dragon and his stellar animal is the tortoise-snake.
赤帝Chìdì — Red Deity, the Nándì (帝 "South Deity") or Nányuèdàdì (南岳大帝 "Great Deity of the Southern Peak"): he is Shennong (the "Divine Farmer"), the Yandi ("Fiery Deity"), associated with the essence of fire and summer, and with Mars. His animal form is the Red Dragon and his stellar animal is the phoenix. He is the god of agriculture, animal husbandry, medicinal plants, and market.
白帝Báidì — White Deity, the Xīdì (西帝 "West Deity") or Xīyuèdàdì (西岳大帝 "Great Deity of the Western Peak"): he is Shǎohào (少昊), and is the god of the essence of metal and autumn, associated with Venus. His animal form is the White Dragon and his stellar animal is the tiger.
In mythology, Huangdi and Yandi fought a battle against each other, and Huang finally defeated Yan with the help of the Dragon (the controller of water, who is Huangdi himself). This myth symbolises the equipoise of yin and yang, here the fire of knowledge (reason and craft) and earthly stability.Yan炎 is flame, scorching fire, or an excess of it (it is important to note that graphically, it is a double 火huo, "fire"). As an excess of fire brings destruction to the earth, it has to be controlled by a ruling principle. Nothing is good in itself, without limits; good outcomes depend on the proportion in the composition of things and their interactions, never on extremes in absolute terms. Huangdi and Yandi are complementary opposites, necessary for the existence of one another, and they are powers that exist together within the human being.
龍神Lóngshén — Dragon Gods, or 龍王Lóngwáng — Dragon Kings: also Sìhǎi Lóngwáng (四海龍王 "Dragon Kings of the Four Seas"), are gods of watery sources, usually reduced to four, patrons of the Four Seas (sihai四海) and the four cardinal directions. They are the White Dragon (白龍Báilóng), the Black Dragon (玄龍Xuánlóng), the Red Dragon (朱龍Zhūlóng), and the Bluegreen Dragon (青龍Qīnglóng). Corresponding with the Five Deities as the chthonic forces that they sublimate (the Dragon Gods are often represented as the "mount" of the Five Deities), they inscribe the land of China into an ideal sacred squared boundary. The fifth dragon, the Yellow Dragon (黃龍Huánglóng), is the dragon of the centre, representing the Yellow God.
Some Taoist gods were thought to affect human morality and the consequences of it in certain traditions. Some Taoists beseeched gods, multiple gods, and/or pantheons to aid them in life and/or abolish their sins.
文帝Wéndi — Culture Deity, or 文昌帝Wénchāngdì — Deity who Makes Culture Thrive, or 文昌王Wénchāngwáng — King who Makes Culture Thrive: in southern provinces, this deity takes the identity of various historical persons, while in the north, he is more frequently identified as being the same as Confucius (Kǒngfūzǐ孔夫子)
魁星Kuíxīng — Chief Star, another god of culture and literature, but specifically, examination, is a personification of the man who awakens to the order of the Great Chariot
武帝Wǔdì — Military Deity: 關帝Guāndì — Divus Guan, also called 關公Guāngōng — Duke Guan,[iii] and popularly 關羽Guānyǔ[ii]
Another class is the 戰神Zhànshén — Fight God, who may be personified by Chīyóu (蚩尤) or Xíngtiān (刑天, who was decapitated for fighting against Tian)
城隍神Chénghuángshén — Moat and Walls God, Boundary God: the god of the sacred boundaries of a human agglomeration, he is often personified by founding fathers or noble personalities from each city or town[ii]
陳靖姑Chénjìnggū — Old Quiet Lady, also called 臨水夫人Línshuǐ Fūrén — Waterside Dame[v]
祿星Lùxīng — Firmness Star, god of firmness and success in life and examinations
壽星Shòuxing — Longevity Star, who stands for a healthy and long life
Gods of animal and vegetal life
花神Huāshén — Flower Goddess
狐神Húshén — Fox God(dess), or 狐仙Húxiān — Fox Immortal, also called 狐仙娘娘Húxiān Niángniáng — Fox Immortal Lady[vii]
Two other great fox deities, peculiar to northeast China, are the Great Lord of the Three Foxes (胡三太爷Húsān Tàiyé) and the Great Lady of the Three Foxes (胡三太奶Húsān Tàinǎi), representing the yin and yang[vii]
馬神Mǎshén — Horse God, or Mǎwáng马王 — Horse King[iv]
牛神Niúshén — Cattle God or Ox God, also called 牛王Niúwáng — Cattle King[iv]
Taiwanese wooden icon of the Queen of the Earth (Houtu).
The worship of mother goddesses for the cultivation of offspring is present all over China, but predominantly in northern provinces. There are nine main goddesses, and all of them tend to be considered as manifestations or attendant forces of a singular goddess identified variously as Bixia Yuanjun (the Lady of the Blue Dawn, 碧霞元君, also known as the Tiānxiān Niángniáng天仙娘娘, "Heavenly Immortal Lady", or Tàishān Niángniáng泰山娘娘, "Lady of Mount Tai",[viii] or also Jiǔtiān Shèngmǔ九天聖母, "Holy Mother of the Nine Skies"[ix]): 149–150 or Houtu, the goddess of the earth. Bixia herself is identified by Taoists as the more ancient goddess Xiwangmu, The general Chinese term for "goddess" is 女神nǚshén, and goddesses may receive many qualifying titles, including mǔ (母 "mother"), lǎomǔ (老母 "old mother"), shèngmǔ (聖母 "holy mother"), niángniáng (娘娘 "lady"), nǎinai (奶奶 "granny").
The additional eight main goddesses of fertility, reproduction, and growth are:: 149–150, 191, note 18
瘢疹娘娘Bānzhěn Niángniáng, the goddess who protects children from illness;
催生娘娘Cuīshēng Niángniáng, the goddess who gives swift childbirth and protects midwives;
奶母娘娘Nǎimǔ Niángniáng, the goddess who presides over maternal milk and protects nursing;
培姑娘娘Péigū Niángniáng, the goddess who cultivates children;
培養娘娘Péiyǎng Niángniáng, the goddess who protects the upbringing of children;
送子娘娘Sòngzi Niángniáng or 子孫娘娘Zǐsūn Niángniáng, the goddess who presides over offspring;
眼光娘娘Yǎnguāng Niángniáng, the goddess who protects eyesight;
引蒙娘娘Yǐnméng Niángniáng, the goddess who guides young children.
Altars of goddess worship are usually arranged with Bixia at the center and two goddesses at her sides, most frequently the Lady of Eyesight and the Lady of Offspring.: 149–150, 191, note 18 A different figure, but with the same astral connections as Bixia is the Goddess of the Seven Stars (七星娘娘Qīxīng Niángniáng).[x] There is also the cluster of the Holy Mothers of the Three Skies (三霄聖母Sānxiāo Shèngmǔ; or 三霄娘娘Sānxiāo Niángniáng, "Ladies of the Three Stars"), composed of Yunxiao Guniang, Qiongxiao Guniang, and Bixiao Guniang. The cult of Chenjinggu, present in southeast China, is identified by some scholars as an emanation of the northern cult of Bixia.
Other goddesses worshipped in China include Cánmǔ[xi] (蠶母 Silkworm Mother) or Cángū (蠶姑 Silkworm Maiden), identified with Léizǔ (嫘祖, the wife of the Yellow Emperor), Mágū (麻姑 "Hemp Maiden"), Sǎoqīng Niángniáng (掃清娘娘 Goddess who Sweeps Clean),[xii]Sānzhōu Niángniáng (三洲娘娘 Goddess of the Three Isles), and Wusheng Laomu. The mother goddess is central in the theology of many folk religious sects.
Northeast China has clusters of deities which are peculiar to the area, deriving from the Manchu and broader Tungusic substratum of the local population. Animal deities related to shamanic practices are characteristic of the area and reflect wider Chinese cosmology. Besides the aforementioned Fox Gods (狐仙Húxiān), they include:
黃仙Huángxiān — Yellow Immortal, the Weasel God
蛇仙Shéxiān — Snake Immortal, also variously called 柳仙Liǔxiān — Immortal Liu, or 常仙Chángxiān — Viper Immortal, or also 蟒仙Mǎngxiān — Python or Boa Immortal
白仙Báixiān — White Immortal, the Hedgehog God
黑仙Hēixiān — Black Immortal, who may be the 烏鴉仙Wūyāxiān — Crow Immortal, or the 灰仙Huīxiān — Rat Immortal, with the latter considered a misinterpretation of the former
四面神Sìmiànshén — "Four-Faced God", but also a metaphor for "Ubiquitous God": The recent cult has its origin in the Thai transmission of the Hindu god Brahma, but it is important to note that it is also an epithet of the indigenous Chinese god Huangdi who, as the deity of the centre of the cosmos, is described in the Shizi as "Yellow Emperor with Four Faces" (黃帝四面Huángdì Sìmiàn).
象頭神Xiàngtóushén — "Elephant-Head God", is the Indian god Ganesha
Gods of North China and Mongolia
Genghis Khan (成吉思汗Chéngjísīhán), worshipped by Mongols and Chinese under a variety of divinity titles, including 聖武皇帝Shèngwǔ Huángdì — "Holy Military Sovereign Deity", 法天啓運Fǎtiān Qǐyùn "Starter of the Transmission of the Law of Heaven", and 太祖Tàizǔ — "Great Ancestor" (of the Yuan and the Mongols).
^Whether centred in the changeful precessional north celestial pole or in the fixed north ecliptic pole, the spinning constellations draw the wàn卍 symbol around the centre.
Notes about the deities and their names
^ abcThe honorific Tiānhòu (天后 "Queen of Heaven") is used for many goddesses, but most frequently Mazu and Doumu.
^ abcdefgThe cult of this deity is historically exercised all over China.
^ abcdeAbout the use of the title "duke": the term is from Latin dux, and describes a phenomenon or person who "conducts", "leads", the divine inspiration.
^ abcdefghijklmnopqrstThe cult of this deity is historically exercised in northern China. It is important to note that many cults of northern deities were transplanted also in southern big cities like Hong Kong and Macau, and also in Taiwan, with the political changes and migrations of the 19th and 20th centuries.
^ abcdeThe cult of this deity is historically exercised in southeastern China.
^The cult of Mazu has its origin in Fujian, but it has expanded throughout southern China and in many northern provinces, chiefly in localities along the coast, as well as among expatriate Chinese communities.
^As the Lady of Mount Tai, Bixia is regarded as the female counterpart of Dongyuedadi, the "Great Deity of the Eastern Peak" (Mount Tai).
^The "Nine Skies" (九天Jiǔtiān) are the nine stars (seven stars with the addition of two invisibile ones, according to the Chinese tradition) of the Big Dipper or Great Chariot. Thus, Bixia and her nine attendants or manifestations are at the same time a metaphorical representation of living matter or earth, and of the source of all being which is more abstractly represented by major axial gods of Chinese religion such as Doumu.
^Qixing Niangniang ("Lady of the Seven Stars") is a goddess that represents the seven visible stars of the Big Dipper or Great Chariot.
^The cult of Canmu is related to that of Houtu ("Queen of Earth") and to that of the Sanxiao ("Three Skies") goddesses.
^Saoqing Niangniang ("Lady who Sweeps Clean") is the goddess who ensures good weather conditions "sweeping away" clouds and storms.
^Mair, Victor H. (2011). "Religious Formations and Intercultural Contacts in Early China". In Krech, Volkhard; Steinicke, Marion (eds.). Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe: Encounters, Notions, and Comparative Perspectives. Leiden: Brill. pp. 85–110. ISBN978-9004225350. pp. 97–98, note 26.
^Cheu, Hock Tong (1988). The Nine Emperor Gods: A Study of Chinese Spirit-medium Cults. Time Books International. ISBN9971653850. p. 19.
^DeBernardi, Jean (2007). "Commodifying Blessings: Celebrating the Double-Yang Festival in Penang, Malaysia and Wudang Mountain, China". In Kitiarsa, Pattana (ed.). Religious Commodifications in Asia: Marketing Gods. Routledge. ISBN978-1134074457.
^Little & Eichman (2000), p. 250. It describes a Ming dynasty painting representing (among other figures) the Wudi: "In the foreground are the gods of the Five Directions, dressed as emperors of high antiquity, holding tablets of rank in front of them. [...] These gods are significant because they reflect the cosmic structure of the world, in which yin, yang and the Five Phases (Elements) are in balance. They predate religious Taoism, and may have originated as chthonic gods of the Neolithic period. Governing all directions (east, south, west, north and center), they correspond not only to the Five Elements, but to the seasons, the Five Sacred Peaks, the Five Planets, and zodiac symbols as well. [...]".
Feuchtwang, Stephan (2016), "Chinese religions", in Woodhead, Linda; Kawanami, Hiroko; Partridge, Christopher H. (eds.), Religions in the Modern World: Traditions and Transformations (3nd ed.), London: Routledge, pp. 143–172, ISBN978-1317439608