The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

YuleTide: The Twelve Deities of Solstice #12 – 土地公公 TU DI GONG GONG (GRANDFATHER EARTH)

Posted by invizweb on January 1, 2009

(C) Camau Association of America, Los Angeles

(C) Camau Association of America, Los Angeles

Although he is a deity my family gives reverence to at the altar every holiday, Tu Di Gong Gong (Grandfather Earth, 土地公公) is a major part of the Winter Solstice holiday, Dong Zhi. Dong Zhi is a holiday celebrated by Taoists and Chinese Universalists (do not ask that’s just what Britannica called adherents of the Chinese folk religion in this graph here. Tu Di Gong Gong is treated both as a impersonal family of deities localized in each neighborhood as well as a specific deity in Journey to the West. Thus one can say the Chinese civilization had a pantheistic view of the Earth which blessed them with fruit and vegetables.

The Grandfather is thought to be quite low in the chain of command of the Celestial Court. But perhaps that is what endears much of the Chinese peoples to this lower-management underdog as he is usually one of the first deities prayed to in times of natural disasters and on the major holidays (besides the Merciful Mother of Heaven, Kwan Yin of course). His offices range from the soil of the Earth, to vast bridges connecting land masses, to one’s household. As he is an Earth God, it is believed that he is in charge of overseeing gemstones and minerals as well, and thus prayers are made to him for financial prosperity. As Tu Di Gong Gong is thought to be title rather than a single God in some communities, he can take the form of a Chinese man in Hong Kong, or a more tanned Malaysian farmer of Chinese descent in Malaysia, and so forth in foreign communities where Chinese live. Most of the time, however, he is an elderly white-bearded man with robes of gold, red, and blue silk embroidery. His role is also usually thought to be posthumously given to an important member of the community in his/her afterlife.

Tu Di’s day of celebration is usually designated the second day of the second lunar month. However,
offerings are made to him every major holiday that the Chinese celebrate. Legends dictate that originally no libation were made to him when he first began his post but as time went on fresh fruit and rice wine were offered to him. In some rural areas of china, offerings are also made to Tu Di Po Po, who is supposedly his wife and companion.

I could not find any specific myths to his humble beginnings, or any specific stories. Thus I turned to ask my father who this person we make offerings to was and if his origin was documented in the Chinese epic, Fengshen Yanyi (Creation of the Gods), made popular recently by its Japanese anime and manga adaptions as Houshin Engi. Surprisingly, my father answered that Tu Di Gong Gong was in fact, one of the main protagonists of the novel: Jiang Ziya, the leader of the rebel army. After defeating the corrupt Shang monarch, Zhou (Shang Di Xin), the Heavens demanded the holy man and strategist to give divine offices to noticeable people. Saving the last and most important position, “King of the Heavens” for himself, Jiang said, “Deng lai,” which translates to “wait a second” out of courtesy (and probably false modesty as he knew how to hot-dog crowds) when his comrades clamored for him for to take the job. Ever the opportunist Zhang Denglai, a fallen soldier, stepped up to the plate and accepted the title and thus became the Jade Emperor from that point hence. Some day supposedly in some accounts, the great general, Guan Yu, also known as Guan Gong, shall ascend to the post of Jade Emperor. Meanwhile, Jiang Ziya damned Denglai’s children to stupidity and took the post of the Lord of Mount Tai, one of the holy mountains of China. Eventually he also became the Grandfather of the Earth, according to my dear old dad.

Not to be sappy but I thank the Grandpa Earth. My New Year was not bad. I ate a lot of good food and I am still indecent health and live in a passable household. I do not plan on usurping you of this office as well. Though it would be nice if I could have power over the Morphogenic Field like Animal Man or Doctor Who’s regeneration ability; sometimes I would just like to try another body out.

Have a holiday season filled with merriment and gaiety true believers~!

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