Skip to main content

"I Want To Be A Millionaire!" - Chinese New Year and The God of Wealth

In Taiwan the 14th of February - one of the first days of the new year of the lunar calendar - is considered the most propitious day to worship Caishen (財神 ), the God of Wealth.


The God of Wealth
This is one of those customs which to people like me who were raised in a Christian environment may appear extremely alienating. I could even begin to sound like one of those early Christians of the Roman Empire who inveighed against the "pagans". No, of course I won't inveigh against anybody. I will rather try as much as I can to immerse in the atmosphere of the religious rituals.

Thousands, if not millions of Taiwanese from North to South gathered this Thursday in temples all over the country to pray. Defying the huge crowds, people did their utmost to be among the first to welcome Caishen in the new year. 

As Apple Daily reported, even children shouted: "I want to be a millionare!"




How Zhao Gongming Became The God of Wealth



Illustrations from the Fengshen Bang
Like many Chinese deities, the God of Wealth is a semi-historical figure. The major literary source for the origin of the God of Wealth is the Fengshen Bang, (封神榜,  translated as "The Investiture of the Gods"), a 16th century Chinese classical novel written during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). 

Military strategist Jiang Ziya (姜子牙) was fighting for Wu Wang of the Zhou dynasty against the last of the Shang emperors. Zhao Gongming (赵公明), a hermit on Mount Emei, sided with the Shang sovereign. Zhao Gongming possessed supernatural powers, and he was defeated only by witchcraft. In order to kill this mighty enemy, Jiang Ziya made a straw image of Zhao, wrote his name on it, burned incense and worshipped it for twenty days. On the twenty-first day he shot arrows into the image's eyes and heart. Zhao Gongming immediately felt great pain, passed out and died. 

Later on Jiang Ziya convinced Yuanshi Tianzun, one of the major Daoist deities, to release from the underworld the spirits of the heroes who had died in battle. Yuanshi Tianzun praised Zhao Gongming's bravery, expressed regret over the circumstances of his death, and appointed him President of the Ministry of Riches and Prosperity. 

Until today, the God of wealth is worshipped in the whole Chinese-speaking world, and is one of the most popular deities during the first days of Chinese New Year, when people pray to secure prosperity and success for the next 12 months. (note 1, 23, and 4: E.T.C. Werner: Myths & Legends of China, p. 251)

Praying To Caishen


As you may imagine, the celebrations are all about money. Temples such as Xiahai Chenghuang Temple gave people red envelopes (紅包). 

In New Taipei City, more than 10,000 worshippers used shuttle buses to reach the Jinshan Caishen Temple (金山財神廟). Inside the temple there were bags with money and bankbooks. People signed with their identity card and then prayed. After the prayer, they "擲筊". This Chinese word describes the throwing of two half-moon-shaped wooden pieces, one side of which is flat while the other one is round. If they fell on the same side for three times, the worshippers could go to the registration desk and get 300 Taiwan dollars. 

Similar rituals were carried out in the thousands of different temples of both Taiwan and mainland China. 

Below is a short video to show how this all works.And you will also see various 辣妹 (lamei=hot girls) dancing inside the temple. Well, this is also cultural difference. I bet you've never seen anything like this in a church, have you?





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Living in Taiwan: Seven Reasons Why It's Good to Be Here

Chinese New Year can be a pretty boring time for a foreigner. All of my friends were celebrating with their families, and since I have no family here, nor have I a girlfriend whose family I could join, I had nothing special to do. Shops and cafes were closed - apart from big chains like McDonald's or Starbucks, which were overcrowded anyway. So I had a lot of time to think.
On Saturday evening I went out to buy my dinner. While I was walking around, I heard the voices of the people inside their homes, the sounds of their New Year celebrations. Then I suddenly asked myself: "What on earth are you doing here? Why are you still in Taiwan?" 
Before I came to Taiwan, some Taiwanese friends of mine had recommended me their country, highly prasing it and going so far as to say that Taiwan is a "paradise for foreigners" (bear in mind that when I say foreigners I mean 'Westerners'). 
"It's easy for foreigners to find a job," they argued. "Taiwane…

How Conservative Is Taiwan? - 5 Cases of Sexuality in Business, Marketing and Media

Is Taiwan a conservative society? Are Taiwanese people prude, family-oriented, and faithful to their partner?
Before going to Taiwan, basing my opinion on what Taiwanese had told me, I would have answered all these questions with yes. But after living there for some time, I began questioning my assumptions. 
In many of my posts I have tried to explain some features of the Chinese/Taiwanese family which make it clear that every Western perspective on East Asia should take into consideration the different values and social structures that the Chinese-speaking world has developed over the centuries.
In this post, I would just like to mention a few interesting cases of liberal sexual conduct and the objectification of the female body, which challenge the image of Taiwan as a prude society. 
One day I was walking around the German city of Potsdam, near Berlin, with a Taiwanese. She often told me that Taiwanese people were conservative, Taiwanese girls naive and innocent. But on the other hand,…

How Is Customer Service In Taiwan? - My Thoughts Before And After Living In Taiwan

Before I went to Taiwan I had a lot of expectations regarding customer service there, mainly for two reasons.
First of all, I hated customer service in Europe. Having lived in Italy and Germany for several years and having spent time in Greece, the UK and other European countries, I noticed that across the continent a lot of shop assistants are indifferent or rude to customers. Of course, that is based on my experience and on that of my friends, and it refers only to episodes I witnessed or heard about. 
Let me tell you just a few examples. Once my internet provider in Germany changed my contract without my consent. When I went to their shop, I was yelled at and threatened with a lawsuit right away. Later I quit that company, but the point is, whether I made a mistake or not (and I think I did not), they should have cleared up the matter in a nice way instead of being so aggressive. 
One day I was in my university cafeteria, and I saw a student leave his trey with food on a table and go …