Difference between revisions of "The Kitchen Spirit"

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Revision as of 13:08, 12 October 2009

Immortals and Immortalism
The Heavenly Lords
The Primeval Lord of Heaven
The Heavenly Lord of the Numinous Treasure
The Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue
The Great Jade Emperor
The Heavenly Lord of Supreme Oneness and Salvation from Misery
The Three Great Emperor-Officials
The Four Heavenly Ministers
The Emperors of the Soil
The Queen Mother of the West
The Thunder Patriarch
The Stellar Sovereigns
The Great Perfect Warrior Emperor
Imperial Sovereign Wenchang
The Stellar Sovereign of the Five Planets and Seven Stars
The Four Numinous Animals and Twenty-Eight Constellations
The Big Dipper
The Sixty Daily Spirits of the Celestial Trunks and Earthly Branches
Spirits of Mountains, Rivers, Seas and Thunder
The Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East
The Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud
The Five Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency
The Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning
The Dragon King
The Master of Rain
The Earl of Wind
Spirits of the Soil and Local Protector Spirits
The City God
The Door Spirits
The Earth Spirit
The Kitchen Spirit
Spirits of Wealth and Longevity
The Spirit of Wealth
The Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity
Guardians of Hell
The Great Emperor of Fengdu
The Yamas of the Ten Halls
Perfect Men and Immortals
Guanyin (Avalokitesvara)
The Eight Immortals
The Motherly Matriarch
Emperor Guan
Patriarch Lü Numinous Official Wang
The Water-Margin Lady
The Three Mao Perfect Sovereign Brothers
The Great Life-Protecting Emperor
The Saintly Founder-King of Zhang
The King of the Three Mountains

Origins of the Kitchen Spirit

The Kitchen Spirit ( 灶神 Zaoshen ), known as the Kitchen Sovereign Who Controls Destinies and Good Fortune ( 東廚司命定福灶君 Dongchu Siming Dingfu Zaojun ), is commonly called the Kitchen Sovereign( 灶君 Zaojun ), the Kitchen King ( 灶王 Zaowang ) or the Kitchen Duke ( 灶王爺 Zaowangye ). The worship of the Kitchen Spirit already existed in ancient China. The section "Sacrificial Rites ( 祭法 Jifa ) " of the Book of Rites ( 禮記 Liji ) says, "the king established seven cults for the people", one of which was the cult of the Kitchen Spirit. But ordinary people could only worship one spirit, either the Door Spirit ( 門神 Menshen ) or the Kitchen Spirit. Fire is made in a kitchen range, so it was said during the two Han dynasties that the Fire Spirit or Yan Di Shengnong was worshiped through the medium of the kitchen after his death; or it was said that Zhurong and Huirong, the former fire officials of the Gaoxins', turned into Fire Spirits after their death and were worshiped through the medium of the kitchen. One should wash pots and basins to worship the Kitchen Spirit, so the section "Ritual Instruments ( 禮器 Liqi ) " of the Book of Rites says that the worship of the Kitchen Spirit was "the worship of the Old Woman ( 老婦之祭 Laofu Zhi Ji ) ", which requires "only to fill basins with food and fill bottles with wine, so it is a lowly worship. But though lowly, it is necessary, for the Kitchen Spirit benefits food and drink, and thus should be repaid". The Kitchen Spirit began to have a name after the Wei and Jin dynasties. The Treasury of the Jade Candle ( 王燭寶典 Yuzhu Baodian ) by Du Taiqing of the Sui dynasty quoted the Book of the Kitchen ( 灶書 Zaoshu ), saying, "the Kitchen Spirit has the family name Su and the given name Jili, and its woman's name is Bojia". Li Xian of the Tang dynasty annotated and quoted the Miscellaneous Book of the Five Agents ( 雜五行書 Za Wuzing Shu ), saying, "the Kitchen Spirit is named Chan and styled Ziguo, who is dressed in yellow and wears the hair down, and comes from the kitchen range". The Kitchen Spirit was originally a goddess, who, in various versions, was said to be an old woman or a beautiful woman. The Complete Book of Kitchen Spirit Worship ( 敬灶全書 Jingzao Quanshu ) written in the Qing dynasty says that the Kitchen Sovereign ( 灶君 Zaojun ) has the family name Zhong, the given name Dan and the style Ziguo. It should be a male Spirit. On papers burned by the people in sacrificial rituals, showing the picture of the Kitchen Sovereign Who Controls Destinies and Good Fortune, there is always a portrait of an elderly couple, namely the Kitchen Sovereign and his wife.


The function of the Kitchen Spirit was formerly to be in charge of cooking in the human world. Before the beginning of the Eastern Jin dynasty, the Kitchen Spirit began to acquire the functions of supervising human evils and dominating a family's life and death, misfortune and happiness. The section "Subtle Guidelines ( 微旨 Weizhi )" of the Inner Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity ( 抱樸子內篇 Baopuzi Neipian ) by Ge Hong of the Eastern Jin dynasty says, "on the night of the last day of the lunar month, the Kitchen Spirit ascends to Heaven to report human crimes. People who have committed great crimes will have a large part of their life span, 300 days, removed, while people who have committed minor crimes will have a short part of their life span, 3 days, removed". The Lantern Rituals for the Kitchen Controller of Destinies ( 東廚司命燈儀 Dongchu Siming Dengyi ), published between the Yuan and Ming dynasties, says that "the Kitchen Spirit bears an important responsibility and governs people's misfortune and happiness in the human world". "As an envoy of the Seven Origins ( 七元 Qiyuan ) of Heaven, it attends to numerous affairs in the Heavenly court every other day", and "governs Yin and Yang alternatively. Although people may either do good or do evil, it meticulously records every good and bad deed". The Complete Book of Kitchen Spirit Worship says that the Kitchen Sovereign protects a family's health and safety when receiving incense and candles from the family. Also, it inspects the family's good and evil deeds and presents its merits and misdoings. On every day of Gengshen, it reports to the Jade Emperor ( 玉帝 Yudi ) and makes a calculation at the end of each month. After three years, Heaven will certainly bring happiness and longevity to people with lots of merits, while disasters and misfortune will be sent to those who have committed many misdeeds.


On the 24th day of the 12th lunar month of every year, the Kitchen Spirit ascends to Heaven to report the merits and misdoings of the human world, and determines people's fortune and misfortune. Therefore people worship and send off the Kitchen Sovereign by burning incense and offering sacrifices on the night of the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month. In the old days, there existed a difference between gentry families, who sent off the Kitchen Spirit on the 23rd day, and the common families who did so on the 24th day. The sacrifices offered to the Kitchen Spirit are always sugar ingots, parched rice, peanut brittle, sesame candies, dumplings made of glutinous rice and the like, for people expect to fill the stomach of the Kitchen Spirit so that he would not report the evils of the human world. People call this "reporting good deeds to Heaven and keeping safety in the world of mortals". When the sacrificial ritual is over, the used paper printed with the pictures of the Kitchen Sovereign which has been worshiped for a year, is taken off the kitchen range and burnt with paper ingots and the like to indicate that the Kitchen Spirit is ascending to Heaven. When the spirit is received on New Year's Eve, the ritual of receiving the Kitchen Spirit is held. New paper printed with pictures of the Kitchen Spirit is pasted on the kitchen range after the offering of sacrifices to the Kitchen Spirit.