Imperial Sovereign Wenchang
Origin of Imperial Sovereign Wenchang
Imperial Sovereign Wenchang ( 文昌帝君 Wenchang Dijun ) was originally the collective name for the six stars of the Wenchang constellation, which is said to lie before or to the left of the Qui star of the Dipper. Each of the six stars has its own name: Highest General ( 上將 Shangjiang ), Assistant General ( 次將 Cijiang ), Noble Premier ( 貴相 Guixiang ), Controller of Destinies ( 司命 Siming ), Controller of the Middle ( 司中 Sizhong ), and Controller of Wealth ( 司祿 Silu ). Wenchang was given the title of 'Imperial Sovereign'or 'Imperial Sovereign of Zitong" ( 梓潼帝君 Zitong Dijun ) during the reign of Emperor Ren (AD 1316). In the third year of the Yanyou Era of Emperor Ren of the Yuan Dynasty, the Zitong Spirit was honoured with the title "Imperial Sovereign Wenchang, Promoter of Benevolence and Controller of Wealth Who Serves the Origin and Initiates Salvation" ( 輔元開化文昌司祿宏仁帝君 Fuyuan Kaihua Wenchang Silu Hongren Dijun ); the Wenchang and Zitong spirits were thus combined into one. According to the 'Record of Rites' of the History of the Ming Dynasty, 'the Imperial Sovereign of Zitong, whose surname was Zhang and whose name was Yazi, and who lived on Mt Qiqu, died in war as a minister of the Jin dynasty. People built a monumental shrine for him." Zhang Yazi, or Zhang Yu, rising up against an invasion by King Pu Jian of the early Qin (AD 374), made himself King of Shu (ancient Sichuan) and died in war. In memory of Zhang Yu, people built a shrine at Mt Qiqu in Zitong County, and honored him as the Dragon King of Thunder Lake ( 雷澤龍王 Leize Longwang ). Later, Zhang Yu's Shrine was combined with the shrine of Yazi, the Zitong spirit. So he came to be called Zhang Yazi. Emperor Xuan of the Tang dynasty, passing by the mountain, was touched by his heroism, honored him as Premier, and offered grand sacrifices for him. Emperor Xi of the Tang, passing by the mountain in refuge, also worshipped the Zitong Spirit, offered him a royal sword in person, and honored him as Salvation King. Many emperors of the Song dynasty gave him lofty titles, such as 'Heroic and Brave King' ( 英烈武顯王 Yinglie Wuxian Wang ) conferred by Emperor Zhen, 'Pious Benevolent Heroic King" ( 忠文仁武孝德聖烈王 Zhongwen Renwu Xiaode Shenglie Wang ) conferred by Emperor Guang, and 'Divine and Saintly Heroic Pious King" ( 神文聖武孝德忠仁王 Shenwen Shengweu Xiaode zhongren Wang ) conferred by Emperor Li. In the third year of the Yanyou Era of Emperor Ren of the Yuan dynasty (AD 1316), Zhang Yazi was given the title 'Imperial Sovereign Wenchang, Promoter of Benevolence and Controller of Wealth Who Serves the Origin and Initiates Salvation' Thereafter, Zhang Yazi, the Zitong Spirit, was called Imperial Sovereign.
Loyal to his Master and Parents
Besides his merit of loyalty to his master and to the people manifested in his death in war, Zhang Yazi was very loyal to his mother. According to the Book of Transformations of the Imperial Sovereign of Zitong, "as a young man, he sucked the wound of his sick mother and cut off his own leg flesh at midnight, as medicine to cure his mother. Later, when there was a vicious plague among the people, he dreamed of a spirit giving him the Immortals' Book of the Great Grotto ( 大洞仙經 Dadong Xianjing ) and Magical Registers ( 法籙 Falu ) to eliminate the plague. He practiced them and succeeded. Therefore, Imperial Sovereign Wenchang is seen as a model for filial piety and benevolence. The Book of Hidden Virtues of Imperial Sovereign Wenchang ( 文昌帝君陰騭文 Wenhang Dijun Yinzhi Wen ), composed in the Song and Yuan dynasties, gives many examples of people getting good rewards for their good deeds, in order to expound the karmic concept of the 'near fruit of one's actions come to oneself, the farther fruit go to one's offspring".
Controller of the Destinies of Civil Officials
According to the Book of Hidden Virtues of Imperial Sovereign Wenchang, Imperial Sovereign Wenchang was incarnated as a high official in the human world 73 times. As an honest and clean official, he was never cruel to people. Instead, he "helped people in need, forgave others' mistakes, was merciful to the orphans, and moved the heavens with many merits." Therefore, the Heavenly Emperor ordered Imperial Sovereign Wenchang to be in charge of the list of names of would-be officials. All appointments and promotions of officials through examinations and recommendations were in the charge of Imperial Sovereign Whenchang.
Worship in Temples
Since the Yuan and Ming dynasties, with the development of the imperial examination system, worship of Imperial Sovereign Whenchang spread widely. Temples, Pavilions, and Shrines of Wenchang were built everywhere. The Wenchang Temple on Mt Qiqu is the biggest among them. Images or divine seats of Wenchang were also erected in some schools. The worship of Wenchang was always prosperous, for he was in charge of officials' destinies. The 3rd day of the second lunar month was the birthday of Wenchang, when local governments and intellectuals worshipped Wenchang in temples and wrote poems or essays in celebration.