The Dragon King
Origins of the Dragon King ( 龍王 Longwang )
The Dragon is one of the four spirits of ancient Chinese mythology. The section "On the Dragon King ( 龍王品 Longwan Pin ) " in the Book of Divine Incantations of the Supreme Pervasive Abyss ( 太上洞淵神呪經 Taishang Dongyuan Shenzhou Jing ) lists the names of the "Dragon Kings of the Five Emperors ( 五帝龍王 Wudi Longwang ) " which each correspond to one direction, the "Dragon Kings of the Four Seas ( 四海龍王 Sihai Longwang ) " which each correspond to one sea, and the Fifty-Four Dragon Kings and Sixty-Two Divine Dragon Kings ( 神龍王 Shen Longwang ) which are distinguished according to all things in Heaven and on Earth. During the reign of Emperor Xuan of the Tang dynasty, a shrine was set up in Longchi by imperial order and the position of Altar Official ( 壇官 Tanguan ) was established for offering sacrifices to the Dragon King, following the rites for worshiping the Master of Rain ( 雨師 Yushi ). The first emperor of the Song dynasty continued to follow the Tang dynasty rules for offering sacrifice to the Five Dragons. In the second year of Daguan during the reign of emperor Hui of the Song dynasty (AD 1108), the ranks of kings and nobility were conferred upon the Five Dragons ( 五龍 Wulong ). The Green Dragon Spirit ( 青龍神 Qinglongshen ) was titled the King of Extensive Benevolence ( 廣仁王 Guangren Wang ), the Red Dragon Spirit ( 赤龍神 Chilongshen ) was titled the King of Kind Beneficence ( 嘉澤王 Jiaze Wang ), the Yellow Dragon Spirit ( 黃龍神 Huanglongshen ) was titled the King of Trustful Correspondence ( 孚應王 Fuying Wang ), the White Dragon Spirit ( 白龍神 Bailongshen ) was titled the King of Righteous Salvation ( 義濟王 Yiji Wang ), and the Black Dragon Spirit ( 黑龍神 Heilongshen ) was titled the King of Numinous Beneficence ( 靈澤王 Lingze Wang ). In the second year of Tongzhi of the Qing dynasty (AD 1863), the Dragon Spirit of Canals ( 運河龍神 Yunhe Longshe ) was titled the "Dragon King Spirit who Prolongs Protection, Reveals Correspondence, and Divides Water" ( 延庥顯應分水龍王之神 Yanxiu Xianying Fenshui Longwang Zhi Shen ), and the governor-general of river courses was ordered to offer sacrifice to him regularly.
Thus the functions of the Dragon King are to conjure up clouds and rain, rid people of scorching weather and worries, and it became a popular belief among the people that the Dragon King regulates rivers and watercourses. The section "On the Dragon King" in the Book of Divine Incantations of the Supreme Pervasive Abyss says, "when the fields of the country are arid and produce no food crops, and no one can find a solution", the Primeval Lord of Heaven ( 元始天尊 Yuanshi Tianzun ) comes to the country on clouds in five colours and preaches the Orthodox Law, and delivers all living creatures from torment with aid of the Dragon Kings of various heavens, and so timely torrential rain falls to moisten the fields.
All kinds of literary records and the folklores of various places have different statements about the divine birthday of the Dragon King. In old days, the temples enshrining the Dragon King ( 龍王廟 Longwang Miao ) were as common as those enshrining the City God ( 城隍 Chenghuang ) and the Earth Spirit ( 土地 Tudi ). Whenever the weather was unfavorable, if there was a long drought or if it kept raining for a long time, the populace would go to the Dragon King Temple to burn incense and make vows in order to pray for good weather and for the Dragon King to bring the rivers under control.