The Earl of Wind
Origins of the Earl of Wind
The Earl of Wind is the wind spirit, who is also called the Master of Wind, Feilian, Jibo, and so on. The worship of the Earl of Wind in ancient China has an early origin. The section The Great Master of Sacrifial Rites in the Rites of the Zhou mentions "burning firewood to worship the Controller of the Center, the Controller of Destinies, the Master of Wind, and the Master of Rain". Zheng Xuan made a commentary on it, saying, "the Master of Wind is the Constellation Ji". He means, "when the moon is far away from the Constellation Ji, it raises sand. From this we know that the Master of Wind is the Constellation Ji". Cai Yong of the Eastern Han dynasty says in his Judgements on Opinions, "the spirit of the Earl of Wind is the Constellation Ji. It conjures up wind when its image appears in the sky". The Constellation Ji is one of the seven Eastern Constellations of the 28 constellations. Here the Wind Spirit is seen as a constellation. The Earl of Wind was also called Feilian in the area of Chu. There is a line in Qu Yuan's Encountering Sorrow, which says: "Wangshu is going in front of me, while Feilian is tailing behind me". Jinzhuo annotates Feilian as having "a deer's body, a sparrow's head, a horn, a snake's tail and a leopard's stripes". Guo You annotates it to be "the name of a beast with long hairs and wings". Here the Wind Spirit is taken to have an animal form. After the Tang and Song dynasties, the Earl of Wind was once called "Auntie Wind", "Auntie Feng", and "the Wind Queen", so it was sometimes regarded as a goddess. But the most common version is the one that takes the Constellation Ji to be the Earl of Wind.
The functions of the Earl of Wind are to "govern the rising and fading of wind in the eight directions and master the symptoms of clouds of the five colors". Wind is a major factor of weather. It concerns benefiting seasons and breeding the world. The section Sacrificial Rites of the Comprehensive Explanations to Customs says that the Earl of Wind "shakes with thunder and moistens with rain so as to give birth to everything. It does meritorious deeds to human beings, so kings offer sacrifice to it in order to repay its contribution".
The worship of the Earl of Wind was already classified as one of the country's sacrificial rites during the Qin and Han dynasties. Important Documents of the Tang says that the worship of the Earl of Wind was promoted to be a sacrificial rite of the middle rank, and it was required that "an altar be set up in each prefecture" so that the rites could be held simultaneously with kings' sacrificial rites. Some Daoist temples also set up halls to enshrine the Earl of Wind, the Master of Rain, the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning. The statue of the Earl of Wind is always a white-haired elderly man with a wheel in his left hand and a fan in his right hand that seems to be fanning. He is called the Earl of Wind and Heavenly Sovereign Fang. The divine birthday of the Earl of Wind is the fifth day of the 10th lunar month. Among common Daoists, only those whose life and jobs are closely connected with the Earl of Wind offer sacrifices to him alone, while most Daoists worship him only at large-scale Daoist rites of Fasts and Offerings.