The Five Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency
Origins of the Five Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency
The Five Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency ( 雷部五元帥 Leibu Wu Yuanshuai ) refer to the five supreme commanders of the Thunder Agency ( 雷部 Leibu ) under the administration of the Heavenly Lord of Universal Transformation Whose Voice of Thunder Resonates With the Origin of the Nine Heavens ( 九天應元雷聲普化天尊 Jiutian Yingyuan Leisheng Puhua Tianzun ). There are many supreme commanders in the Thunder Agency. Some say that there are 36 drums in the Thunder Agency and one supreme commander keeps each of them, so there are 36 supreme commanders. Others say that there are 24 Heavenly Sovereigns ( 天君 Tianjun ) who summon clouds and rain and guard the teachings, and hence 24 supreme commanders. The Five Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency are the five ones frequently seen in Daoist scriptures and books, most widespread among the people, and whose portraits are set up to be enshrined in some Daoist temples, namely the five supreme commanders Deng, Bi, Liu, Xin and Pang.
Chief Supreme Commander Deng
Deng is the chief one among the five supreme commanders. His given name is Zhong. It is said that he "has bright silver teeth", and "is surrounded by fire". He is called in the Supplementary Records of the Listener ( 夷堅志補 Yijian Zhi Bu ) as "General Deng of Heavenly Origin who Interrogates and Summons Demons ( 天元考召鄧將軍 Tianyuan Kaozhao Dengjiangjun ) ". The Remaining Stories about Cauldron-Casting ( 鑄鼎餘聞 Zhuding Yuwen ) quotes the Personal Records of the District of Changshu ( 常熟私志 Changshu Sizhi ), calling him "Supreme Commander Deng, Great Spirit in Charge of Laws and Decrees ( 律令大神鄧元帥 Lüling Dashen Deng Yuanshuai ) ", which indicates that he is in charge of laws and decrees, and of the interrogation and summoning of the Thunder Agency.
Supreme Commander Bi, the Thunder Spirit
Supreme Commander Bi was formerly called Tianhua. According to the Comprehensive Collection of Investigations into the Divinities of the Three Doctrines since their Origin ( 三教源流搜神一全 Sanjiao Yuanliu Soushen Daquan ), Tianhua was originally a Thunder Spirit ( 雷精 Leijing ), who was concealed underground and reincarnated in the fields, and after being nourished by the breath of stalactites for 1,000 years, he was given his birth. At the moment he was born, there was a bolt from the blue in the daytime, the flame lit up the sky, a sudden gale struck and a heavy shower suddenly fell. Surrounded by large serpents, he was fed by bees. Getting older, he was given the name Tian (field) for he was born in the fields, and the name Bi, for the characters Bi and Hua are alike. He Cultivated and Refined ( 修煉 Xiulian ) himself under the Lulu Cliff. When Nuna failed to patch the holes in the sky, Supreme Commander Bi assisted the Spirits of Fire and Water ( 水火之精 Shuihuo Zhi Jing ), and shouted between heaven and earth so as to block the holes in the sky. Later, he refined the battle formation of fire, hail, wind and thunder of five colors, helped the Yellow Emperor ( 黃帝 Huangdi ) kill Chiyou, and became the master of dragons. The Jade Emperor appointed him Supreme Commander Bi of the Thunder Agency, ordered him to be in charge of the twelve Thunder Courts ( 雷庭 Leiting ) and to assist the Highest Emperor of the Mysterious Heaven ( 玄天上帝 Xuantian Shangdi ) in killing the gods of plague and using spirits. He controlled the dryness and wetness of Heaven and Earth, checked the activities of demons, and attacked those who were not benevolent or upright.
Supreme Commander Liu who is in charge of affairs
Heavenly sovereign Liu had the given name Hou and lived in the Jin dynasty. He was born in a fishing boat on the Minjiang River, and did not drown when falling into the middle of the river during his childhood. Due to poverty, he was sent to be the page boy of Perfect Man Luo. Since he had a good command of the gestures of the Five Thunders, he was able to summon wind and rain, and responded immediately after being asked, and benefited the people and the country. One year when the eastern capital suffered severe droughts, the emperor prayed in the Shrine of Heavenly Sovereign Liu, and a heavy rain fell as expected. That autumn had a good harvest. The emperor named him the Perfect Sovereign of Creation and Benevolence ( 立化慈濟真君 Lihua Ciji Zhenjun ), and the Jade Emperor ( 玉皇大帝 Yuhuang Dadi ) ordered him to be in charge of various kinds of affairs of the prince palace of the Thunder Agency.
Supreme Commander Xin of the Thunder Fast
Supreme Commander Xin was formerly named Xin Xing and styled Zhenyu, who was a native of Yongzhou. According to the Comprehensive Collection of Investigations into the Divinities of the Three Doctrines since their Origin, there was a Mountain of Divine Thunder ( 神雷山 Shenlei Shan ) in the area of Yongzhou. Xin Xing's mother was scared to death by the thunderbolt on the Mountain of Divine Thunder, and Xin Xing held his mother's corpse, weeping. Moved by his extreme filial piety, the Thunder Spirit transformed into a Daoist priest and offered his apology, and presented to him twelve fire elixirs for him to eat. Then Xin changed his form, his head changed into that of a monster, his mouth into a beak, his shoulders into wings, with a dagger in his left hand and a mallet in the right and five drugs under his feet. The Jade Emperor appointed him Supreme Commander, who, together with the Supreme Commander Bi, "was responsible for affairs in the five directions, travelling back and forth in the heavens, and eliminating the evil demons and ghosts in the nether world and this world". It is said that the 15th day of the sixth lunar month is the divine birthday of Supreme Commander Xin. On that day, the Daoist priests worshiping the Thunder Sprits abstain from eating meat. This is known as the "Thunder Fast" ( 雷齋 Leizhai ), in order to pray for the blessings of gods.
Supreme Commander Pang with a Golden Sword
Supreme Commander Pang was formerly named Pang Qiao and styled Changqing. According to the Comprehensive Collection of Investigations into the Divinities of the Three Doctrines since their Origin, he was born in a poor family who had been ferrymen for generations. Yet Pang Qiao was kind in heart and actions. He was never impartial to those who traveled by ferry and helped people in emergency and difficulty. Hearing of his extreme filial piety and absolute sincerity, the Jade Emperor appointed him Supreme Commander of the Vital Breath of Chaos. With a golden sword in hand, he was devoted to his duty of guarding the gate of heaven, in order to vanquish the demons in the nether world and exterminate the old evils, and never failed.
The Hall of Heavenly Generals ( 天將殿堂 Tianjiang Diantang ) is always founded in some large Daoist temples to enshrine the Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency or some other heavenly generals. The titles and number of the supreme commanders who are worshiped may vary due to the differences in the local cultural and historical background of the Daoist priests in different places. But it is common to take the Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency as the gods guarding the teachings and relieving the distressed to pray to.