The Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East
Origin of the Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East
The Sacred Mountain of the East refers to Mt. Tai in present-day Shandong Province. The Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East ( 東嶽大帝 Dongyue Dadi ) is its mountain spirit. According to the Comprehensive Collection of Investigations into the Divinities of the Three Doctrines since their Origin ( 三教源流搜神大全 Sanjiao Yuanliu Soushen Daquan ), The Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East is the son of Immortal Milun and of Gold-Wheel King Shaohaishi, the ninth-generation descendant of Pangu. At first he was named Jinhongshi and was ordained as Supreme Year Spirit ( 太歲 Taisui ) at time of Fuxishi for his merits on Changbai Mountain. In the time of Shen Nong, he was appointed General Governor of Heavenly Talismans ( 天符都官 Tainfu Duguan ) and named Official Sovereign ( 府君 Fujun ). In the time of Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty, he was honored as the Supreme Commander of Mt Tai. In second year of the Chuigong Era of Empress Wu of the Tang dynasty (AD 686), he was honored as Middle Heaven King of the Divine Mountain ( 神岳天中王 Shenyue Tianzhong Wang ). In the first year of the Wansui Tongtian Era of Empress Wu, he was honored as Sovereign Equal to Heaven ( 天齊王 Tianqi Wang ). In the 13th year of the Kaiyuan Era of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty (AD 725), he was honored as King Equal to Heaven. In the first year of the Dazhongzangfu Era of Emperor Zhenzong of the Song dynasty, he was honored as "Benevolent Saintly King of the Sacred Mountain of the East Who is Equal to Heaven" ( 東嶽天齊仁聖王 Dongyue Tianqi Rensheng Wang ). People have worshipped the Mt Tai Spirit since the time of the Three Sage Kings. In ancient days, the people lived in the middle and lower realms of the Yellow River, and the king "worshipped the Earth Spirit and the Five Sacred Mountains with blood." Mt Tai was the first of the Five Sacred Mountains ( 五嶽 Wuyue ) and revered as the Ancestral Mountain ( 岱宗 Daizong ). According to Confucius, as cited in the Comprehensive Explanations to Customs ( 風俗通義 Fengwu Tongyi ), "There have been 72 kings who worshiped Heaven at Mt Tai and Earth at Mt Liangfu." Kings who have accumulated merits worship Heaven and Earth to report their merits to Heaven. Since the Han and Wei dynasties, Daoism has inherited the ancient system of worshiping the Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East.
Way to Immortality
The ancient people considered Mt. Tai as the way to heaven and "equal to heaven" in height. For the purpose of worshipping at Mt Tai, people built altars at the summit to requite the merit of Heaven. Practitioners consider worshiping at Mt Tai a way to securing immortality.
Souls Returning to the Sacred Mountain of the East
Mt Tai lies in the East, where all things begin at the intercourse of Yin and Yang. The born is doomed to die, and so the Mt Tai Spirit knows the length of man's life. According to a lengend cited in the Comprehensive Explanations to Customs ( 風俗通義 Fengwu Tongyi ), "There are a Gold Box and a Jade Book in which are recorded the length of each man's life." On the unearthed Tomb-Quelling Talismans of the Han dynasty, one finds the inscription "belonging to Mt Tai after death." Since the Han and Wei dynasties, the Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East has been in charge of men's life, death and longevity. According to Vol. 22 of the Seven Slips of a Cloudy Satchel, "The Mt Tai Sovereign, as the general of ghosts, leads 5900 spirits and is in charge of life and death." Therefore, temples of the Sacred Mountain of the East have 72 or 75 offices in charge of the Life Registers of men and immortals, such as the Office of Quick Rewards ( 速報司 Subao Si ), the Office of Luck and Longevity ( 福壽司 Fushou Si ), etc.
Worship in Temples
The divine birthday of the Great Eamperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East is the 28th of the third lunar month. Temples worshiping the Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East hold celebrations and large-scale rituals for praying for longevity. After the death of relatives, people hold Yellow Register Rituals for the early salvation in Heaven of the souls of the dead.