The King of the Three Mountains
Origin of the Kings of the Three Mountains
The Three Mountains refer to Mt. Du, Mt. Jin and Mt. Ming in the Chao district, Guangdong province. The Kings of the Three Mountains ( 三山國王 Sanshan Guowang ) are the local protectors of the Chao district. According to the Qing dynasty General History of Guangdong, Mt. Du, Mt. Jin and Mt. Ming stood in a triangular shape and three spirits came out of a crack in Mt. Jin. They called themselves brothers and declared that they were ordered to rule the three mountains, and that the boundary stone of Mt. Wang embodied their souls. They also told local people to construct temples and worship them. Accordingly, locals started to set up temples dedicated to them in Mt. Jin. Whenever afflicted by floods, droughts and epidemics, the local people always prayed for help. It worked every time. After the first Song emperor Zhao Kuangying came to the throne, Liu Chang refused to recognize his authority. The Song troops went down to the south to quell the uprising. Mr. Wang, a counselor to the Chao local government, asked the three spirits for help. Consequently, there came a heavy storm, accompanied by terrible thunder and lightning, which helped the Song troops very much. As a result, Liu's troops were totally routed and the southern coastal areas became peaceful again. It is said that when the Song emperor Tai sent his army to Taiyuan, he saw from outside the city's defense wall three golden-armored spirits, who rode horses and had spears in hands, rushing to the battle front. After the triumph, he saw the three spirits standing on the wall of the city. Then the emperor was told of the three-mountain spirits of the Chao district. After that, the emperor conferred the titles 'King of Lofty Virtue and Pristine Salvation Who Is Dedicated to the Nation' ( 清化盛德報國王 Qinghua Shengde Baoguo Wang ) on the spirit of Mt. Ming, 'King of Bright Tranquility and Protector Who Pacifies the Nation' ( 助政明肅寧國王 Zhuzheng Mingsu Ninguo Wang ) on the spirit of Mt. Jin, and 'King of Generous Correspondence and Grand Benevolence Who Enriches the Nation' ( 惠威宏應豐國王 Huiwei Hongying Fengguo Wang ) on the spirit of Mt. Du. He also had the Temple of Bright Blessing ( 明貺 Mingkuan ) constructed in their honour. Sacrificial offerings were held in due festivals.
In the Administrative History of the Chao District ( 潮州府志 Chaozhou Fuzhi ), a different version is given of the story of the Kings of the Three Mountains. The book claimed that, at the end of the Song dynasty, emperor Gong was captured by an ethnic minority regime in the north. With the help of Wen Tianxiang, a Song dynasty general, emperor Duan declared himself the new ruler of the Fu realm and established a new regime. When the Yuan troops went down to the south, the emperor, escorted by Zhang Shijie army, was leaving for the Chao district. In Jieyang county, however, they were surrounded again. Just at this dangerous moment, a violent storm changed the daytime into night. Three armies, led respectively by three generals, emerged from the three mountains and forcefully attacked the Yuan troops. They defeated the Yuan troops and saved General Zhang army. When the emperor and his ministers tried to express their gratitude, the three armies quickly withdrew into the mountains along the original route, disappearing within seconds. After the storm, they observed the surroundings carefully, finding themselves surrounded in three directions by mountains covered with green trees, white stones and drab soils. So the emperor conferred on the three mountains the title 'King of the Three Mountains'. When temples were set up to commemorate them, statues of three deities with green, white and brown faces were erected. The three mountains were Mt. Du, Mt. Jin and Mt. Ming.
Influence on Folk Culture
In folk culture, there are a lot of stories about the Kings of the Three Mountains and their miracles. In these stories, they either help people overcome disasters and diseases, or dispel floods, droughts and devastating wars. In fact, the Kings of the Three Mountains have become the local protectors of the Chao district, Guangdong province. Different days were dedicated to them as birthdays. The King of Generous Correspondence and Grand Benevolence Who Enriches the State is considered to be born on the sixteenth day of the third lunar month. The King of Bright Tranquility and Protector Who Pacifies the Nation is said to have been born on the twenty-eighth day of the second lunar month. The birthday of the King of Lofty Virtue and Pristine Salvation Who Is Dedicated to the Nation is on the twenty-fourth day of the third lunar month. On their birthdays, people in the Chao district and Chao people living in Taiwan and Southeast Asia always go to temples dedicated to the Kings of the Three Mountains to show their respect.