Hongjun Laozu (simplified Chinese: 鸿钧老祖; traditional Chinese: 鴻鈞老祖; pinyin: Hóngjūn Lǎozǔ; Wade–Giles: Hung-chün Lao-tsu) lit. "Great Balance Ancestor" is a Daoist deity and legendary teacher of the Three Pure Ones in Chinese mythology. Hongjun 鴻鈞 is a graphic variant of hungjun (simplified Chinese: 洪钧; traditional Chinese: 洪鈞; pinyin: hóngjūn; Wade–Giles: hung-chün) "primordial nature", as used in the Chinese idiom Xian you hongjun hou you tian 先有鸿钧后有天 "First there was Nature and then there was Heaven".
Daoists mythologize Hongjun Laozu as the ancestor of xian "trancendents; immortals" (Werner 1922:133-134) and use the honorific name Hongyuan Laozu (simplified Chinese: 鸿元老祖; traditional Chinese: 鴻元老祖; pinyin: Hóngyuán Lǎozǔ; Wade–Giles: Hung-yuan Lao-tsu) "Great Primal Ancestor". In Chinese creation myths, hongyuan 鸿元 or 洪元 is a cosmological term for "the universe before the separation of heaven and earth".
Some legends about the creator Pangu (Werner 1922:128-130) refer to Hongjun Laozu as Xuanxuan Shangren (Chinese: 玄玄上人; pinyin: Xuánxuán Shàngrén; Wade–Giles: Hsüan-hsüan Shang-jen) "Mystery of Mysteries Saint" (a reference to the Daodejing 1, tr. Mair 1990:59, "Mystery or mysteries, the gate of all wonders!").
Every Chinese New Year was a time of suffering and fear for the people of China because of Nian, the great beast. One Chinese New Year's Eve, the monk, Hongjun Laozu, came to a village in China. He saw how everyone looked sad and frightened, so he went to a young man and said "Why are you so sad? It is Chinese New Year, a time for celebration." The man replied "Do you not know? Have you not heard about Nian? He comes every New Year and terrorises us, even eats us." The monk said "I will go and reason with Nian." So off he went, to find Nian.
When Hongjun Laozu came to Nian, he said "Nian, I have come to reason with you. Stop eating and terrorising the people of China." But Nian Said "Haha. You have delivered yourself to me, old man, so now I will eat you." The man replied, "Oh, but what will that prove? Eating me isn't great! Would you dare to eat the poisonous snakes on the mountains?" "Bah! What's so difficult about that?" So Nian went to the poisonous snakes and ate them up. "How is this? Am I not great?" "At the back of the mountain there are many great beasts. Can you subdue them?" So Nian went and scared all of the dangerous beasts out of the back of the mountain.
"Old man, now its time for me to eat you!" "Sure, but just wait while I take my clothes off, I will taste much better then". So the old man took his clothes off to reveal his undergarments, which were red. "OK, you can eat me now." But Nian said "Ah! a red undergarment! I dearly hate red, get out of my sight quickly." "Haha! I knew you were afraid of red!" The old man went into the town on top of Nian and said "Dear villagers, do not be afraid. Nian is most terrified of red. From now on each house must paste red on each of their doors to prevent Nian creating havoc."
After that, the people started to paste red paper on their front doors before New Year's Day.
- Mair, Victor H. 1990. Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way, by Lao Tzu; an entirely new translation based on the recently discovered Ma-wang-tui manuscripts. Bantam Books.
- Werner, E.T.C. 1922. Myths & Legends of China. Graham Brash.