Primordial Divinity (Tai Di)

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Yuhuangge (玉皇阁), a small Taoist temple in Tianjin dedicated to the Jade Emperor.
The imperial Temple of Heaven (Tian) in Beijing.

The Primordial Divinity (Tai Di or Taidi, Chinese: 太帝; pinyin: Tài dì, literally "Utmost God") is a concept in Chinese culture, traditional religions and mythology. It refers to the source of the universe, the supreme being or utmost mind, master of the order of nature enlivened by gods and progenitors.

The Tai Di has been represented in various ways, at different times and in different contexts, according to the contextual sensibilities: in Taoist theological thought the Jade Emperor (Yu Di), Taiyi Tianzun (the "Great Oneness"), Hongjun Laozu ("Ancestral Master of the Great Duality"), or the undefinable Tao; in mythological thought Yu the Great; in Chinese folk religion and Confucianism Tian (the "Great All" or the "Universe") or Shangdi (the "Highest Emperor").[1]

Meaning[edit]

Taidi (Chinese: 太帝; pinyin: Tài dì) means "Great Emperor", "Great God", "Great Spirit" or "Great Energy", given the etymology. The first character – , tài – means "great", "large", "primordial", "utmost"; the second – , – is the same character used in the name of Huangdi—the Yellow Emperor, orginator of the Chinese civilisation—and the title huangdi, emperor of China, and is usually translated with the latinate word "emperor", from Latin imperator, verb im-perare, that means "generating from within", thus the same meaning of "god" (Germanic: *ǥuđán, "in-voking", "calling within"), "spirit" (Latin: spiritus, "breath", "insufflation"), or "energy" (Greek: en-ergeia, "internal urging").

Ordainer of all gods[edit]

The natural order of Chinese gods, Chinese pantheon, is represented mythically as a pattern or structure in which each god has a role and position. In folk religion the Jade Emperor is seen as the source to which every god and ancestor reports. They make or generate things in the physical world, like weather, fire, famine or epidemics, according to an order from the Jade Emperor in accordance to the flow of Tao.

All the power of the gods of nature comes from the fact that they are representatives of certain aspects of the Tao (the ultimate law of the universe). As such, powers must be exercised responsibly, otherwise counter-natural acts may disturb the balance of the world, and result in retribution, in the Tao's attempt to re-balance itself.

Many notable immortals and exalted progenitors are included in this pantheon, and one can reach divinity through strong meritory acts. Mortals committing a good deed according to traditional values may be promoted after their death. Notable examples includes Guan Yu and Confucius.

An immortal could theoretically resign from his position. The most notable example would be Sun Wukong the Monkey King, from the popular novel Journey to the West, who resigned from the position of Divine Stable Master to become a lord in his Mountain of Flowers and Fruits.

In Taoist thought there are spiritual forces higher than the pantheon, such as Tai Shang Lao Jun and the three holy masters of the Dao.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Yang, 2005. p. 286

References[edit]

  • Yang, Lihui, et al. (2005). Handbook of Chinese Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533263-6