Pak Tai, also known as Yuen Tin Sheung Tai (玄天上帝, lit. "Dark" or "Mysterious Supreme Emperor of Heaven"), is said to have been a prince[which?] of the Shang Dynasty. During the fall of the Shang, the Demon King[which?] ravaged the world. The Taoist god Yuen Chi Tin Chuen (元始天尊) ordered the Jade Emperor to appoint Pak Tai as the commander of twelve heavenly legions to fight this evil. Pak Tai defeated the Demon King and was subsequently granted the title of Yuen Tin Sheung Tai. In Pak Tai temples, the bronze tortoise and serpent under the feet of Pak Tai's image signifies that the good always prevails over evil.
In Hong Kong, it is worshipped among other places in:
- Yuk Hui Temple aka. Pak Tai Temple, No. 2 Lung On Street, Wan Chai (Grade I)
- Pak Tai Temple, No. 146 Ma Tau Wai Road, Hung Hom (Grade III)
- Yuk Hui Temple aka. Pak Tai Temple, Pak She Street, Cheung Chau (Grade I)
- Sam Tai Tsz Temple and Pak Tai Temple, Nos.196 and 198 Yu Chau Street, Sham Shui Po (Grade II)
- Tam Kung and Tin Hau Temple, No. 9 Blue Pool Road, Wong Nai Chung (Happy Valley)
- Yuen Kwan Yi Tai Temple aka. Pak Tai Temple, Yuen Long Kau Hui (Grade I)
- Pak Tai Temple, Stanley Main Street, Stanley
Sacrifices offered to Pak Tai by the king are claimed by traditional Chinese histories to predate the Xia dynasty. The surviving archaeological record shows that by the Shang, the shoulder blades of sacrificed oxen were used to send questions or communication through fire and smoke to the divine realm, a practice known as scapulimancy. The heat would cause the bones to crack and royal diviners would interpret the marks as Pak Tai's response to the king. Inscriptions used for divination were buried into special orderly pits, while those that were for practice or records were buried in common middens after use.
Under Pak Tai or his later names, the deity received sacrifices from the ruler of China in every Chinese dynasty annually at a great Temple of Heaven in the imperial capital. Following the principles of Chinese geomancy, this would always be located in the southern quarter of the city. During the ritual, a completely healthy bull would be slaughtered and presented as an animal sacrifice to Pak Tai. The Book of Rites states the sacrifice should occur on the "longest day" on a round-mound altar.[clarification needed] The altar would have three tiers: the highest for Pak Tai and the Son of Heaven; the second-highest for the sun and moon; and the lowest for the natural gods such as the stars, clouds, rain, wind, and thunder.
The ten stages of the ritual were:
- Welcoming deities
- Offering of jade and silk
- Offering of sacrificial food
- First offering of wine
- Second offering of wine
- Last offering of wine
- Retreat of civil dancers and entry of military dancers
- Performance of the military dance
- Farewell to deities
- Burning of sacrificial articles
It is important to note that Pak Tai is never represented with either images or idols. Instead, in the center building of the Temple of Heaven, in a structure called the "Imperial Vault of Heaven", a "spirit tablet" (神位, or shénwèi) inscribed with the name of Pak Tai is stored on the throne, Huangtian Shangdi (皇天上帝). During an annual sacrifice, the emperor would carry these tablets to the north part of the Temple of Heaven, a place called the "Prayer Hall For Good Harvests", and place them on that throne.
- A festival is held on the island of Taipa in Macau. The celebration at the Pak Tai Temple includes an opera-styled performance
- Annual Bun Festival in Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong, held in front of the Pak Tai Temple.
- Chinese Temples Committee website: Brief Description of Main Deities
- Brief Information on No Grade Items, pp.424-425
- Xu Yahui. Caltonhill, Mark & al., trans. Ancient Chinese Writing: Oracle Bone Inscriptions from the Ruins of Yin. Academia Sinica. Nat'l Palace Museum (Taipei), 2002. Govt. Publ. No. 1009100250.
- For instance, the Classic of History records the Duke of Zhou building an altar in the southern part of Luo.
- Although the Duke of Zhou is presented as sacrificing two.
- Lam, Joseph S.C. 1998. State Sacrifices and Music in Ming China: Orthodoxy, Creativity, and Expressiveness. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
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