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A shrine to a local Tudigong along the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, in Hong Kong
Literal meaningLord of the Land
Alternative Chinese name
Second alternative Chinese name

A Tudigong (Chinese: 土地公; lit. 'Lord of the Land') is a kind of Chinese tutelary deity of a specific location.[1] There are several Tudigongs corresponding to different geographical locations and sometimes multiple ones will be venerated together in certain regions.[2]

They are tutelary (i.e. guardian or patron) deities of locations and the human communities who inhabit it in Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.[3] They are portrayed as old men with long beards.[4]

The definitive characteristic of Tudigongs is that they are limited to their specific geographical locations. The Tudigong of one location is not the Tudigong of another location[1]

They are considered to be among the lowest ranked divinities,[5] just below City Gods[3] ("God of Local City"), and above landlord gods.

Often, a specific person who did a great service to their local community will be seen as becoming a Tudigong after their death.[6]

When people move from one location to another, they will say goodbye to their local Tudigong and worship the one of the new location[5][7]

The deities are considered to have a kind of appointed position like an alderman, with different deities being appointed to different areas.[8]

Houtu is the overlord of all the Tudigongs ("Lord of Local Land"), Sheji ("the State"), Shan Shen ("God of Mountains"), City Gods ("God of Local City"), and landlord gods worldwide.


Tudigongs go by a variety of names, including Tudigong (Chinese: 土地公; lit. 'Lord of the Land') or Tudishen (土地神; 'God of the Land'), also known simply as Tudi (土地; 'land', 'soil') and translated as Lord of the Earth,[4]

Other names of the god include:[9]

  • Tugong (土公 "Lord of the Soil");
  • Tudiye (土地爺 "Soil-Ground Father");
  • Dabogong (大伯公 "Great Elder Lord") or Bogong (伯公 "Elder Lord");
    • Tua Pek Kong (Tâi-lô: Tuā-peh-kong) is used extensively as a replacement of Tudigong by the Chinese population across South East Asia, although they refer to the same deity.
  • Sheshen (社神 "God of the Soil") or Shegong (社公 "Lord of the Soil");
    • This word may be confusing as 社 is often used to refer to society or shrines, but the original etymology was linked to soil.
  • Tudijun (土帝君 "Ruler God of the Soil").

Extended titles of the god include:

  • Tudihuofushen (土地或福神 "God who May Bless the Soil");
  • Fudezhengshen (福德正神 "Right God of Blessing and Virtue") or Fudegong (福德公 "Lord of Blessing and Virtue").

Commoners often call their local Tudigong "grandfather" (yeye), which reflects the close relationship with the common people.[3]


Etymology of Sheshen. Both characters are religious in nature

Tudigongs are believed to have originally developed out of the Sheshen belief system[6]

Sheshen (社神), also known as Tudigongs, are Chinese deities associated with the soil.[10]

The character 社 is now primarily associated with Society,[11] being present in such compounds as socialism (社会主义; Shèhuì zhǔyì)[12] and sociology (社会学, Shèhuì xué)[13] and social media (社群媒體, Shè qún méitǐ).[14]

However, originally the character 社 meant soil, and had a connotation of divinity; see the diagram on the right for more info on its relationship with the Oracle bone script

The character 社 alone historically referred to such deities.[11] It is a combination of deity (示) and soil (土), meaning "god of the land"[15]

Sheshen are associated with soil and grain (shèjì, 社稷), with both sometimes being personified as husband and wife[16][17]

Tudigong means Tu (earth), Di, Gong (grandfather/duke)

Sacrifices to Sheshen transitioned to sacrifices to Tudigong[16]


The earliest known sheshen was Gou Long [zh], a son of Gonggong who was appointed as a god of the soil by Zhuanxu.[10]

Tudigongs developed from land worship. Before Chenghuangshen ("City Gods") became more prominent in China, land worship had a hierarchy of deities conforming strictly to social structure, in which the emperor, kings, dukes, officials, and common people were allowed to worship only the land gods within their command; the highest land deity was the Houtu ("Queen of the Earth").[3]

Ranked beneath City Gods, the Tudigongs have been very popular among villagers as the grassroot deities since the 14th century during the Ming dynasty. Some scholars speculate that this change came because of an imperial edict, because it is reported that the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty was born in a Tudigong shrine. The image of a Tudigong is that of a simply clothed, smiling, white-bearded man. His wife, the Grandmother of the Village, Tǔdìpó, looks like a normal old lady[3]

In later generations, they became associated with Wish trees.



In the countryside, they are sometimes given wives, Tǔdìpó (土地婆 "Grandmother of the Soil and the Ground"), placed next to them on the altar. They may be seen as just and benevolent deities on the same rank as their husbands, or as grudging old women holding back their husband's benedictions, which explains why one does not always receive fair retribution for good behavior.[3]

Another story says that Tudipo is supposed to be a young lady. After Tudigong received a heavenly rank, he gave everything that the people asked for. When one of the Deities went down to Earth to do inspections, he saw that Tudigong was distributing blessings unnecessarily. Soon after that, the Deity went to the Celestial Palace and reported to the Jade Emperor.[3]

After the Jade Emperor knew this, he found out that there was a lady that was going to be killed, but she was not guilty. Thus, the Jade Emperor told a Deity to go down to Earth and bring the lady to heaven. When the lady was brought to the Celestial Palace, the Jade Emperor bestowed her to Tudigong as his wife. She was ordered to look after how many blessings Tudigong distributes and that they not be unnecessarily distributed. This is why many people do not want to pay respect to Tudipo, because they are afraid that she will not let Tudigong give much wealth to them.[3]


In Taiwan, festivals dedicated to Tudigong typically take place on the second day of the second month and the 15th day of the eighth month on the Chinese lunar calendar.[18] The second day of the second month is said to be Tudigong's birthday.[4] Today these deities are associated with Ritual opera.[19]


A Tudigong Temple in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

Tudigong temples are common across China, Tibet, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong.

A shrine to a Tudigong within the entrance gate of Tai Wai Village, a walled village of Hong Kong.

In Chinese, Spirit houses are called 土地神屋 or Tudigong House, representing a link between the concept and the concept of a Tudigong temple dedicated to a landlord deity or a Tudigong

A notable example in Nuannuan District has two Tudigong temples next to each other for different Tudigongs.[2]

Many temples house small shrines with the image of Tudigong, commonly located under the main altar, or below the house door. Many worshippers supplicate with the intention of gaining wealth or maintaining their physical health. They are also traditionally worshipped before the burial of deceased persons to thank him for using his land to return their bodies to the earth[3]

It is reported that the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty was born in a Tudigong shrine.[3]

During the cultural revolution, many Tudigong shrines were destroyed. However, many were recently rebuilt.[5][20]

Existing Temples[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tudi Gong | Chinese deity | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2023-04-09.
  2. ^ a b 基隆市政府 (2020-08-26). "Nuannuan Twins Tudigong Temple". 基隆市政府. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, vol. Religions & Beliefs, edited by Prof. Dr M. Kamal Hassan & Dr. Ghazali bin Basri. ISBN 981-3018-51-8
  4. ^ a b c Stepanchuk, Carol (1991). Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts: Festivals of China. San Francisco: China Books & Periodicals. p. 125. ISBN 0-8351-2481-9.
  5. ^ a b c "tudigong, god of the land, Manray Hsu". Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  6. ^ a b "首頁 > 宗教知識+ > 宗教神祇 > 土地公(Tudi gong)". Archived from the original on July 29, 2016.
  7. ^ Shiv Visvanathan, “Mrs Brundtland’s Disenchanted Cosmos” (1991) in The Geopolitics Reader, eds. Gearóid Ó Tuathail, Simon Dalby, and Paul Routledge (London: Routledge, 1998).
  8. ^ Hall, Christopher A. (2009-01-01). "Tudi Gong in Taiwan". Southeast Review of Asian Studies. 31: 97–113.
  9. ^ Keith G. Stevens, Chinese Mythological Gods, Oxford University Press, USA, (November 8, 2001), pages 60, 68, 70, ISBN 0-19-591990-4 or ISBN 978-0-19-591990-5
  10. ^ a b Theobald, Ulrich. "Sheshen 社神, Local Deities (www.chinaknowledge.de)". www.chinaknowledge.de. Retrieved 2023-04-01.
  11. ^ a b "社 Chinese English dictionary 社 translate 社 pinyin". 2022-10-14. Archived from the original on 2022-10-14. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  12. ^ "socialism translate to Traditional Chinese: Cambridge Dictionary". 2016-02-29. Archived from the original on 2016-02-29. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  13. ^ "sociology translate to Traditional Chinese: Cambridge Dictionary". 2015-07-20. Archived from the original on 2015-07-20. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  14. ^ "social media | translate to Traditional Chinese: Cambridge Dictionary". 2022-05-04. Archived from the original on 2022-05-04. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  15. ^ "Meaning of Chinese characters". Archived from the original on 2013-09-15.
  16. ^ a b "Sheji | Chinese deity | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2023-04-08.
  17. ^ Yang, C. K. Religion in Chinese Society : A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of Their Historical Factors (1967 [1961]). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. page 97
  18. ^ Cheng, Shuiping (2011). "Earth God". Encyclopedia of Taiwan. Council for Cultural Affairs. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  19. ^ 参见《〈辞海〉1999年索引本(音序)》第1480页。
  20. ^ Wen-yu Chang & Wei-ping Lin, “A Fairy-like Woman, Taiwanese Businessmen, and Temple Managers: A New Age Temple of Earth God in Xiamen” (in Chinese), Journal of Archaeology and Anthropology 82 (2015): 27–60.