What Does the Kitchen God Do?

Tsao Chün is a creation of Taoism; nonetheless, he is worshipped by all households in China. It is estimated that sixty million portraits of him are consistently worshipped twice a month, once during the new moon and once during the full moon. It has been said that “His temple is a small nook in the brick cooking range; his castle is frequently filled with smoke, and His Majesty sells for one farthing.” He is also referred to as “the God of the Stove.” According to the legend, his worship began when a Taoist priest from the Ch’i State named Li Shao-chün asked the Kitchen-god for a double favor: to be exempt from aging and to be able to live without eating. The Kitchen-god granted him both wishes. As a result, his worship spread throughout the state. After that, he went to the Han dynasty’s Emperor Hsiao Wu-ti (140–86 B.C.) Page 167 and made a promise to that gullible monarch. He said that he would provide the Emperor the ability to profit from the god’s abilities if the Emperor agreed to support and promote the Emperor’s religion. He went on to say that Emperor Huang Ti had learned alchemy via this route, which was how he was able to create gold.

The Emperor requested that the priest provide him with a heavenly patron, and one night an image of Tsao Chün came before him in response to his request.

The Emperor, having been duped by this ploy, was fascinated by the ingots of gold that he too should acquire, and was prepared to risk all for the pill of immortality which was among the rewards promised. As a result, the Emperor offered a solemn sacrifice to the God of the Kitchen.

This new god had never before had an official sacrifice presented to them, hence this event marked their debut.

Li Shao-chün slowly lost the trust of the Emperor, and when he was at his wit’s end, he came up with the idea of putting certain sentences on a piece of silk and then having an ox eat them up. After he finished doing this, he made an announcement that amazing writing would be discovered in the animal’s stomach. After the ox was slaughtered, the script was indeed discovered in the location that had been prophesied; however, Li’s unlucky star foretold that the Emperor would identify his handwriting, which resulted in his immediate execution. Despite this, worship of the Kitchen-god persisted, even flourishing to the point that it continues in its full force right up to the current day.

This deity has control over the lives of the members of each family that is under his supervision. He doles out wealth and poverty at his whim, and he is responsible for making an annual report to the Supreme Being on the behavior of the family throughout the year. In order to complete this report, the deity is typically absent for anywhere from four to seven days. Some people believe that he compiles these reports once, twice, or even more often than that each month. Several different rites are carried out in order to bid him farewell to Heaven and to welcome him back. As we saw, one of the former options is to lavish him with honey; this will ensure that any words he does choose to utter while in the air will be nothing but delicious!

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