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Eight Civil and Martial Immortals introduction

Eight Civil and Martial Immortals

As a very popular drama appealing for good fortune, it is played in almost every occasion whenever there is a drama performance. The drama does not have a plot. It is composed of eight different immortals' singing and dancing. Each of them appeals for certain good fortunes in accord with his position. The eight immortals are:

God of the Day: The god on duty for the day.

Sun Wukong: The popular hero of the novel Journey to the West, which "is a mythological account of the adventure of Hsuan Tsang 玄奘, a Buddist monk, and his associates, who went to India in the seventh cenutry, and returned after a sojourn of seventeen years with 657 Buddhist books, pictures and relics." ( A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology , p.462) Sun Wukong was originally a monkey, and acquired human attributes and transcendent powers. "Having eventually joined the holy religion of Buddhism, endeavoured to suppress evil and cherish virtue, he was rewarded ... by being appointed God of Victorious Strife. He is the patron deity of official couriers." ( A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology , p.463)

God of Literature: "His name was Chang Ya 張亞 . He was born during the T'and 唐 dynasty in the kingdom of Yueh 越 (modern Chekiang 浙江 ) and went to live at Tzu-t'ung 梓潼 , in Ssuch'uan 四川 . There he was subsequently worshipped as a god. He was a brilliant writer, and held an appointment in the Board of Rites. In his latter days he suddenly disappeared, or was killed in battle. Rulers of the T'ang dynasty canonized him, and those of the Sung and Yuan dynasties bestowed on him various other honorary titles. … In the temples dedicated to Wen Ch'ang there are always two secondary altars, one of which is consecrated to his [Kui Star] worship. The other is dedicated to Chu I 朱衣 , “Mr. Redcoat.”" ( A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology , pp.554-557)

Kui Star: "A scholar, Chung K'uei 鍾馗 by name, having been admitted as first academician at the metropolitan examination, presented himself according to custom to the Emperor to receive the rose of gold bestowed on the successful candidate. He was, however, of such repulsive mien that the Emperor refused the reward, and Chung K'uei in despair went and threw himself into the sea. Juast as he was drowning, however, a sea-monster (an ao 鰲 or “kraken”) raised him on his back to the surface, and ascending to Heaven he became arbiter of the destinies of men of letters. His abode was said to be the star K'uei 奎 (the stellar “mansion” of Andromneda and Pisces). Scholars soon began to worship and sacrifice to K'uei as the God of Literature. As time went on, there was a general demand for a sensible, concrete representation of this star-god, and eventually there was substituted for the star-group K'uei 奎 another star-group K'uei 魁 , which is the square part of the constellation Dipper, or Great Bear. Yet, even for this no satisfactory personal representation could be found, and accordingly a drawing was made from the character itself, representing a Kuei 鬼 (or disembodied spirit) with its foot raised, and bearing aloft a tou 斗 (bushel measure). This is the image which was most frequently worshipped by the literati. … In front of Wen Ch'ang, on his left, stands K'uei Hsing 魁星 . He is represented as of diminutive stature, with the visage of a demon, holding a writing-brush in his right hand and a tou 斗 in his left, one of his legs kicking up behind—the figure being obviously intended as an impersonation of the character k'uei 魁 . He is regarded as the distributor of literary degrees, and was invoked above all in order to obtain success at the competitive examinations." ( A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology , pp.555-557)

Lord Guan: Also known as Emperor Guan (Guan di) or Sage Guan, is the God of War. His origins lie in the historical figure Guan Yu (162-220) of the Eastern Han Dynasty. As the end of the Eastern Han, he became fast friends with Liu Bei, a descendant of the Han imperial family, and remained faithful to him throughout his life. He died trying in vain to help Liu restore the Han. Later generations celebrated him as a military hero and eventually he became a god in popular religion. Yet he also became a patron deity of literature favored by the literati because he was traditionally credited with having memorized the very lengthy Zuo's Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals. In the statues of Lord Guan worshipped by the literati he holds the Spring and Autumn Annals in his right hand. Thus he can be worshipped as a god of War, of Literature, or of Wealth, according to the locality and special needs of the worshipper.

Celestial Official: One of the Three Officials (The other two are Earth Official and Water Official). "... a triad invented by the early Taoists, who taught that they were three transcendent Powers, bestowing happiness, remitting sins, and protecting from evil, respectively. Each of these powers received the honorary title of Great Ruler, Ta ti 大帝." (A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology. pp.400-401)

God of Promotion: The god who has the power to bless people to be promoted.

God of Wealth: "As with many other Chinese gods, the proto-being of the God of Wealth has been ascribed to several persons. The God of Riches is universally worshipped in China ; images and portraits of him are to be seen everywhere. He is a special patron deity of merchants in general. Talismans, trees of which the branches are strings of cash, and the fruits ingots of gold, to be obtained merely by shaking them down, a magic inexhaustible casket full of gold and silver these and other spiritual sources of wealth are associated with this much-adored deity. He himself is represented in the guise of a visitor accompanied by a crowd of attendants laden with all the treasures that the hearts of men, women, and children could desire." (A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology. pp.514-517)