The Man-Made God: Thriving between Buddhism and Daoism, the Almighty God of Hugong Dadi

By Wei Zhao.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The mandate of heaven, similar to the notion of the divine right of kings in Western culture, is a traditional Chinese philosophical, political and religious concept that assures the legitimacy of emperors and their right to rule directly from the will of god; compared with western culture, the god here has a rather general and abstract meaning. Unlike western religions, which are more exclusive and systematic, religious history in pre-modern China was filled with tension and compromise between the imported Buddhism and indigenous Daoism, as well as their coalition with Confucianism, which was generally considered as the national religion. However, none of these deities assured the legitimacy of emperors and their right to rule directly from the will of god. On the other hand, emperors often apotheosized legendary persons as Daoism deities in order to reveal the divine right they had, especially when the crown was threaten by the growing Buddhism. This paper is based on the field research carried out by the author, which includes the history and ritual of the worship of Hugong Dadi, centered in the Fangyan area, Zhejiang Province, China. Hu, a local officer reigning between 989 and 1039 A.D., was later transferred into a Daoism deity under the social and religious pressure at that time and enshrined inside a Buddhist temple on the top of Fangyan Mountain. In the 900 years that followed, not only did Hu become an almighty god, receiving offerings throughout southeast China, but the worship of Hu was developed into a months-long regional temple fair. This paper argues that the reason Hugong Dadi could survive throughout history is due to the intertwined religious, social, and cultural factors, including the struggle between Buddhism and Daoism, the intervention from the Hu family and the Cheng families, and the Temple Fair of Hu.

Keywords: Buddhism, Daoism, Emperor-Appointed God, Ancestor Veneration, Religious Ritual, Folk Religion, Temple Fair

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 9, pp.107-118. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 699.861KB).

Wei Zhao

Doctoral Student, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

Wei (Windy) Zhao is currently a doctoral student in the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research examines the way in which foreign and transitory activities affect the buildings, the landscape, and the meaning of place of small scale historical and vernacular built environments. Zhao received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China and a Master of Architecture degree from Syracuse University, New York. She is a licensed architect in the United Stated and a LEED. AP.. Before coming to Illinois, she taught at Iowa State University for two years and completed a one-year research fellowship at Tsinghua University.

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