Myths and Legends of China
Yü Huang means ‘the Jade Emperor,’ or ‘the Pure August One,’ jade symbolizing purity. He is also known by the name Yü-huang Shang-ti, ‘the Pure August Emperor on High.’
The history of this deity, who later received many honorific titles and became the most popular god, a very Chinese Jupiter, seems to be somewhat as follows: The Emperor Ch’êng Tsung of the Sung dynasty having been obliged in A.D. 1005 to sign a disgraceful peace with the Tunguses or Kitans, the dynasty was in danger of losing the support of the nation. In order to hoodwink the people the Emperor constituted himself a seer, and announced with great pomp that he was in direct communication with the gods of Heaven. In doing this he was following the advice of his crafty and unreliable minister Wang Ch’in-jo, who had often tried to persuade him that the pretended revelations attributed to Fu Hsi, Yü Wang, and others were only pure inventions Page 131to induce obedience. The Emperor, having studied his part well, assembled his ministers in the tenth moon of the year 1012, and made to them the following declaration: “In a dream I had a visit from an Immortal, who brought me a letter from Yü Huang, the purport of which was as follows: ‘I have already sent you by your ancestor Chao [T’ai Tsu] two celestial missives. Now I am going to send him in person to visit you.’” A little while after his ancestor T’ai Tsu, the founder of the dynasty, came according to Yü Huang’s promise, and Ch’êng Tsung hastened to inform his ministers of it. This is the origin of Yü Huang. He was born of a fraud, and came ready-made from the brain of an emperor.