God of Jupiter - the Stellar Lord of the Virtue of Wood, from a Japanese Buddhist mandala(Image: Museum Reihokan Koyasan)
According to the Taoist tradition, the Birthday of the Stellar Lord of the Virtue of Wood (木德星君誕辰 Mude Xingjun Shengdan) is observed on the 25th day of the first Chinese lunar month. The Stellar Lord of the Virtue of Wood (木德星君 Mude Xingjun) refers to a planetary deity associated with Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun and the largest planet in our solar system. In the Chinese language, the planet Jupiter is known as the Year Star (歲星 Suixing), and is also called the Wood Star (木星 Muxing) because it is correlated with the element (i.e. energy phase) of wood in the Five Elements (Five Phases) (五行 wuxing) scheme of Taoist metaphysics. This planetary/stellar deity is also called the Perfect Imperial Lord of the Year Star (歲星真皇君 Suixing Zhenhuangjun) and is commonly known as the god of Jupiter (歲星神 suixing shen).
The planet Jupiter – also known as the Year Star or Wood Star in the Chinese language(Image: Anthony Wesley/The Planetary Society)
This planetary deity is included in a group collectively known as the Stellar Lords of the Five Planets and Seven Luminaries (五星七曜星君 Wuxing Qiyao Xingjun). In ancient times, the five planets (Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn) together with the sun and moon, were deified as seven stellar gods and venerated by the ancients who envisioned the sacred spirit in all things of nature and the universe. The concept of the Seven (and also Nine) Luminaries first appeared in
in the third century with the translation of the Indian text called the Matanga Sutra (摩登伽經 Modengjia Jing). In the Taoist text called Scripture of the Supreme Truth Grotto on the Secret Teachings of the Five Planets (太上洞真五星秘授經 Taishang Dongzhen Wuxing Mishou Jing), the functions of the five planets are explained as follows: In the East, the Perfect Lord of the Virtue of Wood (Jupiter) is in charge of the birth of all things; In the South, the Perfect Lord of the Virtue of Fire (Mars) is in charge of the growth of all things; In the West, the Perfect Lord of the Virtue of Gold (Venus) is in charge of the control and restraint of all things; In the North, the Perfect Lord of the Virtue of Water (Mercury) is in charge of the benefiting of all things; In the Center, the Perfect Lord of the Virtue of Earth (Saturn) is in charge of the breeding of all things. China
Those familiar with astrology and feng-shui would also know of a group of 60 affiliated stellar deities called the Great Year (太歲 Taisui), or Stellar Lords of the Great Year (太歲星君 Taisui Xingjun), although it should be noted that the Taisui (Great Year) deities are not the same as the god of Jupiter himself, since the Taisui deities are actually related to the hypothetical stars used to track the motion of the actual Jupiter in ancient times, together with the Chinese sexagenary calendrical cycle of 60 years made up of the combinations of the Ten Heavenly Stems (天干 tiangan) and Twelve Earthly Branches (地支 dizhi).
An interesting note to make here is that, despite the knowledge in modern astronomy and science, there are still unexplained accounts of imperial astrologers in ancient China that were able to predict with astonishing accuracy the outcomes of political struggles and national events using the system of omens and portents based on the observation of celestial phenomena.
Text © 2011 Harry Leong