Thursday, April 21, 2011

Solar Stellar Lord

A painting of the Solar Stellar Lord, Deity of the Sun

According to the Taoist tradition, the Birthday of the Solar Stellar Lord (太陽星君聖誕) is observed on the 19th day of the 3rd Chinese lunar month.

The Solar Stellar Lord (太陽星君 Taiyang Xingjun) is the Taoist god of the sun. He is also known as the God of Immense Brightness (大明之神 Daming Zhishen) and his common and popular names are God of the Sun (太陽神 Taiyang Shen) and Lord of the Sun (太陽公 Taiyang Gong). His formal Taoist religious title is Solar Imperial Lord of the Extreme Cinnabar, Blazing Light, and Abounding Brightness of the Palace of the Sun (日宮太丹炎光鬱明太陽帝君 Rigong Taidan Yanguang Yuming Taiyang Dijun).

The Solar Stellar Lord is in charge of the movements of the sun and the light and heat that it emits. Because the sun provides the earth with the warmth and light that is necessary for survival, the Solar Stellar Lord is also seen as an important provider of life and vitality.

An image showing the explosions in the sun’s magnetic field
(Image: NASA)

In ancient times, the sun and moon together with the five planets (Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn) were deified as seven stellar gods and venerated by the ancients who envisioned the sacred spirit in all things of nature and the universe. They are 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) [this group was mentioned in another post that can be found here].

There are actually two different dates given as the birthday of the Solar Stellar Lord. One is the 19th day of the 3rd lunar month and the other is the 19th day of the 8th lunar month. The former date of 3/19 is actually the date that Chongzhen (崇禎) (1611-1644), the last emperor of the Ming dynasty, took his own life. According to modern research done by Zhao Shiyu (趙世瑜) and Du Zhengzhen (杜正貞), there were some names related to the lineage of the Ming dynasty that had suggestive connections to the religious veneration of the sun or the heavens. After the fall of the Ming dynasty, some of its loyalists secretly commemorated Chongzhen on his death anniversary. Later, the date was retained and transformed into a date of religious observance for the sun deity in popular religious culture.

A statue of the Solar Stellar Lord
His face and body are red and he holds a sphere with the character Sun/Day () on it.
(Image: Source unknown)

It is also interesting to note that the Solar Stellar Lord is also found in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition in the group of the 24 heavenly deities that are Dharmapalas who protect and defend the Buddhist Law [mentioned in a previous post that can be found here]. The Taoist Solar Stellar Lord is called the Venerable Sun God of the Solar Palace (日宮太陽尊天 Rigong Taiyang Zuntian) in the Buddhist tradition and is probably derived from the Indian Vedic sun god Surya.

Text © 2011 Harry Leong

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