The Jade Emperor is one of the most important gods of the Chinese Taoist pantheons.
Supreme God of Chinese folk religion, the Jade Emperor is Ruler of all Heavens (of which the Chinese have over 30), Earth and the Underworld/ Hell, Creator of the Universe, later the Emperor of the Universe, and Lord of the Imperial Court.
The Jade Emperor is son of the King of the Pure Felicity Kingdom of Lofty Heavenly Majestic Lights and Ornaments and of the Empress of Precious Moonlight.
His birthday is the ninth day of the first lunar month, the ninth day after Chinese New Year.
The Jade Emperor was originally the assistant of the Divine Master of the Heavenly Origin, Yuan-shi tian-zun (Chinese: 元始天尊; pinyin: Yúanshǐ Tīanzūn), the Celestial Venerable of the Primordial Beginning or the Primeval Lord of Heaven. Yuan-shi tian-zun is said to be the supreme beginning, the limitless and eternal creator of Heaven and Earth, who picked the Jade Emperor as his personal successor. The Jade Emperor will eventually be succeeded by the Heavenly Master of the Dawn of Jade of the Golden Door. The characters for both are stamped on the front of the arms of his throne.
Many taoist folk stories and customs are associated with the Jade Emperor, as well as he was granted various titles due to his doings, generally kind, benevolent, caring and helping and he used his powers to improve the lives of people.
The Jade Emperor rules all Heaven, Earth and the Underworld/ Hell with a vast company of civil servants and bureaucrats who assist him.
The Jade Emperor adjudicates and metes out rewards and remedies to actions of saints, the living, and the deceased according to a merit system loosely called the Jade Principles Golden Script. When judgments proposed were objected to, usually by other saints, the administration would occasionally resort to the counsels of the advisory elders.
The Jade Emperor’s heavenly court mirrors the earthly court in all ways, having an army, a bureaucracy, a royal family and parasitical courtiers. Reflecting the order of the Chinese political system, each single department of the pantheon is overseen by a particular diety, spirit or god.
Two assistance of the Jade Emperor are Cheng Huang and Tu Di Gong, who look after Earthly paperwork.
Cheng Huang is the god of moats and walls. Each district has its own Cheng Huang, a protective town god, most often a local dignitary or important person who had died and been promoted to godhood. His divine status was revealed in dreams, though the gods made the actual decision. Cheng Huang not only protects the community from attack, but sees to it that the King of the Dead does not take any soul from his jurisdiction without proper authority. Cheng Huang judges the dead, but also looks over the fortune of the city. Cheng Huang also exposes evil-doers in the community itself, usually through dreams.
Tu Di Gong is a local Earth god, god of towns, villages, streets and households, not too powerfull. He is a modest heavenly bureaucrat to whom individual villagers could turn in times of drought or famine. Tu Di Gong is also a god of wealth, by virtue of his connection to the earth, therefore minerals and burried treasures.
Normaly he is portrayed as a kind, respectable old man, who wants things to run smoothly.
Every year a third assistant, Zao Jung, the Kitchen God, files a report on people’s conduct for the Jade Emperor to assess.
JADE EMPEROR AND CHINESE NEW YEAR
Just before Chinese New Year, the Jade Emperor sends the Kitchen God, also called Zao Jun, to each mortal’s household to inspect people’s doing over the previous year and to report back if good or evil has been done. Of course, according to the report, the Jade Emperor rewards or punishes each household accordingly.
During the Chinese New Year Festival the Jade Emperor and also Zao Jun are worshipped by lighting incense and food offerings are presented to welcome the Jade Emperor’s carriage. Although the Jade Emperor himself is vegetarian, meat food offerings can be found since the Emperor might have non vegetarian guests. Since the Jade Emperor is as well regarded as the supreme venerable divinity in Heaven, some believers call him Heavenly Grandfather.
Spirit Money with the image of the Jade Emperor surrounded by the the Eight Immortals
The Jade Emperor can also be found on each bill of spirit money (also known as hell money or heaven money). Images of the Jade Emperor show him seated in imperial robes, often with embroidery featuring dragons (see: Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty), with strings of pearls from his crown.