Religion

The God of Wealth

In former times Wu Wang of the Zhou dynasty () fought against the last emperor of the Shang dynasty (). According to a famous old novel “Fengshen Yanyi” (封神演義) Wu Wang was supported by Jiang Ziya (姜子牙), while Zhao Gongming (趙公明) fought for the Shang dynasty. Zhao was a famous hermit, he could ride black tigers, and he could throw pearls that exploded like bombshell. But Jiang Ziya used some witchcraft to overcome Zhao Gongming. He made a straw puppet of his enemy, wrote Zhao’s name on it, and burned incense for 20 days. Then, on the 21st day, he shot arrows made of peach-wood into the doll’s heart.  So Zhao Gongming fell ill and died soon. But later Jiang Ziya repented what he had done, he felt guilty that he had killed the brave Zhao Gongming, apologized and let him be canonized. Henceforward Zhao was worshipped by the Chinese as a god of wealth. Nowadays portraits and statues of him can be found in many Chinese temples….

Beginning Nov.1, 1935, the central Bank of Manschukuo (滿洲國銀行) under his governor Rong Hou (榮厚) issued a series of banknotes with portraits of ancient personalities. On the 5 Jiao or 50 Fen notes we find a picture of the god of wealth Zhao Gongming. (It must, however, be said that “The Standard Catalog of World Paper Money”, vol.II, 14th edition, insists that this portrait is that of the Qing emperor Chienlong (乾隆), an error which –as far as I can see- was first mentioned by Joe Boling in his and Fred Schwan’s book “World War II Remembered”; but it is absolutely sure that this is an error, because notifications of the Mandschu Central Bank in the newspapers about the coming series expressively mention that the Zhao Kung-Ming would be pictured on the 50 Fen notes; also, we know many portraits of Chianlong, and as far as I see this emperor is never pictured with a beard…).

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In Chinese temples we often find a statue of Zhao Gong Ming, also known as Marshall Zhao. Usually he is of dark complexion and wears a battle robe, in his hands he often holds a “Ruyi” (如意) as a symbol of his power, or  some kind of weapon in order to underline his martial character. In some cases he is riding a tiger. The following statues I found in several temples in Krabi and Phuket (Southern Thailand):

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The wooden statue above shows two small lions near the feet of Zhao Kongming.

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The above statue made of chinaware shows symbols of wealth (the golden sycee) and a kind of short sword.

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here, too, Zhao Kongming holds a weapon in his hands. The statue is made of wood.


Request for Fertility and Money

This wonderful picture shows Guanyin, the famous Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion. She is sitting on a lotus flower and accompanied by two children, a girl and a boy. The bird near her head is a phoenix (鳳 凰).

Contrary to the hell notes this kind of paper is used for living persons. It can be bought from special shops and by burning it the owner of the paper expects to get special benefits.

At top there are five characters written in old-style traditional form: 音保佑金 „guanyin baoyou jin” = Guanyin protects the gold.. The five characters at bottom are written in new-style, modern form: 观音赐福 “guanyin ci fu” = “Guanyin brings luck”.

At right there is a request written: qiu zi de zi zi cheng long” = I beg you, let me become pregnant and get a son like a dragon.

At left we find another request: “qiu cai de cai cai cheng shan” = I beg you to give me money, money as big as a mountain.

So this paper is burnt by a childless lady who wants to become pregnant and get a “son like a dragon”, and a fortune…

In the internet I found the following “fertility prayer”: “Blessed Mother Guanyin, I beg you: help me to be fertile, help me to be fruitful. Help me to conceive a healthy child. I beg this with all of my heart, with my soul and body, in your holy name…”

Tien-Fah-Pavilion in Bangkok

In the 19th century five groups of Chinese immigrants were living in Bangkok: Dtaejiu, Hokkien (Fujian), Hakka, Chinese from Hailam (Hainan) and from Guangdong. Members of these groups spoke different (mutually unintelligible) Chinese languages. Each group had shrines and cemeteries of its own, each group wanted to maintain its independence from the other groups.

But seeing that their efforts to provide services to their members were rather ineffective – most Chinese were rather poor and lived in really deplorable conditions- the five groups finally came together and worked out a plan to create an association in order build a hospital open to the members of any of the five groups…

In 1905 the hospital of the newly founded “Tian Fah Association” opened its doors. King Chulalongkorn attended the inauguration of the hospital, which at the beginning had 80 beds. (He donated 8000 Baht). The hospital is situated not far from Wat Traimit

In this hospital traditional Chinese medicine was practised, and the hospital was open to the members of any Chinese group. For the poor treatment was free of charge.

Later western medicine was introduced. In 1932 the Tian Fah Association (สมาคม) became the Tian Fah Foundation (มูลนิธิ), because only a foundation, but not an association was allowed to practise both Chinese and western style medicine.

Since 1950 there has been a fee for people who are treated by modern western style medicine (but if someone has really no money he is treated without any fee).

The name Tian Fah ( ) was chosen because Tian Fah was a well-known Chinese (Daoist) deity, widely venerated and respected by all five groups of the Chinese. It is said that in her life on earth Tian Fah bore the name Lín Mòniáng ( 林默娘) and that she was born on an island of Fujian province. Her life was full of miracles. She could foresee the weather and thus she could warn the fishermen of coming dangers on the sea. So she is venerated as a patron of those travelling by ship. By choosing her name “Tian Fah” the Chinese immigrants wanted to thank her for their safe arrival in Thailand.

On the ground of the Tian Fah Hospital a kind of shrine was built, resembling a Chinese Temple. But as there is no wall around the shrine and as there is no leading committee for it, it is not really a Chinese temple (ศาลเจ้า).

In July 2008 I visited this building and took some pictures. First here is a picture of the whole building

The dominant statue inside the building is a rather tall, gold coloured statue of Guan Yim (Guan Yin, 觀音in Chinese), made from sandal wood. Guan Yin is the goddess of mercy, a female representation of Boddhisattva Avalokitesvara. In Chinese folk mythology Tian Fah and Guan Yin are the same.

Inside the pavilion there are numerous interesting colourful paintings, here a few examples:


Main source (for the history of the foundation): Edward van Roy, Samphaeng – Bangkok’s Chinatown Inside Out

The Pao Kung Shrine in Trang

At the end of the Second World War some people of southern China fled their country and landed by boat in southern Thailand. They settled in Trang. At home they had worshipped  Chinese ”god” called Pao Kung (包公).

In 999 Bao Kung was born under the name of Pao Ching (“ching” means “righteousness”). When he was 29 years old he became a justice. He never cared about money and always protected the poor and innocent. Later he was given the honourable title of “Kung” and henceforward was called “justice Pao Kung”. After his death he was canonized and much venerated.

When the above-mentioned Chinese people arrived in Trang they brought with them the ashes of joss-sticks used at their Pao Gong Temple in China, together with a shield on which the name of Pao Kung was written.

For a few years the Chinese worshipped Pao Kung in their houses. But soon they wanted to build a shrine for him. In 1947 they thought they had found a site where they could build a shrine. But this site soon proved unsuitable as it was situated too near to the train station. Furthermore the previous owner of the site wanted it back. So they looked for another site. In 1955 a lady called นาง มาง (“Miss Marng”) donated a site of 2 ไร่ (3200 square meters). But this land was more a kind of swamp, with many deep holes filled with water. The Chinese had to work very hard to prepare this site for building a shrine.

At that time the leader of the Chinese was a priest called Leesianjor (พระหลีเซียนจ้อ) who gave the others much confidence. In 1974 one Mr. Garngchaihua (กังฉายฮั้ว), a very rich businessman from Sonkhla, met Leesianjor. It happened that one of his ships loaded with valuable cargo was stranded near Singapore, and seemed lost. Mr Garngchaihua told the priest Leesianjor that if he could save the ship and its cargo through his prayers and/or magic power he would donate the money to build the shrine. Well, the ship and the cargo were saved and Mr. Garngchaihua fulfilled his promise. The architect of the shrine was a Chinese from Singapore. The Chinese name of the temple is 包公宫 (pin yin: bao gong gong) which means Baogong/Paokung shrine.

Today we still find a photo of Mr. Garngchaihua inside the shrine. In Chinese his name is written as 江菜花 (pin yin: jiang cai hua).

Finally, in 1975, a big ceremony was held and the shrine was inaugurated.

When entering the shrine you first meet with a big statue, the so-called laughing Buddha. The laughing Buddha is always smiling and has a large protruding belly. This symbolizes plenitude and happiness, abundance and contentment.

In front of the gods’ statues we find a row of heads mounted on sticks, five in a row. They represent soldiers defending the heavenly gods…

Inside the shrine we find many colourful paintings, related to Chinese mythological stories like “Journey to the West”, “San Guo” and others…:

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Outside the temple we find a kind of oven. Here several ritual papers (joss paper money and others) are burned.

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