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Encyclopedia > Shang Ti

Shang Di or Shang Ti (Wade-Giles) (上帝, pinyin Shàngdì), literally translated, "Lord Above", "Sovereign Above", or "Lord On High", in Chinese culture, is the name used both in traditional Chinese religion as well as Chinese Christianity for the Supreme Deity. Wade-Giles, sometimes abbreviated Wade, is a Romanization (phonetic notation and transliteration) system for the Chinese language based on Mandarin. ... Pinyin (Chinese: 拼音, pÄ«nyÄ«n) literally means join (together) sounds (a less literal translation being phoneticize, spell or transcription) in Chinese and usually refers to HànyÇ” PÄ«nyÄ«n (汉语拼音, literal meaning: Han language pinyin), which is a system of romanization (phonemic notation and transcription to Roman script) for Standard... This is the current collaboration of the week! Please help improve it to featured article standard. ... Chinese traditional religion is the blend of religious practices most Han Chinese practiced for thousands of years. ... A deity or a god, is a postulated preternatural being, usually, but not always, of significant power, worshipped, thought holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, or respected by human beings. ...


First Mention

Shang Di is first mentioned in the Wu Jing (Five Classics compiled by Confucius in the 6th century BC, the oldest parts of the Five Classics were first written around 1000 BC). One of the five books in the Wu Jing is the 書經 Shu Jing (sometimes called 尚書 Shang Shu or the Book of Ancient History). The Shu Jing has 5 "booklets" depending on various divisions. The 2nd "booklet" is called 虞書 "Book of Yu". This "booklet" has 4 "chapters"; the first "chapter" is called 舜典 "Canon of Shun". About the third sentence is the first mention of Shang Di. The Shu Jing is possibly the earliest narrative of China, and may predate Herodotus as history by serveral centuries. This implies that Shang Di is the oldest Deity directly referenced in China by Chinese narrative literature.

Meaning of the Term

Shang Di, 上帝, is the Supreme God in the original religious system of the Han Chinese people, a term used from the second millennium BC to the present day, as pronunced according the modern Mandarin dialect. Literally the term means "Lord On High" or "Celestial Lord", and like the term dyeus used by Indo-European peoples, Shang Di is chiefly associated with Heaven. From the earliest times of Chinese history, and especially from the Zhou Dynasty onwards, another name, Tian, is also used to refer to the Supereme God of the Chinese people. Tian is a word with multiple meanings in the ancient Chinese language, it could either mean the physical sky or the presiding God of Heaven. When Tian is used in the latter sense, it has the same meaning as Shang Di. The influential Han Dynasty Confucian scholar, Zheng Xuan, also commented: "Shang Di is another name for Tian". God is the Supreme Being believed to exist in monotheistic religions as the creator of the Universe. ... Han Chinese (Simplified Chinese: 汉族; Traditional Chinese: 漢族; pinyin: ) is a term which refers to the majority ethnic group within China and the largest single human ethnic group in the world. ... Mandarin (Traditional: 北方話, Simplified: 北方话, Hanyu Pinyin: BÄ›ifānghuà [listen â–¶(?)], lit. ... *DyÄ“us is the reconstructed chief god of the Proto-Indo-European pantheon. ... The Zhou Dynasty (周朝; Wade-Giles: Chou Dynasty (also Chow or Jou)) (late 10th century BC or 9th century BC to 256 BC) followed the Shang (Yin) Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty in China. ... Tian (天 Pinyin Tiān) is the Chinese character for heaven or sky. ... God is the Supreme Being believed to exist in monotheistic religions as the creator of the Universe. ... list of Chinese people ethnic groups of China (with list) zhonghua minzu This is a disambiguation page, a list of pages that otherwise might share the same title. ... Tian (天 Pinyin Tiān) is the Chinese character for heaven or sky. ... God is the Supreme Being believed to exist in monotheistic religions as the creator of the Universe. ... Tian (天 Pinyin Tiān) is the Chinese character for heaven or sky. ...

Chinese Religion

From the earliest eras of Chinese history, Shang Di was officially worshipped through sacrificial rituals. During the earliest times of Chinese history He was also known as Di. Shang Di is believed to rule over natural and ancestral spirits, who act as His ministers. Shang Di is thought to be the Supereme Guide of both the natural order and the human order. The ruler of China in every Chinese dynasty would perform annual sacrificial rituals to Shang Di at the great Temple of Heaven in the imperial capital. During the ritual a completely healthy bull would be slaughtered and presented as an animal sacrifice to Shang Di. The current Temple of Heaven in Beijing was first constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD), in the year 1420 AD. It is a magnificent architectural complex that is four times larger (nearly three million square kilometers) than the Forbidden Palace, the imperial residence of Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors. The central prayer hall in this complex, called the "Prayer Hall For Good Harvests", is of wooden construction built on top of three tiers of marble platforms. It is interesting to note that like the Hebrew God, Shang Di is never represented with either images or idols. Inside the "Prayer Hall For Good Harvests", there is only a "spirit tablet" with the official title of Shang Di written on it - Huang Tian Shang Di, literally meaning "Supereme Soverign God of Heaven". Hall of Annual Prayer, the largest building in the Temple of Heaven The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven (Traditional Chinese: 天壇; Simplified Chinese: 天坛; pinyin: ) is situated in south eastern urban Beijing, in Xuanwu District. ... (?) (Chinese: 北京; pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Pei-ching; Postal System Pinyin: Peking) is the capital of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). ... Ming Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644. ... The Hall of Supreme Harmony (太和殿) at the centre of the Forbidden City The Forbidden City or Forbidden Palace (Chinese: 紫禁城; pinyin: ; literally Purple Forbidden City), located at the exact center of the ancient City of Beijing, was the imperial palace during the mid-Ming and the Qing dynasties. ...

The Chinese Shang Di is believed to be the Creator of the universe, as this part of the official ceremonial texts used in the annual sacrificial rituals to Shang Di shows:

In the beginning there was confusion and chaos. The five elements had not yet began to transform, nor did the sun and the moon began to shine. In the midst of this there existed neither forms nor sound. Then the Spiritual Soverign came forth, and began to seperate the purer from the grosser parts. He created the heavens, He created earth, He created man. All things with reproductive powers received their being. The beginning of all things was the result of His Kind Act. All things received His Great Love. All of the myriad things are found lacking compared with His Great Virtue, Who knows of all the blessings that He has sent to us? Only Huangtian Shangdi is the True Ancestor of the myriad things.

As well as the official sacrificial rituals, the Chinese people can also pray to Shang Di. This fact is recorded in the Confucian Five Classics, some of the oldest written texts in ancient China. According to these texts, Shang Di is a Good God, and like the Hebrew God, punishes evil and rewards goodness. Verses from the Shang Shu, (literally the Book of Ancient History), one of the Five Classics, read:

Shang Di (the Lord On High) is not invariant, (For He judges a person according to his actions), On the good-doer He sends down blessings, And on the evil-doer He sends down miseries.

Chinese Christianity

Shang Di is also one of the main names used by Chinese Christians for the Christian God. It is first used in the southern China edition of the Chinese Union Version, a Mandarin Chinese translation of the Christian Bible. 19th century British Protestant missionaries in China, such as James Legge, used the name Shang Di to refer to the Christian God, while American Protestant missionaries in northern China in the early 20th century preferred the alternative "Shen" (神, pinyin Shén), and another edition was printed reflecting this usage. By contrast, historically, Chinese Catholics have predominantly used the term "Tian zhu" "天主" (literally, "Lord of Heaven") to address God. Chinese philosophers of religion also use the name Shang Di to refer to the philosophical God. The term God is used to designate a Supreme Being, however, there are countless definitions of God. ... Alternative meaning: In geology, North China (continent) and South China (continent) were two ancient landmasses that correspond to modern northern and southern China. ... The Chinese Union Version (CUV) (和合本) is the predominant Chinese language translation of the Bible used by Chinese Protestants. ... James Legge (December 20, 1815 - November 29, 1897) was a noted Scottish sinologist, a Scottish Congregationalist, representative of the London Missionary Society in Malacca and Hong Kong (1840-1873), and first professor of Chinese at Oxford University (1876-1897). ...

The Temple of Heaven

The current Temple of Heaven in Beijing, first constructed during the Ming Dynasty in 1420 AD:



  • Creel, Herrlee G., The Origins of Statecraft in China. ISBN 0226120430

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Pre-Classical Religion (778 words)
Noble families of the Shang dynasty sought to trace their ancestry to the founder-spirit of the Shang dynasty, who was worshipped as an all-powerful god.
Shang Ti came to be regarded not simply as an ancestral spirit but as God who was concerned for the well-being of the Chinese race.
In the eyes of the Chou it was because the Shang had failed to rule well that they lost the support of Shang Ti and so were destroyed by their successors.
Encyclopedia: Shang Ti (1333 words)
Shangdi was the supreme deity worshipped by the ancient Chinese, especially during the Shang and Zhou dynasties.
Shang Dynasty (Chinese: 商朝) or Yin Dynasty Shang civilization.
As time went on, the ruling class decided that the common people were not worthy to worship Shang Ti, and so their attention shifted to the lesser gods, and eventually to other religions and philosophies such as Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.
  More results at FactBites »



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