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Chinese Mythology - Hou Ji 后稷, the Lord of Millet

Periods of Chinese History
Hou Ji 后稷, the "Lord of Millet", is the ancestor deity of the Zhou dynasty 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). His actual name was Qi 弃. Mythology says that once his mother Jiang Yuan 姜原 stepped upon the footprints of a giant and gave birth to a miraculous boy. She threw the baby away because she considered this event as a bad omen, yet oxen and horses did not tread on the child, and when she threw it into the water, birds rescued it. She finally decided to raise the child. The child loved agriculture and professed in the business of planting and tilling the fields. The fruits of his field proved to be the best in the world. He decided to spread the five sorts of grain among the people and is so considered the inventor of agriculture. Emperor Yao 堯 therefore made him his *Director of grains (houji 后稷), a term which is actually a designation of office and not a personal name. His successor, Emperor Shun 舜, enfeoffed him as Lord of Tai 有邰氏. Hou Ji was buried in the wilderness of Duguang 都廣. King Wu 周武王 of the Zhou dynasty decided to raise him to the highest position in the ancestral altar of the Zhou and bestowed himt he title of Highest Ancestor (shangdi 上帝). There is still an altar of Hou Ji, the Shejitan 社稷壇, in Wugong 武功, Shaanxi.
The oldest known deity of grain was Zhu 柱, a person venerated by the Xia dynasty 夏 (17th-15th cent. BCE).

Source: Li Jianping 李劍平 (ed. 1998), Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), p. 247.

January 23, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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