Cai shen ye (財神爺)is called Cai shen (財神) also. Cai shen, the Chinese god of prosperity, according to its function, is a category or a set of god rather than a specific god. The function of Cai shen is deciding everyone’s fortunate and interest in one’s destiny. There are various kinds of Cai shen’s classification. The most general one is Zheng Cai shen (正財神) and Pian Cai shen (偏財神). Most often, ‘Zheng’ (正) in Chinese means correct, or right in the middle and ‘Pian’ (偏) means stray from the right. In Cai shen’s case, Zheng’s meaning is closed to static. On the contrary, Pian means random, opportunity or chance. In other words, Zheng Cai shen blesses people’s fortunate according to ones destiny. Pian Cai shen provides some chance or speed up people to get wealth. Under the Zheng Cai shen class, there are two branches, one is Wu Cai shen (武財神), another is wen Cai shen (文財神). In Chinese, wu means martial or of the martial art and wen means literate or gentle. Wu Cai shen are Zhao Gongming (趙公明), Guan Yu (關羽, 162–219), and Duowen tianwang (多聞天王: Vaiśravaṇa ). Under Wen Cai shen’s class, there are Fan Li (范蠡), Bi Gan (比干). Unlike Zheng Cai shen, most of the pian Cai shen are between the ghost and divine spirit figure.
Zhao Gongming is well known as a Cai shen, however, he was a god of plague also. As a divine general, he was responsible to come to earth to take people’s lives in Jin dynasty (晉朝
). Until Yuan dynasty, he became a Cai shen. Guan Yu is a genuine historical figure who was a general before. He was serving under the warlord Liu Bei (劉備, 161-223) during the Three Kingdoms era of China. The reason why Guan Yu became Cai shen is not clear. Maybe he was deified pretty early and popular. When the belief on Guan Yu became popular, people worship to him to pray for fortune more frequently and made Guan Yu become Cai shen naturally. Bi Gan was his nephew King Zhou of Shang’s (商王紂) minister, however, he was executed by King Zhou and pulled out his heart crucially. Because he has no heart anymore, people believe that he will be fair in making judge of trades as a god. Then he became Cai shen also. Fan Li was a minister of the state Yue (越國) in the Spring and Autumn Period. After he assisted the king of Yue recovered the state, he escaped from the court of Yue for good. Because Fan Li anticipated that the king of Yue would execute the state men who helped him after he got his kingdom back. Fan Li was success in running business. Each time he ran a new business, the business began to expand and to be successful. Since he is a talent in anticipated the business trend, businessman worship him as a Cai shen.
Most of the pian Cai shen are not a person with a great achievement or as a moral role model before he was deified. There are various versions of pian cai she. For example, Wutung (五通), is a Cai shen flourishing from Song dynasty up to now. He was original a mountain god though. Wu lu Cai shen is a set of Cai shen which is included Zhao Gongming and his four subordinator captain. They are original as the Taoist divine generals.
Recently, Wu lu Cai shen is very popular in Taiwan now. Maybe it is because the economic crisis happened some other times and social life becomes more commercialization. There are also many famous Tudi gongs (土地公) regarded as Cai shen also. For example, around Zhonghe (中和), Taipei county, there is a temple named Hongludi (烘爐地) , a well known Cai shen temple. In Nantou county (南投縣), a temple named Zinan gong (紫南宮) is another famous Tudi gong. It is so popular that can raise fund for the public schools neighbored to it, providing the free lunch to the pupils of the schools.
Besides, almost everywhere it is easy to find the statue of Maitray. Maitreay is also regarded as a Cai shen. In Taipei, there is also a Thai-Indo god regarded as a Cai shen. It is Simian fo (四面佛), Phra Phrom. Phra Phrom is original the Indo god Bhrama which is in Thai fashion represented as a four faces statue with four faces.
People often offer flowers, candles, or foods to Cai shen. A special practice is invented by people in Taiwan. The practice is that people change with or borrow from temple and god the money. It is said that the money got from temple is blessed by Cai shen. People believe the money can make them be in luck. It is a popular practice in Taiwan now.
Keywords: Cai shen ye, Zhao Gongming, Zheng Cai shen, Pian Cai shen