Shuixian zunwang are five gods of water. Regarding to the Chongxiu Shuixian miao shu (重修水仙廟
疏, The Essay of Rebuilding Shuixian temple), written by Liu Kezhuang (劉克莊) in Song dynasty, they were father and sons titled Jiaying Huili hou (嘉應惠利候父子), the Duke of Jiaying Huili at first. Their name was lost. In Yuan dynasty, the identity of Shuixian zunwang was changed. Shuixian zunwang were five persons. They were Feng Xuan (馮璿)and his brother , Ding Zhongxiu (丁仲修), a surname Cai person, and a certain person. Feng Xuan brothers and Ding Zhongxiu were Confucian scholars. When they were alive, they made some achievement on the canal transport. They were enshrined as the god of water transport by people after they were dead.
By unclear reason, Shuixian zunwang’s combinations was changed again in Qing (清) dynasty. There are various kinds of combination. Among these combinations, Day U (大禹), Wu Yuan (伍員) and Qu Yuan (屈原)are the same elements. The different elements are Xiang Yu (項羽), Lu Ban (魯班), Li Bai (李白), Bo Yi (伯益), Ao Wang (奡王), and Wang Bo (王勃). These six persons are alternatively enlisted in the combination depended on the location where the temple is situated in.
It seems that there are two kind of combination in Taiwan. About the combination, a saying is mentioned. It is “one emperoe, two king and two senior officials in imperial China (一帝、二王、二大夫)”. No doubt the emperor is Day U who regulated the watercourses of Yellow River to control the great flood in ancient China. As a result, he became an emperor with the appellation “the Great”. Two kings are Ao and Xiang Yu or Lu Ban and Xiang Yu. Ao was a legendary figure in Xia dynasty. It is said that he invented the boat and he was a Hercules who could sailing on the land. He was executed by Shao kang (少康), a emperor reviving the state in Xia dynasty. Lu Ban was an outstanding craftman. It was credited that he made a wooden bird which could fly and stay in the air for three days without power system. Xiang Yu was failed in combating with Liu Bang (劉邦) and committed suicide by the side of Wu River (烏江). Two senior officials denote either two of Wu Yuan, Qu Yuan, Li Bai and Wang Bo. Wu Yuan was called Wu Zixu (伍子胥) also. He was the senior official of Wu state in the Spring and Autumn era (722 BC - 481 BC). Because King of Wu state did not trust him, he committed suicide and sweared to see the end of the Wu by the side of Qiantang river (錢塘江) after he was dead. As a result, he became the “god of Waves”. Qu Yuan was also a senior official of Chu (楚) in the Spring and Autumn era and committed suicide by drown himself because of monarch’s untrust. Li Bai and Wang Bo were famous poets in Tang dynasty. They were drowned to death by accident. Apparently, most of above figures are in relation of water. Their lifes are all in connetion with a catastrophe or a tragedy except Lu Ban. Regarding them as Shuixian zunwang, the gods of water, is standing on an idea of Chinese popular religion. The idea is “zhen sha” (鎮煞), to calm an evil spirit. Chinese believed enshrining a tragic soul not only pacifying them but also guarding against the evil spirit. All of the temples dedicated to Shuixian zunwang established closed to the port, riverside, and seaside is to prevent people from floods and shipwreck.
The worship to Shuixian zunwang in Taiwan is in relation with early migrating and trading history. Because sailing on the Taiwan straits was risky at early stage, all the sailors and passengers would pray to the water god for blessing them. Regarding to the Cailiu riji (采硫日記), the Journal of Gathering Sulfur by Yu Yonghe (郁永河, 1645-?), when it was happened to typhoon or billows on sailing across the Taiwan straits, there was a ritul named hua shuixian (划水仙) would be held by the sailors and passengers on the boat. The ritual is took place by all of the people in the boad handing chopsticks in both hands and imitating to movement of paddling boat. At the same time, they had to mimic the sound of bronze drum and drum.
There are some temples dedicated to Shuixian zunwang and most of them are named Shuixian temple (水仙宮). The Shuixian temple in Tainan has a feature. The doors of the temple is not painted with the patron god like most of the temples in Taiwan but decorated with nail like decoration , men ding (門釘) . Men ding is a decoration specific to emperor during the imperial era. The reson is Day U as the main god in Shuixian temple who was one of the thress emperors in Ancient China. On tenth, October, in Chinese lunar calendar, Worshiping to Shuixian zunwang is taken place.
Keywords: Shuixian zunwang, Shuixian temple, Day U, Xiang Yu, Ao Wang, Qu Yuan ,Wu Zixu