Episode 117: Well God

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There are Six Households Deities in Chinese mythology. We have talked about five of them Kitchen God (Ep 26), two Door Gods (Ep 11) and Lord of the Soil and Ground (Ep 68) and Toilet Goddess (Ep 111). Today we will talk about the last one – Well God.

It is said some of the earliest evidence of water wells are located in China. Archaelogical evidence and texts prove that the prehistoric Chinese had the skills of digging water wells as early as 6000 to 7000 years ago.

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In Chinese mythology, there is a man called Yi 益 that is credited with the invention of digging wells from the prehistorical time. There are some different gods related with wells people worship in different parts of China. However, today we mainly talk about JingQuanTongZi 井泉童子 from the Six Households Deities. He is mostly worshipped in the southeastern coast of China. Jing means wells, quan means springs and tongzi means kids. So the Water Well God looks like a young boy.

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In the book ZiJingWen 责井文 from the Song dynasty 宋朝 between the year 960 ~ 1279, it says, one summer drought lasted for months, all the wells were dry. One man started the blame the wells. At night, he had a dream where he saw a boy covered by dirt and his lips were chapped. The boy said, “I am the Well God .Who makes your pots and clothes clean? Who makes your writing brushes wet that you can write? Who fills your wine glass that you can enjoy under the moonlight? I have been helping you for so long. Now you are blaming me. ”

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Worshiping Well Gods was popular for centuries in China. During the Qing dynasty 清朝, in the place SuZhou 苏州, on the new year’s eve in lunar calendar, people would put the idol of the Well God in a sieve made of bamboo and covered it with something. Then place it in on the edge of a well. This ritual means the well is closed for now and nobody could get water. This lasted for a few days until the third or the fifth day of the new year, there was ceremonies of “opening the well” including sacrifice food. It is a way to represent the gratitude of the well over the whole year.

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Mentioned:

责井文 ZiJingWen

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