In Chinese folklore, people always talk about TaiSui 太岁. There are slangs like “犯太岁” meaning “offend Tai Sui” or “太岁头上动土”literally means remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui, which also means offend Tai Sui. What is Tai Sui? Tai 太 means too much, or most senior. Sui 岁 means age or year. It sounds like some old person that is at a high position and easily get annoyed.
In the book Classic of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC , it says, what the earth carries contains everything in Liu He 六合. Within the Four Seas 四海, it is brightened by the Sun and Moon, orbited by the stars and clouds, recorded by the four seasons, and verified by Tai Sui. Liu He is the six directions including upside, downside, east, west, south, north. The Four Seas were four bodies of water that metaphorically made up the boundaries of ancient China. They both refers to the world.
In this context, Tai Sui refers to a non-existent star directly opposite the planet Jupiter during its roughly 12-year orbital cycle in Chinese folklore and Taoism, Chinese astrology. This is related with Sexagenary cycle or GanZhi 干支, a cycle of 60 terms, used for reckoning time in China, which we will talk more in the future.
In the book Lun Heng 论衡, a Chinese classic text from the Eastern Han dynasty, between the year 25~ 220, it mentions “the god of Tai Sui”. It probably during the Song dynasty 宋朝, as earlier as the 10th century that Tai Sui was anthropomorphized. In the book XieJiBianFangShu 协纪辨方书 from the year 1739, it says, Tai Sui, in the form of the Emperor, leads other gods in the center position. The position of Tai Sui is the most auspicious and not should be interfered or used by normal people. So Tai Sui is the god of protection instead of some demons. We respect Tai Sui that we try not to interfere with and should face the back of the location of TaiSui, instead of face directly towards to location of Tai Sui. Later, there is misunderstanding in folklore that since we try to avoid Tai Sui, it should be something evil and scary which leads to the slang we mentioned at the beginning of this episode.
In different parts of China, there are various traditions to worship Tai Sui. In some folklore, during a year for example this coming new year is the year of the rat, people who were born on the year of rat and the year of the opposite of rat which is horse are offending Tai Sui. To show the respect, around the Lunar New year, there are praying ceremonies held. For the past decades, there are Chinese people wearing more red during the year for good luck.
Do you remember the slang we talked at the beginning “太岁头上动土” literally means remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui. Why does it mentions about remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui? We will answer the question in the next episode.
山海经 Classic of Mountains and Seas
论衡 Lun Heng