More than 3000 years ago, our ancestors already developed the idea of “paying respect to the heavens, honoring the deities and paying respect to our ancestors”. This concept was passed down from one generation to the next. This, together with Daoism, fuelled the promotion and practice of ancestral and deity worship, and are now deep rooted in our hearts and it is a hallmark of the Chinese people. Dieties are considered the manifestation of “Dao”, and they have been created by the formless vapour of “Dao". The fundamental Daoist belief is that the myriad things of the universe are created by “Dao”. Daoists believes that “Dao” is eternal and everlasting, and hence through cultivation one can achieve the “Dao”, enjoy good fortune and a blissful life on Earth, and also live on eternally in the heavenly realms.

Importance of Virtue and Ethics in Daoism

Daoists strongly believes in accumulating merits and doing good deeds to benefits society, and also in educating and encouraging others to develop their morality and value system. There is a Taoist saying which goes like this: “By doing 3,000 good deeds, one will accumulate 800 merits”, which means that if one hopes to attain immortality, he/she must at least perform 3,000 good deeds to reach this state of perfection.

Paying Respects in Daoism 

Repaying kindness and showing gratitude is an ancient practice. It requires that we should not only promote a culture of repaying kindness to the deities who bless and protect us, but also show gratitude to our country for the opportunities given to us, our parents for the care they lavish on us, our teachers for the knowledge they impart, and many others who have been always there for us. Praying to the deities sincerely is one of the methods to thank them.

Incense and Communication with the Dieties 

Incense is used as a medium to communicate with the deities, as the Daoist scriptures mentioned: The precious incense burns in the golden incense burner, and the emitting smoke travels up to the heavens. The incense is the communication tool for man to convey our wishes and messages to the deities, the rising smoke from the combustion carries our wishes up to the heavens. The scriptures also explained that the offering of three sticks of incense is to convey a message to the deities, and the deities of the three realms will turn shower blessings on us. Daoists also believed the offering of incense to the deities is to show our sincerity and utmost respect. Likewise, the deities will acknowledge our respect by giving us blessings.

Daoists use the left hand to offer the incense (the left hand represents the “yang”, symbolizing respect). When offering the incense, Taoists will recite the spell silently “Burning of the incense shall receive ultimate peace” (常焚心香,得大清静).The three sticks of incense should not be more than one inch apart, and must be placed straight upright. Inch is Chinese character is “cun” (寸) and it represents sincerity. Taoist scriptures advocates: A sincere heart can reach the heavens. This shows that with sincerity, one can convince the deities of the 9 heavens.

Major Dieties of Daoism 

This list includes deities of the Daoist pantheon that were either acknowledged by imperial patronage of found widespread veneration among Daoists. The second part includes deities and spirits that are venerated in popular religion, but only such that are venerated in a wider area or nation-wide. The third part a group of immortals appearing in Daoist tales or historical persons that were later venerated as deities.

I Daoist Deities 

  • 三清 Sanqing The Three Pures
  • 四御 Siyu The Four Guides
  • 玉皇 Yuhuang The Jade Emperor
  • 后土 Houtu The Goddess of the Soil
  • 護法四聖 Hufa sisheng The Four Saints Protecting the Standards
  • 五老君 Wulaojun The Five Old Lords
  • 五星七曜星君 Wuxing qiyao xingjun The Lords of the Five Stars and the Seven Radiances
  • 北斗七星君 Beidou qixing jun The Lord of the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper
  • 四靈二十八宿 Siling ershibaxie The Twenty-Eight Seats of the Four Spirits
  • 真武大帝 Zhenwu dadi The Great Perfect Martial Emperor
  • 長生大帝 Changsheng dadi The Great Emperor of Longevity
  • 三官大帝 Sanguan dadi The Three Great Imperial Officials
  • 黄帝 Huang Di, The Yellow Emperor
  • 西王母 Xiwangmu The Queen Mother of the West
  • 東王公 Dongwang gong The Lord King of the East
  • 九天玄女 Jiutian xuannü The Mysterious Maidens of the Nine Heavens
  • 斗姆 Doumu Mother Dipper
  • 嫘祖 Leizu, Goddess of Silk
  • 二郎神 Erlangshen The Two Divine Ministers


II Popular deities 

  • 城隍 Chenghuang City gods|
  • 土地 Tudi or Sheshen 社神 Local deities
  • 太歲 Taisui The Planet Jupiter
  • 雷神 Leishen The God of Thunder
  • 門神 Menshen The Door Gods
  • 福祿壽三星 Fu lu shou sanxing The Three Stars of Wealth, Status and Longevity
  • 竈神 Zaoshen The Kitchen Goddess
  • 財神 Caishen The God of Money
  • 行神 Xingshen
  • 三尸神 Sanshishen
  • 瘟神 Wenshen The Gods of Pestilence
  • 蠶神 Canshen The goddess of silk
  • 廁神 Ceshen The Goddess of the Latrine
  • 醫王 Yiwang The King of Medicine
  • 葯王 Yaowang The King(s) of Herbal Pharmaceuticals
  • 杜康 Du Kang The God of Wine
  • 媽祖 Goddess Mazu
  • 臨水夫人 Linshui furen The Lady of River Lin
  • 保生大帝 Baosheng dadi The Great Emperor Protecting Life
  • 開漳聖王 Kaizhang shengwang The Saint Prince of Kaizhang
  • 三山國王 Sanshanguo wang The King of the Three Mountain Lands 

III Immortals and deified historical persons 

  • 赤松子 Master Red Pine
  • 寧封子 Master Ningfeng
  • 廣成子 Master Guangcheng
  • 容成公 Master Rongcheng
  • 赤精子 Master Red Essence
  • 彭祖 Pengzu
  • 趙公明 Zhao Gongming (see also God of Money and Gods of Pestilence)
  • 太玄女 Taixuannü The Maiden of the Great Mystery
  • 關聖帝君 Guansheng dijun or 關公 Guan Gong (Guan Yu 關羽)
  • 王喬 Wang Qiao
  • 鬼谷先生 Guigu xiansheng
  • 安期生 Anqi sheng
  • 許真君 Xu zhenren
  • 尹真人 Yin zhenren
  • 薩真人 Sa zhenren
  • 陰長生 Yin changsheng
  • 河上公 Heshang gong
  • 張三豐 Zhang Sanfeng
  • 岳飛 Yue Fei
  • 三茅真君 Sanmao zhenjun
  • 麻姑 Magu
  • 驪山老母 Lishan laomu The old lady from Mt. Lishan
  • 四大真人 Si da zhenren
  • 八仙 Baxian The eight immortals
  • 王靈官 Wang Lingguan
  • 文昌帝君 Wenchang dijun
  • 東嶽大帝 Dongyue dadi
  • 酆都大帝 Fengdu dadi
  • 關聖帝君 Guansheng dijun
  • 碧霞元君 Bixua yuanjun
  • 降魔護道天尊 Jiangmo hudao tianzun
  • 五嶽大帝 Wuyue dadi The great emperors of the five summits



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