The Info List - Shangdi

--- Advertisement ---

Model humanity:

Xian Zhenren

Wen and wu


Fenxiang Jingxiang

Feng shui Miaohui

Wu shamanism

Jitong mediumship

Precious scrolls

Institutions and temples

Associations of good-doing

Lineage associations or churches

Chinese temple Ancestral shrine

Chinese Folk Temples' Association


Qingming Zhongyuan Zhongqiu Jiuhuangye Qixi Duanwu Nian

Internal traditions Major cultural forms

Chinese ancestral religion

Chinese communal deity religion

Chinese mother goddess worship

Northeast China
folk religion

Main philosophical traditions:

(state rites) Taoism

Other schools

Ritual traditions:

Folk ritual masters' orders

Jitong mediumship

Nuo folk religion

Chinese shamanism

Devotional traditions:


Wang Ye worship

Salvation churches and sects:

De teaching Jiugongdao

Luo teaching Maitreya teachings

Tiandi teachings Tianxian miaodao

Xia teaching Xiantiandao

Zaili teaching Qigong

Confucian churches and sects:

Holy Confucian Church

Indonesian Confucian Church

Universal Church of the Way and its Virtue

Phoenix churches Xuanyuanism

Taigu school

Related religions

Benzhuism Bimoism

Bon Dongbaism

Miao folk religion

Vietnamese folk religion

Qiang folk religion

Yao folk religion

Zhuang folk religion

Chinese folk religion's portal

v t e

(Chinese: 上帝; pinyin: Shàngdì; Wade–Giles: Shang Ti), also written simply, "Emperor" (Chinese: 帝; pinyin: Dì), is the Chinese term for "Supreme Deity" or "Highest Deity" in the theology of the classical texts, especially deriving from Shang theology and finding an equivalent in the later Tian
("Heaven" or "Great Whole") of Zhou theology.[1] Although in Chinese religion the usage of "Tian" to refer to the absolute God
of the universe is predominant, "Shangdi" continues to be used in a variety of traditions, including certain philosophical schools,[2] certain strains of Confucianism,[3] some Chinese salvationist religions (notably Yiguandao) and Chinese Protestant Christianity. In addition, it is common to use such term among contemporary and secular Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese societies typically for a singular universal deity and a non-religion translation for the God
in Christianity.[4]


1 Etymology 2 History

2.1 Shang dynasty 2.2 Zhou dynasty 2.3 Han dynasty

3 Identification

3.1 The Shang progenitor 3.2 Shangdi
as the celestial pole 3.3 Contemporary Confucianism

3.3.1 Worship

3.4 Conflation with Concept of Singular Universal God

4 See also

4.1 Other 4.2 Comparation

5 Notes 6 References

6.1 Citations 6.2 Sources


Shang oracular script graphs for 帝 Dì, the supreme God
as the celestial pole.[5]

"Shang Di" is the pinyin romanization of two Chinese characters. The first – 上, Shàng – means "high", "highest", "first", "primordial"; the second – 帝, Dì – is typically considered as a short hand for huangdi (皇帝)in modern Chinese, the title of the emperors of China
first employed by Qin Shi Huang, and is usually translated as "emperor". The word itself is derived from Three "Huang" and Five "Di", including Yellow Emperor
(Huangdi 黃帝), the mythological originator of the Chinese civilization and the ancestor of the Chinese race. However, 帝 refers to the High God
of Shang, thus means "deity" (manifested god), [2]. Thus, the name Shangdi should be translated as "Highest Deity", but also have the implied meaning of "Primordial Deity" or "First Deity" in Classical Chinese. The deity preceded the title and the emperors of China
were named after him in their role as Tianzi, the sons of Heaven. History[edit] Shang dynasty[edit]

Oracle bone
Oracle bone
script, the earliest known form of Chinese.

The earliest references to Shangdi
are found in oracle bone inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
in the 2nd millennium BC, although the later work Classic of History
Classic of History
claims yearly sacrifices were made to him by Emperor
Shun, even before the Xia Dynasty. Shangdi
was regarded as the ultimate spiritual power by the ruling elite of the Huaxia
during the Shang dynasty: he was believed to control victory in battle, success or failure of harvests, weather conditions such as the floods of the Yellow River, and the fate of the kingdom. Shangdi
seems to have ruled a hierarchy of other gods controlling nature, as well as the spirits of the deceased.[6] These ideas were later mirrored or carried on by the Taoist Jade Emperor
and his celestial bureaucracy. Shangdi
was probably more transcendental than immanent, only working through lesser gods.[6] Shangdi
was considered too distant to be worshiped directly by ordinary mortals. Instead, the Shang kings proclaimed that Shangdi
had made himself accessible through the souls of their royal ancestors,[7] both in the legendary past and in recent generations as the departed Shang kings joined him in the afterlife. The emperors could thus successfully entreat Shangdi
directly.[8] Many of the oracle bone inscriptions record these petitions, usually praying for rain[9] but also seeking approval from Shangdi
for state action. Zhou dynasty[edit] In the later Shang and Zhou dynasties, Shangdi
was conflated with Heaven (天, Tiān).[10] The Duke of Zhou
Duke of Zhou
justified his clan's usurpation through the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, which proposed that the protection of Shangdi
was not connected to their clan membership but by their just governance. Shangdi
was not just a tribal but instead an unambiguously good moral force, exercising its power according to exacting standards.[11] It could thus be lost and even "inherited" by a new dynasty, provided they upheld the proper rituals. Nonetheless, the connection of many rituals with the Shang clan meant that Shang nobles continued to rule several locations (despite their rebellions) and to serve as court advisors and priests. The Duke of Zhou even created an entire ceremonial city along strict cosmological principals to house the Shang aristocracy and the nine tripods representing Huaxia
sovereignty; the Shang were then charged with maintaining the Rites of Zhou. Likewise, the Shang's lesser houses, the shi knightly class, developed directly into the learned Confucian gentry and scholars who advised the Zhou rulers on courtly etiquette and ceremony.[12] The Confucian classics carried on and ordered the earlier traditions, including the worship of Shangdi. All of them include references:

Occurrences of Shangdi
in the Five Classics

Chinese Name Pinyin English Name Occurrences

書經 Shujing Classic of History 32 times

詩經 Shijing Classic of Poetry 24 times

禮記 Liji Classic of Rites 20 times

春秋 Chunqiu Spring and Autumn Annals 8 times

易經 Yijing Classic of Changes 2 times

The Four Books mention Shangdi
as well but, as it is a later compilation, the references are much more sparse and abstract. Shangdi appears most commonly in earlier works: this pattern may reflect increasing rationalization of Shangdi
over time, the shift from a known and arbitrary tribal god to a more abstract and philosophical concept,[13][14] or his conflation and absorption by other deities. Han dynasty[edit] By the time of the Han dynasty, the influential Confucian scholar Zheng Xuan glossed: " Shangdi
is another name for Heaven". Dong Zhongshu said: "Heaven is the ultimate authority, the king of gods who should be admired by the king".[15] In later eras, he was commonly known by the name "Heavenly Ruling Highest Deity" (皇天上帝, Huángtiān Shàngdì) and, in this usage, he is especially conflated with the Taoist Jade Emperor. Identification[edit] Further information: Chinese theology The Shang progenitor[edit] In Shang sources, Di is already described as the supreme ordainer of the events which occur in nature, such as wind, lightning and thunder, and in human affairs and politics. All the gods of nature are conceived as his envoys or manifestations. Shang sources also attest his cosmological Five Ministries.[16] Di, or Tian, as later texts explain, did not receive cult for being too remote for living humans to sacrifice to directly. Instead, an intermediary such as an ancestor was necessary to convey to Di the offerings of the living.[17] According to some prominent scholars, including Guo Moruo, Shangdi
was originally identical to Ku (or Kui) or Diku (" Divus
Ku"), the progenitor (first ancestor) of the Zi (子) lineage, the founders of the Shang dynasty, attested in the Shiji
and other texts.[17] According to this interpretation, this identification had profound political implications, because it meant that the earthly Shang kings were themselves by birth aspects of divinity.[18] Further evidence from Shang sources suggests that there wasn't a complete identification between the two, as Di controls spirits of nature, while Kui does not; Di is frequently pictured sending down "approvals", while Kui is never so pictured; and Kui received cult, while Di did not. Moreover, Kui is frequently appealed in "horizontal" relationship with other powers, undermining any portrait of him as the apex of the pantheon.[18] Shangdi
as the celestial pole[edit] David Pankenier has studied the astral connections of Shangdi, drawing on a view that interest in the sky was a focal character of the religious practices of the Shang, but also of the earlier Xia and Erlitou cultures. Especially intriguing is the fact that palatial and ceremonial structures of these cultures were carefully aligned to the celestial pole and the procession of pole stars. Pankenier notes that the true celestial pole lies in a sky template which is vacant of significant stars, and that the various pole stars are those nearest to this vacant apex which is of crucial importance.[19] He illustrates how the Shang oracular script for Di can be projected on the north pole template of the ancient sky in such a way that its extremity points correspond with the visible star, while the intersection of the linear axes at the centre will map to the vacant celestial pole. Pankenier argues that the supreme Di was identified with the celestial pole, an idea familiar in later stages of Chinese religion, linking with the Tàiyī 太一 ("Great One") fully documented as early as the 4th century BCE.[5] The interpretation of Shangdi
as the celestial pole, Taiyi and as Ku the progenitor of the Shang is not contradictory. Feng Shi argues that Ku and Di are indeed identical. The Shang probably deliberately identified their ancestor with a universal god recognized in different regions and local cultures in order to legitimize their power.[20] Contemporary Confucianism[edit] Contemporary Confucian theologians have emphasised differences between the Confucian idea of Shangdi, conceived as both transcendent and immanent, and act only as a governor of the world, and the Christian idea of God, which they conceived contrary to those of Christian as a deity that is completely otherwordly (transcendent) and is merely a creator of the world.[21][3] Worship[edit]

Sacred altar at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing

As mentioned above, sacrifices offered to Shangdi
by the king are claimed by traditional Chinese histories to predate the Xia dynasty. The surviving archaeological record shows that by the Shang, the shoulder blades of sacrificed oxen were used to send questions or communication through fire and smoke to the divine realm, a practice known as scapulimancy. The heat would cause the bones to crack and royal diviners would interpret the marks as Shangdi's response to the king. Inscriptions used for divination were buried into special orderly pits, while those that were for practice or records were buried in common middens after use.[22] Under Shangdi
or his later names, the deity received sacrifices from the ruler of China
in every Chinese dynasty annually at a great Temple of Heaven in the imperial capital. Following the principles of Chinese geomancy, this would always be located in the southern quarter of the city.[a] During the ritual, a completely healthy bull would be slaughtered and presented as an animal sacrifice to Shangdi.[b] The Book of Rites
Book of Rites
states the sacrifice should occur on the "longest day" on a round-mound altar.[clarification needed] The altar would have three tiers: the highest for Shangdi
and the Son of Heaven; the second-highest for the sun and moon; and the lowest for the natural gods such as the stars, clouds, rain, wind, and thunder. It is important to note that Shangdi
is never represented with either images or idols. Instead, in the center building of the Temple of Heaven, in a structure called the "Imperial Vault of Heaven", a "spirit tablet" (神位, shénwèi) inscribed with the name of Shangdi is stored on the throne, Huangtian Shangdi
(皇天上帝). During an annual sacrifice, the emperor would carry these tablets to the north part of the Temple of Heaven, a place called the "Prayer Hall For Good Harvests", and place them on that throne.[23] Conflation with Concept of Singular Universal God[edit] See also: Chinese Rites controversy, Chinese names for the God
of Abrahamic religions, and Unknown God It was during Ming and Qing dynasty, when Roman Catholicism was introduced by Jesuit
Priest Matteo Ricci, that the idea of "Shangdi" started to be applied to the Christian conception of God. While initially he utilized the term Tianzhu, Ricci gradually changed the translation into "Shangdi" instead.[24][25] His usage of Shangdi was contested by Confucians, as they believed that the concept of Tian and "Shangdi" is different from that of Christian's God: Zhōng Shǐ-shēng, through his books,[26][27] stated that Shangdi
only governs, while Christian's God
is a creator, and thus differ.[28] Ricci's translation also invited the displeasure of Dominicans and that of the Roman Curia; On March 19, 1715, Pope Clement XI
Pope Clement XI
released the Edict Ex Illa Die, stating that Catholics
must use "Tianzhu" instead of "Shangdi" for Christianity's God. When Protestantism
entered China
in the mid of 19th century, the Protestant missionaries also encountered a similar issue; some preferred the term "Shangdi", while some preferred the term Shen (god). A conference held in 1877 in Shanghai, discussing the translation issue, also believed that "Shangdi" of Confucianism
and the Christian concept of God
are different in nature.[29] However, by the 20th century, most British missionaries, some Catholics, Chinese Orthodox Christians,[30] and Evangelicals
preferred Shangdi
as a connection with Chinese native monotheism[31] with some further the argument by linking it with the unknown god as described in bible passage of Acts 17:23-31.[32][33] Catholics
preferred to avoid it, due to compromises with the local authority in order to do their missions, as well as fear such translation may associate the Christian God
to Chinese polytheism.[34] Nowadays, through the secular Chinese-language media, the Chinese word of "Shangdi" and "Tian" are frequently used to as a translation for the singular universal deity with minimal religious attachment to the Christian idea of God, while Confucians and intellectuals in contemporary mainland China
and Taiwan attempt to realign the term to its original meaning. The Catholics
officially use the term Tianzhu (Chinese: 天主, Tiānzhǔ), lit. "The Lord of Heaven", while Evangelicals
typically utilize Shangdi
(上帝) and/or Shen (神, "The God"). See also[edit]

Chinese rites controversy Names of God Names of God
in China Religion in China Tianzhu


Chinese folk religion Chinese mythology Shen Tian Tao Haneullim Amenominakanushi Taiyi Tianzun Hongjun Laozu


Allah Brahma Ishvara


^ For instance, the Classic of History
Classic of History
records the Duke of Zhou building an altar in the southern part of Luo.[citation needed] ^ Although the Duke of Zhou
Duke of Zhou
is presented as sacrificing two.

References[edit] Citations[edit]

^ Eno (2008), p. 70. ^ a b Chang (2000). ^ a b Huang (2007), p. 457. ^ http://www.thenewslens.com/post/313239/ ^ a b Eno (2008), p. 74. ^ a b Zhao, Yanxia. Chinese Religion: A Contextual Approach. 2010. p. 154 ^ Jeaneane D. Fowler, Merv Fowler, 2008, Chinese religions: beliefs and practices, Sussex Academic Press. ^ Wu, 8 ^ Wu, 173 ^ "Shangdi", Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011 . ^ Book of Documents. ^ "Chinese Philosophy". China
Renmin Univ., 2006. ^ The Book of Documents
Book of Documents
says: "August Heaven has no partisan affections: it supports only the virtuous". ^ The Zuo Zhuan
Zuo Zhuan
says: "Unless one is virtuous, the people will not be in harmony and the spirits will not partake of one's offerings. What the spirits are attracted to is one's virtue". ^ Dong Zhongshu. Chunqiu Fanlu. ^ Eno (2008), p. 71. ^ a b Eno (2008), p. 72. ^ a b Eno (2008), p. 73. ^ Eno (2008), pp. 73-74. ^ Eno (2008), p. 75. ^ Zhōng Shǐ-shēng, 天学初征: "天是「統御世間、主善罰惡之天,即《詩》、《易》、《中庸》所稱上帝是也」,但這個主宰之天只是「治世,而非生世,譬如帝王,但治民而非生民也」" ^ Xu Yahui. Caltonhill, Mark & al., trans. Ancient Chinese Writing: Oracle Bone Inscriptions from the Ruins of Yin. Academia Sinica. National Palace Museum
National Palace Museum
(Taipei), 2002. Govt. Publ. No. 1009100250. ^ "JSDJ". Archived from the original on 2005-12-14.  ^ “上帝給人雙目、雙耳、雙手、雙足,欲兩友相助,方爲事有成矣。”《交友論》,1595 ^ “上帝者,生物原始,宰物本主也。”《二十五言》,1599 ^ 天学初征 ^ 天学再征 ^ 程小娟:《God的汉译史——争论、接受与启示》,社会科学文献出版社,2013年 ^ 艾約瑟譯《各省教師集議記略》,載李天綱編校《萬國公報文選》,北京:生活·讀書·新知三聯書店,1998年,第22頁。 ^ Chinese Orthodox Church ^ Legge, James, The Religions of China, Hodder and Stoughton, 1880, p24-25: "'He sacrificed specifically, but with the ordinary forms, to ShangTi' -that is, we have seen, to God." ^ http://www.rlhymersjr.com/Online_Sermons_Chinese/2012/092912PM_TheUnknownGod.html ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=GzimxWlnh8YC&pg=PA43&lpg=PA43&dq=%E6%9C%AA%E8%AD%98%E4%B9%8B%E7%A5%9E%E4%B8%8A%E5%B8%9D&source=bl&ots=DxRsF2XPfv&sig=zC3h5h_AAAJmTbFBapc1l39s_rg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4ipKq4qrMAhUMsIMKHZ1hBHcQ6AEIRjAG#v=onepage&q=%E6%9C%AA%E8%AD%98%E4%B9%8B%E7%A5%9E%E4%B8%8A%E5%B8%9D&f=false ^ Lee, Archie CC (Oct 2005), God's Asian Names: Rendering the Biblical God
in Chinese, SBL Forum 


Look up 上帝 in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Chang, Ruth H. (2000). "Understanding Di and Tian: Deity and Heaven from Shang to Tang Dynasties" (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. Victor H. Mair (108). ISSN 2157-9679.  Eno, Robert (2008), "Shang State Religion and the Pantheon of the Oracle Texts", in Lagerwey, John; Kalinowski, Marc, Early Chinese Religion: Part One: Shang Through Han (1250 BC-220 AD), Early Chinese Religion, Brill, pp. 41–102, ISBN 9004168354  Huang, Yong (2007). "Confucian Theology: Three Models". Religion Compass. Blackwell. 1 (4): 455–478. doi:10.1111/j.1749-8171.2007.00032.x. ISSN 2157-9679.  Creel, Herrlee G., The Origins of Statecraft in China. ISBN 0-226-12043-0 Wu, K. C. (1982). The Chinese Heritage. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-517-54475X.

v t e

Names of God

In Christianity  • In Hinduism  • In Islam  • In Judaism  • In Zoroastrianism  • In Chinese religion

Adonai Ahura Mazda The All Allah Brahman Cao Đài El

Elohim El Elyon El Shaddai

God Great Spirit Haneullim Hu Hyang I Am that I Am Ik Onkar Ishvara Jah Khuda Ngai Olodumare The One Parvardigar Shangdi Svayam Bhagavan Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto Tian Tianzhu Waheguru YHWH