Understanding Chinese Heaven


Chinese Heaven .:. Immortals

Chinese Heaven

The Chinese Heaven is very different from the Western conception of Heaven.  There are no choirs of angels and heavenly light, although even is still a place of beauty and elegance it's important to remember that the Chinese Heaven is modeled after the government on earth.  The Jade Emperor is considered to be the perfect counterpart of the Chinese Emperor on earth.  Furthermore every position in the government on earth is mimicked by a similar position in heaven.  So if there's a Minister of Finance on Earth than there is one in Heaven.  Although the Chinese Heaven is supposed to be a perfect place it is just as despotic and cruel as the one on earth. Alchemists who were considering becoming heavenly immortals had to be sure to secure a large quantity of gold so that they could bribe their way into a good position within the beaurocracy.    Hell is the same way.  It is through kings, guards, clerks that Monkey has to fight in order to erase his name from the records of the Underworld. 

One wrong step or insult could earn you a great punishment.  Take both Pig and Sand Monk.  They were both kicked out of Heaven and then sentenced to cruel punishements.  The Sand Monk was sent to earth and kept in misery by a sword that was sent by the Jade Emperor to peirce his chest a hundred time severy day.  His crime?    He broke a single jade cup while at a feast.  Pig's crime?  He hit on the Moon Goddess.  Even the Tang Monk wasn't immune to heavenly wrath.  The whole story is centered around how the Tang Monk is the reincarnation of the Golden Cicadia, but do you know why this holy heavenly creature is down on earth?  He feel asleep during one of the Buddha's lectures. 

Some of the monsters and demons that we meet in Journey to the West are actually fugitives from this heavenly place.   Many of the demons only submit to being captured because otherwise they would be killed and all of them have been striving for thousands of years to attain longevity and wealth.

Chinese people don't usually pray directly to the Jade Emperor.   They make their complaints or needs known to lesser gods who would either take action themselves or take the suit of the petitioner to the Jade Emperor for them.   Monkey is brave enough to make his petition directly known to the Jade Emperor, but even he needs to write a memorial and present it in the proper fashion.



Chinese Immortality is also different from the Western perception.  Chinese immortality doesn't necessarily mean immunity to death.   It usually implies that aging has ceased and that with continued practice of some kind of spiritual alchemy, or with the eating of special foods that confer longevity, the person can effectively live forever. 

This does not mean that they cannot be killed.   Monkey kills many demons that would have been considered Immortals.   Immortality was also believed to be conferred by the practice of Taoism and Alchemy which will be discussed later.   Immortality wasn't really that, it was really an extraordinarily extended life to the point where worrying about death was unnecessary unless one engaged in fighting.   This does explain why Monkey could terrorize everyone in heaven, since they feared that he would kill them since his magic power and intelligence could surpass any who fought him.