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The Kitchen God

The Kitchen God

The stove is considered the soul of the family. The Chinese believed that good stoves will guarantee peace in the family, while bad ones bring strife. The standing mud-covered brick stoves in a traditional Chinese kitchen are huge. They are built up from the floor against a wall of the kitchen and look something like altars and in fact, they are. The family stove, apart from its functional importance, was believed to house the Kitchen God, also called the Lord of the Hearth, one of the oldest gods worshipped in China.

As an agent of heavenly authority, the Kitchen God spends the whole year with the family, seeing and hearing everything. Once a year, on the 23 rd of the last month (12th) of the lunar year (the 24th in the South), it's widely believed by the Chinese that the Kitchen God ascends to heaven to make his annual report to the highest spiritual being, the Jade Emperor on the conduct and behaviors of the members of each household.

At this time, commonly called the "Little New Year" (xiao nian), the family gives him a farewell dinner, with offerings of snacks, sweet cakes and preserved fruits. In some areas of China, the deity's mouth is smeared with honey or sticky rice. This is so he will say only sweet things in heaven, or, according to some, because it makes his mouth so sticky he will not be able to utter a single word. I t was said that some people even used opium to make him sleepy and forgetful of all unpleasant incidents. The general opinion held that people through their exertions on the god's behalf, could ensure his cooperation in obtaining blessings and protection of heaven to the family in the coming year.


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Last Modified: 11/28/11.