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Emperor Zhenwu -- Avatar of People's Worship for Stars and Animals

Emperor Zhenwu is one of the most influential gods in Taoism. In China, the number of temples built for him is the largest among various kinds of temples.

In Taoism, there are different sayings about the derivation of Emperor Zhenwu. Some think that he came from the god of heaven and earth; some think he came from the god of water, and some people think he practiced austerities to be a god from a human being. In fact, this god is the result evolved from ancient Chinese worship for the stars and animals.

Chinese had divided the stars into four groups since long before, and then imagined them as four animals, which were a bird, a tiger, a dragon and a figure twisted with a tortoise and a snake. The last animal was called Xuanwu. As both the tortoise and the snake are regarded as the propitious animals, they have been worshiped by people all along. Afterwards, Xuanwu was apotheosized. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it was anthropomorphized and received greater respect.

In Taoism, he was just a common god at the beginning. Because of the Emperor's crazy belief in the Song Dynasty, his status was raised quickly. He was changed from Xuanwu to Zhenwu, which is still used today. By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the belief in him reached the peak. The government ordered to build a large-scale fane in Wudang Mountain in Hubei Province. Later, the worship wave spread to common people. In many places, the grand temple fairs would be held every year and last for a long time.

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