Every Lunar New Year, Longshan Temple is always packed like a can of sardines. Devout believers take numbers and line up until late at night, waiting to “pacify Taisui.” But exactly who is Taisui? And why do people want to pacify Taisui? How do you complete the ritual?
Chinese custom keeps track of the years by using combinations of the ten heavenly stems and the twelve earthly branches to create a 60-year cycle. It takes 60 years to complete a cycle from the first combination to the last. Every year one of 60 heavenly gods is given responsibility to watch over the world. Taisui is the title of the god who's constellation is designated as monarch for that year. For example, this year is the pig year of the fourth heavenly stem and the twelfth earthly branch; the constellation in charge of this year is General Feng-chi (the sixty constellation names are taken from the gods described in the novel The Creation of the Gods ).
Furthermore, since ancient times, these twelve earthly branches have been grouped with the twelve animals. Therefore, the first branch is associated with the mouse, the eleventh with the dog and the last branch with the pig. Given this system, and according to the Chinese traditional thinking of avoidance, people born in the year of the pig (this year, the year of the fourth heavenly stem and the twelfth earthly branch) run afoul of the Taisui for the year of the pig. Last year was the year of the fourth heavenly stem and the eleventh earthly branch, a year of the dog, so those born in the year of the dog are in direct opposition with Taisui. It is generally considered inauspicious to be in opposition to that year's Taisui, so he must be pacified to encourage good luck and avoid bad luck.
1. pacify v.i. /v.t.
使平靜 (shi3 ping2 jing4)
例: The government promised tax cuts to pacify the electorate.
2. designated adj.
指定的 (zhi3 ding4 de5)
例: Sally has offered to be the designated driver.
3. afoul adv.
相撞的 (xiang1 zhuang4 di5)
例: James was a nice kid who ran afoul of the law.
4. ritual n.
儀式 (yi2 shi4)
例: They followed the same ritual for his birthday every year.
The traditional method of pacifying Taisui is not only complicated but highly varied. The general method is to write one's exact time of birth (defined using the 60-year cycle) and one's name on a piece of golden paper, offer it to Taisui and then offer tea or fruit as a sacrifice to him while reciting scripture. This must be done at least on the 15th day of every lunar month. On the 24th day of the 12th lunar month, tea and fruit are offered in thanks to Taisui as a ceremonial parting gift.
Nowadays the system for pacifying Taisui has changed with the times. You can pay money to ask someone at the temple to help you complete the required rituals. Not only that, but if you lack the time to visit the temple or are unwilling to pay, there are free web sites to help you complete the ritual, which is both convenient and cheap.
(translated by Jason Cox)