The god of the art of cooking was Zao Jun. Before becoming a deity, he was a man, and when he ascended among the gods, he earned the nickname “god of the kitchen” or “god of the stove.” Many Chinese hang a portrait of him over the stove in their home.
Guodin Sien was a beautiful dream girl whom Chan married in his youth. A faithful and good cook, with her help Chan smiled with luck, got lucky and got rich.
Chan and the Broken Marriage
Another woman named Li Haytan liked Chan, and convinced him to divorce his wife. The young family soon separated, but without Guodin’s support, Chan did not fare well and his money warmed up. When he became poor, Li Haytan left him, leaving Chan alone, poor and unhappy.
He wandered the streets like a beggar. He did not eat, had no shelter and fell ill. His eyesight weakened, and one day as he wandered around, he passed his first wife’s house, Guodin. She saw him and felt sorry for him. She invited him to her house and treated him to noodles. However, Chan did not know his ex-wife, he did not know that it was Guodin, because he was already completely blind. He praised the noodles she had served him and said that only his first wife could make such a good meal.
Guodin, moved by his gratitude, said to open her eyes, and miraculously Chan saw. Guodin saw, but was ashamed that he had treated her so badly in the past and thrown himself into the burning furnace. Guodin grabbed his leg in an attempt to pull him away, but he pulled away and burned. All that was left was his burnt body.
Chan Becomes Immortal
Chan became one of the immortals because of his sincere remorse and sad demise. He became the deity Zao Jun and became the god of the stove and patron in a sense of the Chinese home – because the stove is not only for heating and cooking, but also as a central element in the home of the Chinese. Thus, he became one of the most beloved and respected gods of the people.
In his presence, which meant in the kitchen of the house, there was no swearing, no insults, or else he will take offence. Therefore, people had to behave properly, and Zao was angry if food was wasted, and when people did not keep their oath – for example, not to eat meat for a while.
Zao had considerable responsibilities, although he was not in the court of the Jade Emperor. Zao acted as an intermediary between earth and heaven, and reported to the Jade Emperor how people behaved so that the emperor would know everything that was happening on earth.
According to human beliefs, when something burned, the smoke rose and carried a message to heaven. Therefore, every New Year, Zao Jun’s face is removed from his place above the stove, and burned to send the message from home to heaven, in honor of the gods and the emperor, how well the family behaved throughout the year.
Usually a few days before the New Year they offered the god a gift of the most tempting sweets. The portrait of the god was cleaned, sweets were placed next to his face, and a portrait was sometimes sprinkled with sugar, which was darkened by the smoke during the year to make the report to the Jade Emperor about the home “sweeter” and more favorable. When burning the image, the higher the smoke, the better. Then a new face of Zao Jun was placed over the stove.
This whole ceremony showed how much the ancient Chinese valued God and wanted to look in the most favorable light possible before him and the Jade Emperor.