Posted in Chinese Traditional Culture

The Kitchen God

The kitchen god also known as the Stove God, name Zao Jun, who is one of the most important Chinese domestic gods that protect the health and family. Traditionally, every Chinese household would have a paper effigy or plaque of Zao Jun above the the fireplace in the kitchen.


Chinese think the position of Zao Jun and fireplace are important, thus they put Zao Jun above fireplace representing controlling and protecting.  They believe that Zao Jun can protect families stay away from the danger of frame. Zao Jun has so many stories and this is one of them.

Zao Jun has been worshiped as a god in China since at least the 2nd century BC There are several stories as to how he became a god, the most popular being that he was once a mortal man named Zhang Dan and was married to a virtuous woman.

However Zhang Dan fell in love with a young girl and left his wife for her. From that day on he was plagued with bad luck to punish him for his betrayal. He was struck blind, the young girl left him and he had to resort to begging.

One day, while begging for alms, he happened across the house of his former wife. Being blind, he did not recognize her. Despite his shoddy treatment of her, she took pity on him, and invited him in.

She cooked him a fabulous meal and tended to him lovingly, he then related his story to her. He began to cry, and as he cried his eyesight was miraculously restored. Recognizing his benefactress as his former wife, he was overcome with shame and threw himself into the kitchen hearth not realizing that it was lit

His wife tried to save him but the fire consumed him and all that was left of him was a leg (to this day in China a fire poker is sometimes called Zhang Dan’s Leg).

His wife lovingly created a shrine to him above the fireplace where he died, this began Zao Jun’s association with the stove in Chinese homes.

Traditionally every Chinese household would have a paper effigy of Zao Jun   in the kitchen . Offerings of food and incense are made to Zao Jun on his birthday which is said to be the third day of the eighth lunar month ( 5  days before New Years, which is  Saturday.) when he returns to Heaven to give his New Year’s report. Also on this day the lips of Zao Jun’s paper effigy may be smeared with honey to sweeten his words to Yu Huang (or keep his lips stuck together).

After this the effigy will be burnt to be replaced by a new one on New Year’s day and firecrackers are lit to speed him on his way to heaven. If the household has a statue or a nameplate of Zao Jun it will be taken down and cleaned on this day for the new year.

Print the above image and burn it in a safe place ( Fireplace ).



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An advertising major student who works in Chinese restaurant for three years.