The Jade Emperor is known by many names and titles that include Heavenly Grandfather, Most Venerable Jade Emperor of the Heavenly Golden Palace, Supremely High Emperor of the Heavens, Holder of Talismans, Container of Perfection and Embodiment of Tao, Most Venerable and Highest Jade Emperor of All Embracing Sublime Spontaneous Existence of the Heavenly Golden Palace, the Pure August Jade Emperor, August Personage of Jade, Huanling High Sovereign and Peace Absolving, Central August Spirit Exalted, Ancient Buddha, Most Pious and Honourable, His Highness the Jade Emperor, Xuanling High Sovereign.
While he is the ruler of Heaven and the realms below, the Jade Emperor is below to three known as the Three Pure One’s.
Interestingly a crater discovered by the spacecraft Voyager 2 on Saturn’s moon Rhea is named after the Jade Emperor. The birthday of the Jade Emperor is said to be the ninth day of the first lunar month and on this day incense and food offerings are given to the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor is also worshipped by many on the day before the first day of Chinese New Year as it is said to be the day the Jade Emperor makes his annual inspection of the deeds of mortals, rewarding and punishing accordingly.
Originally the Jade Emperor was the assistant of Yuanshi Tianzu (whom is said to be the limitless and eternal creator of Heaven and earth) who picked the Jade Emperor as a successor as a ruler of Heaven. It is said that the successor of the Jade Emperor will be the god of war, Guan Yu.
The Jade Emperor has many sons and daughters that include Tzu-sun Niang-niang (fertility goddess who grants children to couples), Yen-kuang Niang-niang (goddess whom provides good eyesight) and Zhi Nu (who is responsible for weaving colourful clouds in Heaven). The wife is the Jade Emperor is known as Wang Ma and is said to have had ten sons, nine who were killed by the divine archer known as Houyi.
The Jade Emperor’s daughter Zhi Nu would go down to earth everyday with the help of a magical robe so she could bathe, with one day being different as a lowly cowherd named Niu Lang spotted Zhi Nu bathing in a stream. Niu Lang fell in love with Zhi Nu and stole her rove, when Zhi Nu left the stream she was left unable to go back to Heaven and Niu Lang grabbed her, carrying her to home. When the Jade Emperor heard of this he was furious but he couldn’t do much seeing as by the time he learnt of what happened, his daughter already fallen in love and married the cowherd.
Over time, Zhi Nu grew homesick and did miss her father. Zhi Nu did one day find her magic robe that allowed her to go back to Heaven, letting her to see the Jade Emperor once again. The Jade Emperor summoned a river across the sky (notably, this is the Milky Way) making Zhi Nu to get back home and see Niu Lang again. The Jade Emperor took pity on the two and once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month he allows Zhi Nu and Niu Lang to meet. The seventh day of the seventh lunar month is a holiday known as Qi Xi, which is also called Chinese Valentine’s Day by some.
The Jade Emperor is said to be originally the crown prince of a kingdom of Pure Felicity and Majestic Heavenly Lights and Ornaments. Upon birth a light filled the entire kingdom and when young the Jade Emperor is described to have been kind, intelligent and wise, helping those in need. When the Jade Emperor’s father died the Jade Emperor himself took his father’s place on the throne, where he made sure that everyone within his kingdom found both peace and contentment.
It was the Jade Emperor who said to his ministers that he wished to cultivate Tao on what is known as the Bright and Fragrant Cliff. Story goes that after 1550 kalpas (one kalpa being 129,600 years) the Jade Emperor attained ‘Golden Immortality” and after another one hundred million years of cultivation of Tao finally became the Jade Emperor.
How the Jade Emperor came to be ruler of Heaven starts at the beginning of time where the earth was vastly different to today. This was a time of not many gods but plenty of demons. The Jade Emperor was at the time an immortal at this time who helped as many people as possible.
Eventually the Jade Emperor retreated into a mountain cave to cultivate Tao, where it is said he went through 3,200 trials, each lasting three million years. A demon wanted to become the ruler of the entire universe and did the same as the Jade Emperor to try to expand its own power although at a later time.
This demon went through the trials and was confident, recruiting an army of demons to attack Heaven.
The gods fought this demon and were unable to defeat this demon and the immortals were preparing themselves to fight this demon. The Jade Emperor fortunately came along and defeated the demon, allowing for the army prepared by this powerful demon to be defeated. Due to this the Jade Emperor became the ruler of Heaven.