Posted by Imperial Harvest on 13 January 2023
Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins
Of the five foremost wealth gods in the Chinese folk pantheon, Bi Gan (比干) is often regarded as the most powerful. In his role as Grand Wealth God, he is primarily responsible for the earthly direct wealth aspirations of his devotees. This includes overseeing a gamut of their financial endeavours, from budding startups to high-flying roles in the boardroom. At Imperial Harvest, Grand Wealth God Bi Gan has empowered countless ambitious clients to emerge as movers and shakers in their respective industries over the years. It is in celebration of this omnipotent deity that this reimagination of the Imperial Harvest Fine Jadeite Grand Wealth God is proudly commissioned.
The history behind Bi Gan
Remarkably, the commanding clout Bi Gan wields today stemmed thousands of years ago from little more than an earnest desire to give his best for his nation. In the earthly realm, Bi Gan is best remembered for his dedicated service to King Zhou (纣王) as a minister of the Shang dynasty.
The Shang dynasty is remembered in history for many developments, with the innovation of bronze craftsmanship and the pioneering of written records being two notable examples. A cursory glance at its contributions to the modern age suggests that it was an era of eminence and blossoming success. Behind this rosy veneer, however, lies a more sombre underbelly — particularly in its twilight years.
King Zhou regularly invited large groups of merrymakers to the palace, hosting lavish feasts consisting of only the most exorbitant fare. Within an exclusive inner circle, he wined and dined to his heart’s content, much to the dismay of Bi Gan and other officials of the court. With nary a care in the world, King Zhou relegated his royal duties to the back of his mind, fixating instead only on satisfying his every desire.
King Zhou’s indulgences inevitably diverted his attention from the pressing affairs of the state, and the empire soon fell into disrepair. The mismanagement of funds — often channelled to fulfilling the emperor’s desires — resulted in essential infrastructure works being put indefinitely on hold. Public buildings were in disrepair, pipes were crumbling, and roads deteriorated and rapidly became impassable. With the onset of bad weather, crops required more intensive care to generate sufficient food, but were instead left to wither. Furthermore, the failure to forge cordial and beneficial relationships with neighbouring states meant that trade lines were disrupted, and access to many essential goods was cut off.
With unprecedented economic inflation and destruction along with the looming threat of widespread famine, many loyal bureaucrats attempted to urge the emperor to repent his corrupt ways. They presented to him accounts of suffering and starvation, hoping he would acknowledge the dire circumstances and come to his senses.
Alas, King Zhou refused to heed the advice of his loyal lieutenants, stubbornly persisting with his transgressions and continuing to neglect the very duties he had once sworn to fulfil. Appallingly, he even turned on those who dared to raise their objections, subjecting them to increasingly harsh sanctions. Fearing for their lives if they expressed criticism of his actions, the court’s officials had no choice but to bear with the emperor’s ruinous ways.
Bi Gan, however, was one notable exception. Being a sincere statesperson who felt compelled to do right by his people, he saw it his foremost duty to always uphold the integrity and welfare of the nation. As special advisor to the emperor, Bi Gan was tasked with providing him with wise counsel, making recommendations in the best interests of the nation and its people.
In hopes of arresting the state’s swift decline, Bi Gan continued speaking out against King Zhou and his errant behaviour, even at huge risk to himself. Despite the violent outbursts in retaliation from the emperor, Bi Gan remained true to his principles, and continued to stand up relentlessly for what he felt was best for the nation. Determined as King Zhou was to continue his debauchery, he could not shake off Bi Gan, who was resolute in his well-meaning advice.
Things came to a head with the involvement of Da Ji (妲己), one of King Zhou’s favourite consorts. She held great influence over King Zhou, who would pander to her every demand. She was annoyed by what she perceived as Bi Gan’s meddling with state affairs, and plotted to eliminate him from the palace.
One fateful day, Da Ji reported feeling unwell, claiming that only the possession of Bi Gan’s supposedly saintly and sincere heart could cure her. Desperate to heal her of her ailment, King Zhou summoned Bi Gan, and ordered for his heart to be carved out and given to Da Ji. Despite facing impending doom, Bi Gan remained staunchly determined to improve the plight of the nation. Till the very end, he remained undeterred in putting the nation and its people first, and continued imploring King Zhou to make amends.
Moved by Bi Gan’s unwavering commitment to the noble cause, the Jade Emperor decided to intervene. As Bi Gan dug into his chest to extract his heart, he instantly became deified as a God of Wealth. In recognition of his eminent stewardship of the nation’s resources, and notably, his heartfelt sincerity towards his people, the Jade Emperor appointed him Grand Wealth God — a role in which he continues to oversee the prosperity of devotees to this day.
Imperial Harvest’s Grand Wealth God, reimagined
More than 3000 years later, it is this enduring selflessness of Bi Gan that Imperial Harvest pays homage to. Long a staple for ambitious clients who desire and deserve the very best, the Imperial Harvest Fine Jadeite Grand Wealth God is relaunched this year, with a refreshed outlook for Bi Gan’s birthday this new lunar new year of the Rabbit.
(Singapore Design Patent No. 30202260207X)
This patented iteration of the Imperial Harvest Fine Jadeite Grand Wealth God was conceived and conceptualised by Master David, as part of a renewal of the Imperial Harvest collection. It features a revitalised depiction of the Grand Wealth God, augmented by a suite of emblems and potent features that have perpetuated throughout Bi Gan’s legend.
Bi Gan is decked in a fresh coat of finery — the embodiment of the integrity with which he served the people. The ornate detailing of his imperial garb is a testament to the supreme importance of his role — a large part of which involved spearheading royal initiatives to uplift the welfare of the people.
His ceremonial ensemble is accentuated by the crowning glory that sits atop Bi Gan’s head — an imperial Chinese hat that has its roots in a dark gauze headpiece known as the wushamao (乌纱帽). Along with its distinctive winged flaps, this headgear initially bore a universal black modest appearance, although variations in colour and design soon began to emerge, customised for every occasion and position. They were worn for practical reasons such as protection from the elements, and also as emblems signifying the rank or seniority of the wearer. Regardless of their outlook, they came to be associated with the prestige and decorum of officials of the imperial court.
Resting upon Bi Gan’s shoulder is his famed ceremonial artefact — the Ruyi Sceptre. Since his deification, this powerful weapon has been wielded as a symbol of the wealth, authority and good fortune that have come to be synonymous with his presence. The Ruyi Sceptre’s name is derived from the Chinese words 如 (ru) — “like” or “such as”, and 意 (yi), referring to one’s wishes or intentions. In unison, they point to the fulfilment of one’s desires — something Grand Wealth God Bi Gan bestows upon his loyal devotees.
With its auspicious connotations, the Ruyi Sceptre was long cherished throughout dynastic Chinese history as a prized imperial treasure. Favoured by the nobility as a gift of peace and prosperity, it was carved from a variety of exquisite materials such as jade, gold and other precious stones. Ruyi Sceptres were gifted to celebrated figures such as Emperor Qian Long of the Qing dynasty to mark special occasions, such as their birthdays or particularly significant achievements. These impeccable ornaments were often embellished with intricate motifs of abundance, referencing the multifaceted successes enjoyed by these eminent leaders. Many of these ancient treasures are today preserved in The Palace Museum in Beijing — a timeless testament to the richness of ancient Chinese history.
Today, the auspiciousness of the Ruyi Sceptre is preserved in Chinese greetings such as 吉祥如意 (ji xiang ru yi) — a common expression of well-wishes during Chinese New Year — as conferment of good luck and abundance upon the receiver.
Yet, the indisputable centrepiece of the Imperial Harvest Fine Jadeite Grand Wealth God is a series of yuan bao (元寶), or gold ingots. These auspicious emblems are synonymous with success and prosperity — a fitting nod to Bi Gan’s present-day role as the Grand Wealth God. The trio of yuan bao held by Bi Gan points to the favourable conditions he brings to further devotees’ financial ambitions. By extending invaluable guidance on key consequential decisions such as one’s occupational pursuits, Grand Wealth God Bi Gan continues to serve sincerely and selflessly, reprising his role as a trustworthy advisor from his time in King Zhou’s palace.
Welcoming Bi Gan in 2023
As Imperial Harvest welcomes the Year of the Rabbit this Chinese New Year, the Fine Jadeite Grand Wealth God also serves as a timely commemoration of its namesake’s birthday — which is widely celebrated on the fifth day of the first lunar month, or 26 January this year.
On this day, Bi Gan takes on added prominence as devotees partake in celebrations and gatherings to honour his efforts, and welcome him into their lives and the year ahead. The atmosphere of conviviality on this auspicious occasion also reminds devotees to express their gratitude to Bi Gan for his conscientious efforts in blessing their lives over the past year.
Indeed, the spirit of Bi Gan’s sincere dedication to devotees continues to live on at Imperial Harvest. With his years of service as a trustworthy royal advisor culminating in his eternal glorification as Grand Wealth God, his life trajectory holds precious lessons for devotees today. Whether in service of one’s community, or any other endeavour, it is important to approach every undertaking with a heart of sincerity, striving always to give one’s best without fear or favour.
This festive period, join the Imperial Harvest family in ushering in the utmost abundance and prosperity with the Fine Jadeite Grand Wealth God — a timely tribute to the spirit of sincere service he embodied in the Shang palace.
Read about the Imperial Harvest’s reimagined Five Wealth Gods Collection here
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