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by Micha F. Lindemans
"Three rulers", the name for three Taoist deities, namely Tian-guan, Di-guan, and Shui-guan. They play an important part in the religious life on the Chinese. All three rulers keep a register of the good and evil deed of people.

Their veneration began dates goes back to the beginning of religious Taoism. Their help was enlisted during healing ceremonies by both Zhang Jue and Zhan Dao-ling, the respective leaders of the Way of Supreme Peace and Five-Pecks-of-Rice Taoism. During these healing sessions, people would write their sins -- believed to be the cause of their illness -- on three pieces of paper, one for each ruler. The paper intended for Tian-guan was either burned or deposited on the peak of a mountain; the paper addressed to Di-guan was buried in the ground; and the one for Shui-guan was thrown in the water.

The cult of San-guan was reformed under Kou Qian-zhi and they became functionaries of the gods, supervising rites and rewarding believers. Each city had a hall or temple dedicated to them. They are not often portrayed together, but when they are they sit next to each other and are dressed as mandarins.

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