31st January 2012, which is the 9th day of the first Lunar month (農曆正月初九), is the Jade Emperor ( 玉皇 Yu Huang or 玉帝 Yu Di) of Heaven’s Birthday (天公誕, Tian Gong Dan).
The Jade Emperor is one of the most important God, according to Chinese traditions.
In Chinese folklore, He is the supreme ruler of the Heavens, the Hades and the protector of all mankind.
This day, is very important to the Hokkiens (Chinese Dialect group, who traces their origins to the Fujian province in China).
Preparations begins on the 8th Lunar night, as the food offerings are laid out on long tables.
The Jade Emperor is a vegetarian. Offerings for him includes three big bundles of long noodles, three tea cups with green tea, 5 different kind of fruits and 6 different kinds of dry vegetables.
On a separate table, there are also offerings prepared for the Jade Emperor’s Heavenly Guardian soldiers. These includes 5 different kind of animal sacrifices, sweet cakes and turtle cakes which symbolises longevity.
Other than incense and paper gold, one very important gift offered by the Hokkiens are the sugarcanes.
Based on legend, in ancient China, Fujian, the Hokkiens were saved from Japanese bandits by hiding in a sugarcane plantation on the 8th and 9th day of the Lunar New Year. They believed that they could escape unharmed with the Jade Emperor’s help. When they came out from their hidings on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year, which was the Jade Emperor’s birthday, they offered Him sugarcane for His blessings.
According to actual Taoism, the Jade Emperor governs all of the mortals’ realm and below, but ranks below the Three Pure Ones (三清 San Qing). They are : The Jade Purity ( 玉清 Yu Qing), also known as “The Universally Honoured One of Origin” or “The Universal Lord of the Primordial Beginning” (元始天尊 Yuan Shi Tian Zun) The Supreme Pure One (上清 Shang Qing), also known as “The Universally Honoured One of Divinities and Treasures” or “The Universal Lord of the Numinous Treasure” (靈寶天尊 Ling Bao Tian Zun) The Grand Pure One (太清 Tai Qing), also known as “The Universally Honoured One of Tao and Virtues” or “The Universal Lord of the Way and its Virtue” (道德天尊 Dao De Tian Zun) or the “Grand Supreme Elder Lord” (太上老君 Tai Shang Lao Jun)