關於灶神的起源之說大都與火有關，有的說法認為灶神就是炎帝死後成神，例如《淮南子 • 汜論訓》載：「炎帝於火，死而為灶。」《禮記》則記載另一種看法，認為灶神是祝融變成的，也就是顓頊之子－黎。此外，還有其它的說法，根據東漢許慎《五經通義》云：「灶神姓張名單，字子郭；其婦姓王名搏頰，字卿忌。」灶神的造形雖然始終以人格神為主，似乎是男身但貌似女子。《莊子》：「竈有髻」成玄英作疏：「灶神，其狀如美女，著赤衣，名髻也。」《酉陽雜俎》似乎延續了上述的說法：「名隗，如美女；又姓張，名單，字子郭；夫人名卿忌；一曰，灶神名壤子也。」另外還有的觀點是認為源於黄帝，黄帝才是灶神；或是古代掌火的神官吳回當為灶神。
Zao shen, the kitchen god, or the stove god, is also called Zao jun (灶君), Dongchu Siming Zaojun (東廚司命竃君), or Siming Zaojun (司命竃君). The worship of stove god has lasted for a long period of time since Shang dynasty (商朝) up to now. In Analects, Wang Sun Jia (王孫賈) asked Confucius what a saying’s means. The saying is “it is better to pay obsequious to the stove god than to the highest family god.” Original, this dialogue is about inquiring the strategy of adulatory in relation to the officialdom. However, it shows a hint which the ancient religious practice of kitchen god does exist. Besides, regarding to the record on bamboo slips during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC.) in Chu state (楚國), the worship of kitchen god was very important and popular practice in royal house and folk family.
People thought that the origin of kitchen god is in relation of fire. It is said that Yan di (炎帝), became the kitchen of god after he was dead. According to the Book of Rite (禮記), Li (黎), the son of Zhu rong (祝融), became the kitchen god. There are still some other ideas about the kitchen god’s identity. Regarding to the Wu jing zheng-yi (五經正義), a book in Eastern Han dynasty, Zao shen was a man living on earth whose name was Zhang Dan (張單), courtesy name (字) was Ziguo (子郭). Zhang Dan was a married man. His wife’s name was Wang Bo-jia (王搏頰).
Besides, the kitchen god is a man with woman like face, and he is gorgeous. There is also other ideas about Huang di (黃帝) became the kitchen god and the gender of kitchen god is female.
Though the kitchen god’s identity and gender have some noises, the function of kitchen god is consistency. The kitchen god is always in charge of reporting people’s right and wrong doing to Jade Emperor (玉帝). The differences between various records are about the frequency and the affect of kitchen god’s report. It is said that the kitchen god report to the heaven once a year, once a month, or once in a man’s whole life. Jade Emperor will punish a person respectively according to this report. If a person’s sin is minor, a person will be depraved his live three days. If the sin is major, he or she will be depraved three hundred days of his or her live.
There are various versions stories about the kitchen god. The differences between them are in some details. Their common character is tragedy. Kitchen god’s story is about a married man whose first name is Zhang. He and his wife is an affectionate couple. But they are too poor, they had to be separated. It is said his wife remarried or be sold to a rich man. Coincidently, Zhang begged for a living elsewhere and met his ex-wife. His ex-wife was doing charity that provides food to the poor. Poor Zhang lined up and wanted to get some food. However, Zhang was too late to get a food and starved. His ex-wife was heartbroken and committed suicide. Finally, Jade Emperor commiserated them and edicted them to be the kitchen god. In another version of story, the kitchen god is never been a person but a god. However, he is handsome but lustful and lazy. Jade Emperor sees him as courtier and loves him. Because he transgressed the divine rule, jade emperor punished him became the kitchen god to watch women doing kitchen affairs.
Because the kitchen god is a spy in family, the goal of worship kitchen god is to disturb his mission in a soft way. People offer him some candies or cakes to please him. In Tang dynasty, it is said people offer distillers' grains as offering to make him drunk.
In Taiwan, there are about three temples dedicated to the kitchen god. They are located in Yilan (宜蘭), Xinzhu (新竹) , and Pingdong (屏東) separately. Since the kitchen god is a family god, the number of kitchen god’s temple is few. Besides, the kitchen god is cook’s god of trade. Some cooks become disciples would take place a ritual in front of the statue of kitchen god. The kitchen god will be the witness and bless those new cooks and their masters.
Keywords: the kitchen god, Zhang Dan, Dongchu Siming Zaojun