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The Governors of The Sky and The Underground

Chinese Taoists believe that life in this world is controlled by Administrative Treasuries in the Other World. One’s body, the length of one’s life, one’s successes and promotions, salaries and benefits, in fact all the essentials of human existence are decided in the stars of one’s fundamental destiny, and credited in advance at birth to one of the Twelve Treasuries. From this belief comes the desire to build up a ‘credit balance’, by repaying the Treasury in appropriate paper ‘spirit money’, carefully accounted for and then burned in expensive rituals. The Mien share this belief, but have reduced the number of Treasuries from twelve to two; one for salaries, and the other for wealth.

The Mien like the Chinese also divide the supernatural agencies into four departments, depicted in these two paintings. The Governors of these agencies are shown as Emperors wearing imperial headdresses with pearl pendants.

The Governor of The Sky stands above The Governor of The Underworld. He governs the Celestial Heavens, home of many of the gods, including the Three Pure Ones. Below him, The Governor of The Underworld is in charge of a terrifying Underworld, crowded with the dead. The horse-headed attendant holding the banner is one of the two constables charged with taking the souls of the dead into custody. The text on the structure at the bottom left reads “The Constant Peace Temple” and “ Center of Peace through the Four Seasons” “Official salary Flourishing, Thriving”. It represents the Treasury for salaries.