In Chinese mythology, Caishen (財神) is the god of wealth and money. He is honored in both Taoism and Chinese folklore, especially during the Chinese New Year festivities when people are eager to see Caishen bless their coming year with prosperity. In art, he’s usually accompanied by a wide array of attendants who carry gold ingots, fruits, and other treasure symbolizing wealth, and often depicted astride a beautiful black tiger. Caishen could be called an early alchemist because he carries with him a tool that can turn ordinary stone and iron into gold.
Caishen’s name is comprised of two characters: cái (財), meaning “money” or “wealth,” and shén (神), literally meaning “God of Wealth.”
According to myth, Caishen rode a black tiger and carried a golden cudgel that could turn iron into gold. He was believed to have been incarnated into a few historical figures throughout the centuries. Taking the form of key political and military figures, Caishen was able to use his tremendous wealth to advance political motives.
Perhaps the most famous historical figure that was thought to be an incantation of Caishen was Bi Gan. In these legends, Bi Gan had a wife whose last name was Chen, and a son named Quan. Bi Gan’s wife had a nephew, King Zhou of Shang. The King was power hungry and clashed with Bi Gan. He ordered Bi Gan to be executed. Bi Gan’s wife and son escaped into the woods, but Bi Gan was not so lucky. He died at the hands of his greedy nephew, however, condemning Bi Gan to death proved to be the undoing for King Zhou. His Sheng Dynasty soon collapsed.