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Bi Gan (比干)

Name of a Chinese wealth god. He was a faithful civilian official and the uncle of the tyrannical and concupiscent Emperor Zhou, the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty, for whom he took charge of the Imperial finances and whom he frankly expostulated. Legend has it that to prove his loyalty he took out his heart and presented it to the Emperor by throwing it on the floor. Though other sources, such as the Chinese novel The Investiture of the Gods, claim that Bi Gan tried to rectify the unprincipled and debauched Emperor, who consequently killed him cruelly by taking his heart out to check if he perhaps was a saint, as it was believed that a saint’s heart has seven ventricles. After drinking the Elixir of Immortality, i.e. the herbal medicine prepared by the Jade Rabbit that lives on the moon (fig.), given to him by Lü Shang (吕尚) i.e. Jiang Ziya (姜子), the military strategist and Grand Duke of Qi, Bi Gan survived. Having no heart he was impartial in the distribution of the Emperor’s wealth amongst the people and so became a Chinese civilian wealth deity (fig.). He is also called Wen Cai Shen, the ‘formal god of wealth’ who is also referred to as the ‘true god of wealth’.