Chinese supreme source of power and order, usually translated as Heaven. Initially associated with Shang-ti
(see HEAVEN AND EARTH, SACRIFICES TO
), Tʾien achieved independent importance during the Chou dynasty. Tʾien was early associated with a moral life. To live according to the way of Heaven (and for an emperor according to Tʾien-ming
, the Mandate of Heaven) becomes a summary of the goal of the appropriate life, however defined. The arrival of Buddhism
led to Tʾien being divided into different realms (along Buddhist lines), and led also to Tʾien becoming the impersonal power of nature which brings things into appearance. This was congenial to Taoists, who could relate Tʾien to Tao
. It follows that Tʾien bears many different meanings: it is a place where gods, spirits, and immortal beings live; it is a supreme order, or a personal Lord, governing the cosmos in all its manifestations; or it is the unity of that cosmos as a single system.