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Romance of Canonizations
A Brief (4%) Summary

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Necessary Introduction

Two great novels from the Míng dynasty (1368-1644, period 20 in the system used on this web site) both reflect popular religious belief and have been responsible for shaping it:

  1. One is The Journey to the West (Xīyóu Jì 西遊记) by WÚ Chéng'ēn’s 吴承恩 (1500-1582), which features the famous magical monkey SŪN Wùkōng 孙悟空, a character who easily eclipses the work’s nominal protagonist Xuánzàng 玄奘 , an historical Buddhist monk (602-664), who journeyed to India to procure authentic copies of scriptures unknown in China. Sūn, “the monkey god,” has become a major figure in the modern popular pantheon, not least because he is easily represented by spirit mediums, who signal his presence by enacting monkey-like gestures and chattering diction.
  2. The second novel of special religious influence, and the one with which this page is concerned, is the Romance of Canonizations (Fēng Shén Yǎnyì 封神演义), the authorship of which is variously attributed to LÙ Xīxīng 陆西星 (1520-1606) or the more shadowy XǓ Zhònglín 许仲琳 (1567-1620 or ?-1560). English translations of the title are many: Investiture of the Gods, Creation of the Gods, Book of Appointing Gods, League of the Gods, etc. Chinese titles also vary, including Fēngshén Bǎng 封神榜 “The Canonization List” and Fēngshén Zhuàn 封神传 “The Canonization Chronicles.”

The term fēng in the name of the work refers to granting someone a title and is associated, among other things, with investing someone with a bureaucratic position or a feudal estate. The Chinese emperor had the authority to grant godly titles, and did so unblushingly, but in this case the authority is divine, and the appointments are not merely titles, but appointments to actual supernatural offices with associated duties. Not all of those promoted have been gods before. Hence translations like “creation of the gods,” “investiture of the gods,” or “canonization” are appropriate. Shén may refer to all sorts of spirits, some more godly than others. A Yǎnyì 演义 is a rollicking romance or inspiring epic.

The title in fact refers to the celestial rewards that came to the great warriors and strategists who figure in the story. When noble characters die, their names are entered onto a list (bǎng ) similar to that posted after an imperial exam to show who passed, and the list in turn is posted on a tower, the “canonization tower” (fēngshén tái 封神台) for all to see. Thus over and over, as they die in moral glory, the characters in this novel are granted titles in the celestial pantheon, explaining, justifying, encouraging, and exploiting popular cults.

The Romance of Canonizations tells the story of the end of the Shāng dynasty (roughly 1600-1066 BC, period 3), which collapsed, ostensibly, due in large part to the oppression and corruption of its last monarch, the infamous tyrant, King Zhòu (Zhòu Wáng 纣王). Morally, he was destroyed by the wiles of a seductive woman, possessed by a dangerous fox demon under the direction of a vindictive goddess. The theme of good men destroyed by scheming women is a continuing one in Chinese fictional history.

Militarily, King Zhòu was destroyed by a coalition of subordinates, assisted by, of course, the various gods and godlings lovingly depicted in the Romance, and his régime was succeeded by the Zhōu dynasty (1066-221, period 4), with its founding monarch King Wǔ (Wǔ Wáng 武王, or “martial king,” reign 4b-1), originally one of the feudal subordinates of King Zhòu, and the leader of those engaged in the successful rebellion.

King Wǔ’s father, known to history as King Wén (Wén Wáng 文王) or “Civil King,” spent most of the novel in prison, where he accurately predicted what was happening in the many complex battles through successful prognostication using the famous eight trigrams, and his role as strategist for the rebels and his complicated relationship to his dynamic son are an ongoing theme in the novel. A separate page of this web site explains the difference between the two commonest arrangements of the trigrams, one used in exorcism, the other in prognastication, appropriately enough attributed to King Wén (link). Once again, the novel both reflects and reinforces popular religious practice.

The Romance of Canonizations is long and hugely complex, with hundreds of characters, many of whom one finds possessing modern spirit mediums or worshipped in Chinese temples, sometimes centrally (such as Nézhā 哪咤, worshipped as “The Third Prince” —Sān Tàizǐ 三太子), sometimes as assistants to other divinities (such as Thousand-Lǐ Eye (千里眼) and Favourable-wind Ear (顺风耳), today usually shown as assistants of the southeastern goddess Tiān Hòu 天后, a.k.a. Māzǔ 妈祖), aka Tiānshàng Shèngmǔ 天上圣母.

1-Some instructors may prefer to use various graphic-novel versions that go in and out of print, usually outside of North America. Examples are:

The full Chinese text is available online (Link).

The following is a full English translation:

Despite its importance, the length of this work —the English version runs to over a thousand pages— makes it impractical in most college courses on Chinese religion to ask students to read the full text of the Romance of Canonizations. What follows is therefore a severe abridgement in order to give you a general idea of the novel.1

Sources: The text here is largely taken from E. T. C. Werner in Myths and Legends of China (London, Harrap, 1922) (supplemented in some cases by his discussions in A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1932). The retelling of the initial section is by me. Werner leaves it out, but it dominates one of the most prominent television series made from this novel.2

2-”The Legend and the Hero” (Fēngshén Bǎng 封神榜), 18 episodes, Macao: Bright Media, Released in North America by Tai Seng Entertainment, 2007. The film features Liú Dékǎi 刘德凯 as Jiāng Zǐyá 姜子牙, Zhōu Jié 周杰 as Zhōu Wǔwáng 周武王, Mǎ Jǐngtāo 马景涛 (“Steve Ma”) as the tyrant Zhòu Wáng 纣王, and Fàn Bīngbīng 范冰冰 as the seductress Dájǐ 妲己.

Presentation: I have modernized Werner’s romanizations and added Chinese characters, as well as increasing the number of paragraph breaks, Americanizing the spelling, tinkering the punctuation here and there, and making a few other minor editorial changes.

The word lǐ, “Chinese mile,” is left untranslated. It was about half a kilometer in length.

The picture subtitles are generally as Werner wrote them. Since his summary is embedded in a book seeking to impose order on Chinese mythology as a whole, his summaries do not always follow in the same order as the novel. I have tried to reorder them here. The result is four large “parts”:

Each of the four “parts” begins here with a dramatis personae list to facilitate keeping track of what is happening. A brief fifth part describes the outcome of the epic struggle.

There are countless Chinese names (and hence Chinese characters) in the text. For those who care, it is possible to shift between versions in traditional characters (in blue) and simplified characters (in red) using the link at the very top of this page.

Caution: It is important to avoid confusion between King Zhòu (fourth tone), the dissolute monarch, and the Zhōu (first tone) dynasty, the one that followed his fall.

The present text runs to about 40 printed pages. I do not recommend printing it out.

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Part I: The High Cost of Impiety
(Retold by DKJ)

Dramatis Personae

King Zhòu (Zhòu Wáng) 纣王
the talented last emperor of the Shāng dynasty, an evil tyrant
Shāng Róng 商容
premier under the house of Shāng, condemned to die by hammering
Méi Bó 梅伯
royal physician under the house of Shāng, destined to be grilled to death
Wén Zhòng 闻仲
a great general and the royal tutor under the house of Shāng, King Zhòu’s most important general
Fèi Zhòng 费仲 and Yóu Hún 尤浑
wicked advisers, destined to be frozen to death
Nǚ Wā 女娲
a beautiful goddess, not to be trifled with
Huáng Fēihǔ 黄飞虎
a brilliant martial artist, but sometimes tender hearted
Sū Hù 苏护
the marquis of Jìzhōu 冀周, father of a too beautiful daughter
Dájǐ 妲己
(1) his too beautiful daughter; (2) the fox spirit possessing her body

*-Chinese royal titles evolved over time and do not correspond well with European titles for any period. The conventional translations are therefore arbitrary, as is the implied ranking. They are: dì = emperor; wáng = “king,” “lord”; gōng = “duke,” “lord”; hóu = “marquis”; bó = “earl, count”; zǐ = “viscount” (also used as a title for philosophers and as an element in many proper names); nán = “baron.”

As the story begins, the Shāng dynasty had lasted 640 years. It operated as a feudal system, with an “emperor” or dì at the top, a term which was normally affixed to his name. The territory was divided into four garrison posts, managed by four great “earls” (bó ) of the north, south, east, and west, each with armies and each with subordinate “marquis” (hóu ), some two hundred or more, with their own armies. Higher-level rulers depended upon the loyalty and the armies of those beneath them. Each year the earls and marquis were to come to the Shāng capital at Cháogē 朝歌 to pay obeisance to the emperor.

As in other feudal systems, there was always the risk of one or more powerful subordinates usurping the place of a higher-up, and rituals stressing their subordination to their superiors were regarded as crucial.*

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The Ascension of Prince Zhòu

Aging Emperor Yǐ’s 帝乙 impressive third son, named Zhòu , had grown into a very large and strong man, but was also fond of poetry and painting. Although sometimes a wee bit bloodthirsty, he was the apple of his father’s eye.

On the unfortunate advice of Premier Shāng Róng 商容 and Royal Physician Méi Bó 梅伯, Emperor Yǐ had young Zhòu enfoefed as Prince of the Eastern Palace (Dōnggōng Tàizǐ 东宫太子), or royal heir. As he lay dying after a reign of thirty years, Emperor Yǐ gave orders to the Grand Tutor Wén Zhòng 闻仲 that Zhòu be enthroned immediately as emperor.

And thus began the reign of one of China’s many infamous tyrants, the last monarch of the Shāng dynasty (period 3). Although technically he was an emperor in the sense of being at the top of the system, he is known to history as King Zhòu (Zhòu Wáng 纣王). He was careless and inattentive in governing, according to tradition, interested largely in luxury and, above all, in sex, and there was universal discontent with his reign. His court officials sometimes dared to advise him to pay more attention to state affairs. Grand Tutor Wén Zhòng was particularly worried, which Zhòu considered rather a nuisance.

In the seventh year of King Zhòu’s reign, seventy-two marquis (hóu ) rebelled in the north, and the king ordered Grand Tutor Wén Zhòng to lead a punitive expedition there, thus getting him and his fusty opinions out of the court. In his absence, two scheming toadies, Fèi Zhòng 费仲 and Yóu Hún 尤浑 became the monarch’s principal advisers, carefully shielding him from bad news and telling him whatever they thought he wanted to hear.

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The Shrine of Nǚ Wā

The fifteenth day of the third moon was the birthday of the goddess Nǚ Wā 女娲, who had created humans, saved them from disaster, and seen to it that they had arranged marriages rather than daring to pick their own mates like mere animals. His advisers urged King Zhòu to be seen visiting her temple to pay his respects.

The statue on her altar stood behind a thin curtain, and as the king burned his incense, a wind blew the curtain aside, revealing the statue. He was astonished by the beauty of the goddess, and filled with improper desire for her. In a fit of sexual enthusiasm, on the wall of the temple he wrote a poem:

Curtains adorned with phoenixes,
a statue of ceramic and gold.
Blue-green mists in the distant hills,
fluttering sleeves in the dazzling light.

Fèng luán bǎo zhàng jǐng fēicháng,
jìn shì níjīn qiǎo yàng zhuāng.
Qū qū yuǎnshān fēi cuì sè;
piān piān wǔ xiù yìng xiá shang.
A pear half-hidden by dew reflecting her beauty;
a peony half-hidden by smoke revealing her loveliness.
If one could capture this enchanting creature,
she could serve her monarch in his palace of Eternal Joy.

Líhuā dài yǔ zhēng jiāoyàn;
sháoyào lóng yān chěng mèi zhuāng.
Dàn dé yāoráo néng jǔdòng,
qǔ huí zhǎnglè shì jūnwáng.

With that, he regretfully returned to his palace.

Werner p. 82
According to some traditions Nǚ Wā had the body of a snake. That is presumably not the form that attracted King Zhòu.
Werner, Myths, p. 82.

The goddess had actually not been in her temple when he visited, and on her return she was furious at the notion that the lascivious king thought of her, the creator and savior of mankind, and the originator of moral marriage with proper matchmakers, as nothing more than another potential harem maiden.

In a divine snit, she summoned a host of demons and ordered three of them to turn into beautiful women, to seduce the king until he could think of nothing but sex —not a difficult task— and thus bring both monarch and dynasty to an end. The three demons had the native forms of a pipa (a kind of guitar), of a pheasant, and of a fox. All three were to become beautiful palace ladies, but the fox was, of course, to be the leader.

King Zhòu returned home completely obsessed with Nǚ Wā’s beauty. His toady Fèi Zhòng 费仲 suggested that he issue a decree ordering the earls of the four garrison posts to bring 100 beautiful women each within three days for his inspection. Premier Shāng Róng, however, judiciously advised against it, since people would think that the king was being frivolous at a time when floods and famines threatened ordinary people. The king thought more highly of the toady Fèi Zhòng’s advice, but for the time being he accepted Premier Shāng Róng’s

Later Fèi Zhòng, who had been doing advanced beauty research, proposed a different idea. The Marquis of Jìzhōu 冀周, a man named Sū Hù 苏护, had a beautiful daughter named Dájǐ 妲己 who, his agents told him, looked very much like the statue of Nǚ Wā. Sū Hù was immediately summoned and, although he had a very bad feeling about it, was ordered to bring his daughter Dájǐ.

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The Arrival of Dájǐ

As she entered the presence of the emperor, Dájǐ’s spirit left her body and was replaced by that of the fox demon sent by Nǚ Wā. The monarch was instantly enraptured and ordered that Dájǐ be given to him as a concubine.

King Zhòu devoted all of his time to Dájǐ, ignoring everything else. The old royal physician Méi Bó 梅伯 suggested to him that since Dájǐ had arrived, affairs of state had begun to fall apart. The king was furious, and at Dájǐ’s suggestion he had a new means of execution created: a hollow copper column. Méi Bó was strapped naked to it, a fire was kindled inside, and he was seared to death.

Other courtiers, terrified, sought permission to resign. If they did so at just the wrong moment or in just the wrong way, or if they implied that Dájǐ was anything short of wonderful, or if they suggested that the king should modify anything whatever, they too died by searing on the copper column.

The empress —King Zhòu’s primary wife— tried to intervene. He had her executed, but not until after he had her eyes plucked out for looking at him. Seeking to avenge the death of their mother, her two sons attempted to kill their tyrant father, but were captured. Escaping through the intervention of appalled courtiers, they were pursued by general Huáng Fēihǔ 黄飞虎, whose name, “flying tiger,” is still used by martial arts masters to this day. Catching up with the princes, Huáng Fēihǔ was unwilling to kill them, however, sealing his own doom if he returned without their heads.

In the time before them, Dájǐ (or more exactly the fox demon possessing her body) led King Zhòu into greater and greater depravity, executing people in more and more sadistic ways and in greater and greater numbers. In one chapter seventy attendants of the dead queen failed to applaud Dájǐ’s dancing. As punishment, they were pushed into a pit of vipers, and Zhòu and Dájǐ ate and drank while watching them die.

In the end, rebellions rose among nearly all of King Zhòu’s subordinates. Not quite all —as we know from our own age, anyone in power retains the “loyalty” of at least some scheming toadies to the end. The story will end with Zhòu and Dájǐ, besieged, setting fire to themselves in a palace tower and the new Zhōu dynasty rising from the ashes of the ignominiously ended Shāng.

The spectacular battles between Zhòu’s forces and those of his ever increasing enemies make up most of the book. In many cases we learn the backstories of these heroes. One of the most prominent is Lǐ Nézhā. 李哪咤, one of the most beloved characters in Chinese fiction, but also one of the most disturbing.

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Part II: Nézhā: The Guardian of the
Gate Of Heaven
(from Chapter XII of Werner’s Myths & Legends)

Dramatis personae

Lǐ Jìng 李靖
once a general under the tyrant Zhòu Wáng, later a demigod
Μs. Yīn 殷氏
his wife
Lǐ Nézhā 李哪咤
their obstreperous third son, an avatar of Língzhū Zǐ 灵珠子, “the Intelligent Pearl,” (a Daoist divinity); a disciple of Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén 太乙真人
(Note: When read zhà rather than zhā, means “rebuke.” Think about it.)
Mùzhā 木咤
their second son, not anybody’s avatar
Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén 太乙真人
an accomplished Daoist, mentor to Lǐ Nézhā
The Dragon King (Lóng Wáng 龙王)
a dragon king, lord of the eastern sea
Áo Bǐng 敖丙
his third son, inclined to be imperious, but quite short-lived
Shíjī Niángniáng 石矶娘娘
a goddess, an old antagonist of Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén

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Lǐ, the Pagoda-Bearer

In Buddhist temples there is to be seen a richly attired figure of a man holding in his hand a model of a pagoda. He is Lǐ Jìng 李靖, the Prime Minister of Heaven and father of Lǐ Nézhā. 李 哪咤.

He was a general under the tyrant Zhòu Wáng 纣王 and commander of Chéntáng Guān 陈塘关 Pass at the time when the bloody war was being waged which resulted in the extinction of the Shāng dynasty.

Nézhā is one of the most frequently mentioned heroes in Chinese romance; he is represented in one account as being the Jade Emperor’s (Yù Huáng 玉皇) shield-bearer, sixty feet in height, his three heads with nine eyes crowned by a golden wheel, his eight hands each holding a magic weapon, and his mouth vomiting blue clouds. At the sound of his voice, we are told, the heavens shook and the foundations of the earth trembled. His duty was to bring into submission all the demons which desolated the world.

His birth was in this wise. Lǐ Jìng’s 李靖wife, Μs. Yīn 殷氏, bore him three sons, the eldest Jīnzhà 金咤, the second Mùzhā 木咤, and the third Nézhā 哪咤, generally known as “the Third Prince.”

Μs. Yīn dreamed one night that a Daoist priest entered her room. She indignantly exclaimed: “How dare you come into my room in this indiscreet manner?” The priest replied: “Woman, receive the child of the unicorn! “Before she could reply the Daoist pushed an object to her bosom.

Μs. Yīn awoke in a fright, a cold sweat all over her body. Having awakened her husband, she told him what she had dreamed. At that moment she was seized with the pains of childbirth. Lǐ Jìng withdrew to an adjoining room, uneasy at what seemed to be inauspicious omens. A little later two servants ran to him, crying out: “Your wife has given birth to a monstrous freak!”

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An Avatar of the Intelligent Pearl

Lǐ Jìng seized his sword and went into his wife’s room, which he found filled with a red light exhaling a most extraordinary odor. A ball of flesh was rolling on the floor like a wheel; with a blow of his sword he cut it open, and a babe emerged, surrounded by a halo of red light. Its face was very white, a gold bracelet was on its right wrist, and it wore a pair of red silk trousers, from which proceeded rays of dazzling golden light. The bracelet was ‘ the horizon of Heaven and earth,’ and the two precious objects belonged to the Golden Radiance Cave (Jīnguāng Dòng 金光洞 ) of Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén 太乙真人, the priest from Qiānyuán Shān 乾元山 Mountain who had bestowed them upon him when he appeared to his mother during her sleep. The child itself was an avatar of Língzhū Zǐ 灵珠子, “the Intelligent Pearl.”

On the morrow Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén 太乙真人 returned and asked Lǐ Jìng’s permission to see the new-born babe. “He shall be called Nézhā 哪咤,” he said, “and will become my disciple.”

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A Precocious Youth

At seven years of age Nézhā was already six feet in height. One day he asked his mother if he might go for a walk outside the town. His mother granted him permission on condition that he was accompanied by a servant. She also counselled him not to remain too long outside the wall, lest his father should become anxious.

It was in the fifth moon: the heat was excessive. Nézhā had not gone a lǐ before he was in a profuse perspiration. Some way ahead he saw a clump of trees, to which he hastened, and, settling himself in the shade, opened his coat, and breathed with relief the fresher air. In front of him he saw a stream of limpid green water running between two rows of willows, gently agitated by the movement of the wind, and flowing round a rock.

The child ran to the banks of the stream, and said to his guardian: “ I am covered with perspiration, and will bathe from the rock.”

“Be quick,” said the servant; “if your father returns home before you he will be anxious.”

Nézhā stripped himself, took his red silk trousers, several feet long, and dipped them in the water, intending to use them as a towel. No sooner were the magic trousers immersed in the stream than the water began to boil, and Heaven and earth trembled. The water of this river, the Jiǔwān Hé 九弯河, “Nine-bends River,” which communicated with the Eastern Sea, turned completely red, and the dragon king’s palace shook to its foundations.

The Dragon king, surprised at seeing the walls of his crystal palace shaking, called his officers and inquired: “How is it that the palace threatens to collapse? There should not be an earthquake at this time.”

He ordered one of his attendants to go at once and find out what evil was giving rise to the commotion. When the officer reached the river he saw that the water was red, but noticed nothing else except a boy dipping a band of silk in the stream. He cleft the water and called out angrily: “That child should be thrown into the water for making the river red and causing the dragon king’s palace to shake.”

“Who is that who speaks so brutally” said Nézhā. Then, seeing that the man intended to seize him, he jumped aside, took his gold bracelet, and hurled it in the air. It fell on the head of the officer, and Nézhā left him dead on the rock.

Then he picked up his bracelet and said smiling: “His blood has stained my precious horizon of Heaven and earth.” He then washed it in the water.

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The Slaying of the Dragon King’s Son

“How is it that the officer does not return?” inquired the dragon king. At that moment attendants came to inform him that his retainer had been murdered by a boy.

Thereupon Áo Bǐng 敖丙, the third son of the dragon king, placing himself at the head of a troop of marines, his trident in his hand, and left the palace precincts. The warriors dashed into the river, raising on every side waves mountains high. Seeing the water rising, Nézhā stood up on the rock and was confronted by Áo Bǐng mounted on a sea-monster.

“Who slew my messenger?” cried the warrior.

“I did,” answered Nézhā.

“Who are you?” demanded Áo Bǐng.

“I am Nézhā, the third son of Lǐ Jìng of Chéntáng Guān 陈塘观. I came here to bathe and refresh myself; your messenger cursed me, and I killed him. Then—”

“Rascal! do you not know that your victim was a deputy of the King of Heaven? How dare you kill him, and then boast of your crime?”

So saying, Áo Bǐng thrust at the boy with his trident. Nézhā, by a brisk move, evaded the thrust.

“Who are you? “ he asked in turn.

“I am Áo Bǐng, the third son of the dragon king [of the eastern sea].”

“Ah, you are a blusterer,” jeered the boy; “if you dare to touch me I will skin you alive, you and your mud-eels!”

“You make me choke with rage,” rejoined Áo Bǐng, at the same time thrusting again with his trident.

Furious at this renewed attack, Nézhā spread his silk trousers in the air, and thousands of balls of fire flew out of them, felling the dragon king’s son. Nézhā put his foot on Áo Bǐng’s head and struck it with his magic bracelet, whereupon he appeared in his true form of a dragon.

“I am now going to pull out your sinews,” he said, “ in order to make a belt for my father to use to bind on his cuirass.”

Nézhā was as good as his word, and Áo Bǐng’s escort ran and informed the dragon king of the fate of his son. The Dragon king went to Lǐ Jìng and demanded an explanation.

Being entirely ignorant of what had taken place, Lǐ Jìng sought Nézhā to question him.

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An Unruly Son

Nézhā was in the garden, occupied in weaving the belt of dragon-sinew. The stupefaction of Lǐ Jìng may be imagined.

“You have brought most awful misfortunes upon us,” he exclaimed. “Come and give an account of your conduct.”

“Have no fear,” replied Nézhā superciliously; “his son’s sinews are still intact; I will give them back to him if he wishes.”

When they entered the house he saluted the dragon king, made a curt apology, and offered to return his son’s sinews. The father, moved with grief at the sight of the proofs of the tragedy, said bitterly to Lǐ Jìng:

“You have such a son and yet dare to deny his guilt, though you heard him haughtily admitting it! To-morrow I shall report the matter to the Jade Emperor.” Having spoken thus, he departed.

Lǐ Jìng was overwhelmed at the enormity of his son’s crime. His wife, in an adjoining room, hearing his lamentations, went to her husband.

“What obnoxious creature is this that you have brought into the world?” he said to her angrily. “He has slain two spirits, the son of the dragon king and a steward sent by the King of Heaven. To-morrow the dragon king is to lodge a complaint with the Jade Emperor, and two or three days hence will see the end of our existence.”

The poor mother began to weep copiously. “What!” she sobbed, “you whom I suffered so much for, you are to be the cause of our ruin and death!”

Nézhā, seeing his parents so distracted, fell on his knees.

“Let me tell you once for all,” he said, “that I am no ordinary mortal. I am the disciple of Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén 太乙真人; my magic weapons I received from him; it is they which brought upon me the undying hatred of the dragon king. But he cannot prevail. Today I will go and ask my master’s advice. The guilty alone should suffer the penalty; it is unjust that his parents should suffer in his stead.”

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Drastic Measures

He then left for Qiānyuán Shān 乾元山 Mountain, and entered the cave of his master Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén, to whom he related his adventures. The master dwelt upon the grave consequences of the murders, and then ordered Nézhā to bare his breast. With his finger he drew on the skin a magic formula, after which he gave him some secret instructions.

“Now,” he said, “go to the Gate of Heaven and await the arrival of the dragon king, who purposes to accuse you before the Jade Emperor. Then you must come again to consult me, that your parents may not be molested because of your misdeeds.”

When Nézhā reached the Gate of Heaven it was closed. In vain he sought for the dragon king, but after a while he saw him approaching. the dragon king did not see Nézhā, for the formula written by Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén rendered him invisible. As the dragon king approached the gate Nézhā ran up to him and struck him so hard a blow with his golden bracelet that he fell to the ground. Then Nézhā stamped on him, cursing him vehemently.

The Dragon king now recognized his assailant and sharply reproached him with his crimes, but the only reparation he got was a renewal of kicks and blows. Then, partially lifting the dragon king’s cloak and raising his shield, Nézhā tore off from his body about forty scales. Blood flowed copiously, and the dragon king, under stress of the pain, begged his foe to spare his life. To this Nézhā consented on condition that he relinquished his purpose of accusing him before the jade emperor.

“Now,” went on Nézhā, “change yourself into a small serpent that I may take you back without fear of your escaping.”

The dragon king took the form of a small blue dragon, and followed Nézhā to his father’s house, upon entering which the dragon king resumed his normal form, and accused Nézhā of having belabored him.

“I will go with all the dragon kings and lay an accusation before the Jade Emperor,” he said. Thereupon he transformed himself into a gust of wind, and disappeared.

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Nézhā Draws a Bow at a Venture

“Things are going from bad to worse,” sighed Lǐ Jìng. His son, however, consoled him: “I beg you, my father, not to let the future trouble you. I am the chosen one of the gods. My master is Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén, and he has assured me that he can easily protect us.”

Nézhā now went out and ascended a tower which commanded a view of the entrance of the fort. There he found a wonderful bow and three magic arrows. Nézhā did not know that this was the spiritual weapon belonging to the fort.

“My master informed me that I am destined to fight to establish the coming Zhōu dynasty; I ought therefore to perfect myself in the use of weapons. This is a good opportunity.” He accordingly seized the bow and shot an arrow toward the southwest. A red trail indicated the path of the arrow, which hissed as it flew.

At that moment Bìyún Tóng’ér 碧云童儿, a servant of [the goddess] Shíjī Niángniáng 石矶娘娘, happened to be at the foot of Skeleton Hill (Kūlóu Shān 骷髅山), in front of the cave of his mistress. The arrow pierced his throat, and he fell dead, bathed in his blood. Shíjī Niángniáng came out of her cave, and examining the arrow found that it bore the inscription: “Arrow which shakes the heavens.” She thus knew that it must have come from Chéntáng Guān Pass, where the magic bow was kept.

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Another Encounter

The goddess mounted her blue phoenix, flew over the fort, seized Lǐ Jìng, and carried him to her cave. There she made him kneel before her, and reminded him how she had protected him that he might gain honor and glory on earth before he attained to immortality.

“It is thus that you show your gratitude —by killing my servant !”

Lǐ Jìng swore that he was innocent; but the telltale arrow was there, and it could not but have come from the fortress. Lǐ Jìng begged the goddess to set him at liberty, in order that he might find the culprit and bring him to her. “If I cannot find him,” he added, “you may take my life.”

Once again Nézhā frankly admitted his deed to his father, and followed him to the cave of Shih-chi Niang niang. When he reached the entrance the second servant reproached him with the crime, whereupon Nézhā struck him a heavy blow. Shíjī Niángniáng, infuriated, threw herself at Nézhā, sword in hand; one after the other she wrenched from him his bracelet and magic trousers.

Deprived of his magic weapons, Nézhā fled to his master, Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén. The goddess followed and demanded that he be put to death. A terrible conflict ensued between the two champions, until Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén hurled into the air his Globe of Nine Fire-Dragons, which, falling on Shíjī Niángniáng, enveloped her in a whirlwind of flame. When this had passed it was seen that she was changed into stone.

“Now you are safe,” said Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén to Nézhā, “but return quickly, for the four dragon kings have laid their accusation before the jade emperor, and they are going to carry off your parents. Follow my advice, and you will rescue your parents from their misfortune.”

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Nézhā Commits Hara-Kiri

On his return Nézhā found the four dragon kings on the point of carrying off his parents.

“It is I,” he said, “who killed Áo Bǐng, and I who should pay the penalty. Why are you molesting my parents? I am about to return to them what I received from them. Will it satisfy you?”

The dragon king agreed, whereupon Nézhā took a sword, and before their eyes cut off an arm, sliced open his stomach, and fell unconscious. His soul, borne on the wind, went straight to the cave of Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén, while his mother busied herself with burying his body.

“Your home is not here,” said his master to him; “return to Chéntáng Guān Pass, and beg your mother to build a temple on Mount Cùipíng Shān 翠屏山, forty lǐ farther on. Incense will be burned to you for three years, at the end of which time you will be reincarnated.”

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A Habitation for the Soul

During the night, toward the third watch, while his mother was in a deep sleep, Nézhā appeared to her in a dream and said: “My mother, pity me; since my death, my soul, separated from my body, wanders about without a home. Build me, I pray you, a temple on Cùipíng Shān, that I may be reincarnated.” His mother awoke in tears, and related her vision to Lǐ Jìng, who reproached her for her blind attachment to her unnatural son, the cause of so much disaster.

For five or six nights the son appeared to his mother, each time repeating his request. The last time he added: “Do not forget that by nature I am ferocious; if you refuse my request evil will befall you.”

His mother then sent builders to the mountain to construct a temple to Nézhā, and his image was set up in it. Miracles were not wanting, and the number of pilgrims who visited the shrine increased daily.

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Lǐ Jìng Destroys His Son’s Statue

One day Lǐ Jìng, with a troop of his soldiers, was passing this mountain, and saw the roads crowded with pilgrims of both sexes. “Where are these people going?” he asked. “For six months past,” he was told, “the spirit of the temple on this mountain has continued to perform miracles. People come from far and near to worship and supplicate him.”

“What is the name of this spirit?” inquired Lǐ Jìng. “Nézhā,” they replied.

“Nézhā!” exclaimed the father. “I will go and see him myself.”

In a rage Lǐ Jìng entered the temple and examined the statue, which was a speaking image of his son. By its side were images of two of his servants. He took his whip and began to beat the statue, cursing it all the while.

“It is not enough, apparently, for you to have been a source of disaster to us,” he said; “but even after your death you must deceive the multitude.”

He whipped the statue until it fell to pieces; he then kicked over the images of the servants, and went back, admonishing the people not to worship so wicked a man, the shame and ruin of his family. By his orders the temple was burnt to the ground.

When he reached Chéntáng Guān Pass his wife came to him, but he received her coldly. “You gave birth to that cursed son,” he said, “who has been the plague of our lives, and after his death you build him a temple in which he deceives the people. Do you wish to have me disgraced? If I were to be accused at Court of having instituted the worship of false gods, would not my destruction be certain? I have burned the temple, and intend that that shall settle the matter once for all; if ever you think of rebuilding it I will break off all relations with you.”

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Nézhā Consults His Master

At the time of his father’s visit Nézhā was absent from the temple. On his return he found only its smoking remnants. The spirits of his two servants ran up lamenting. “Who has demolished my temple?” he asked. “Lǐ Jìng,” they replied. “In doing this he has exceeded his powers,” said Nézhā. “I gave him back the substance I received from him; why did he come with violence to break up my image? I will have nothing more to do with him.”

Nézhā’s soul had already begun to be spiritualized. So he determined to go to Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén and beg for his help. “The worship rendered to you there,” replied the Daoist, “had nothing in it which should have offended your father; it did not concern him. He was in the wrong. Before long Jiāng Zǐyá will descend to inaugurate the new dynasty, and since you must throw in your hit with him I will find a way to aid you.”

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A New Nézhā

Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén had two water-lily stalks and three lotus-leaves brought to him. He spread these on the ground in the form of a human being and placed the soul of Nézhā in this lotus skeleton, uttering magic incantations the while. There emerged a new Nézhā full of life, with a fresh complexion, purple lips, keen glance, and sixteen feet of height.

“Follow me to my peach-garden,” said Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén, “and I will give you your weapons.” He handed him a fiery spear, very sharp, and two Wind-and-Fire Wheels which, placed under his feet, served as a vehicle. A brick of gold in a panther-skin bag completed his magic armament. The new warrior, after thanking his master, mounted his wind-and-fire wheels and returned to Chéntáng Guān Pass.

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A Battle Between Father and Son

Lǐ Jìng was informed that his son Nézhā had returned and was threatening vengeance. So he took his weapons, mounted his horse, and went forth to meet him. Having cursed each other profusely, they joined battle, but Lǐ Jìng was worsted and compelled to flee. Nézhā pursued his father, but as he was on the point of overtaking him Lǐ Jìng’s second son, Mùzhā 木咤, came on the scene, and keenly reproached his brother for his unfilial conduct.

“Lǐ Jìng is no longer my father,” replied Nézhā. “I gave him back my substance; why did he burn my temple and smash up my image?”

Mùzhā thereupon prepared to defend his father, but received on his back a blow from the golden brick, and fell unconscious. Nézhā then resumed his pursuit of Lǐ Jìng.

His strength exhausted, and in danger of falling into the hands of his enemy, Lǐ Jìng drew his sword and was about to kill himself. “Stop!” cried a Daoist priest. “Come into my cave, and I will protect you.”

When Nézhā came up he could not see Lǐ Jìng, and demanded his surrender from the Daoist. But he had to do with one stronger than himself, no less a being than Wénshū Tiānzūn 文殊天尊, the god of wisdom, whom Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén had sent for in order that Nézhā might receive a lesson. The Daoist, with the aid of his magic weapon, seized Nézhā, and in a moment the boy found a gold ring fastened round his neck and two chains on his feet, and he was bound to a pillar of gold.

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Peace at Last

At this moment, as if by accident, Tàiyǐ Zhēnrén, appeared upon the scene. His master had Nézhā brought before Wénshū Tiānzūn and Lǐ Jìng, and advised him to live at peace with his father, but he also rebuked the father for having burned the temple on Cùipíng Shān. This done, he ordered Lǐ Jìng to go home, and Nézhā to return to his cave. The latter, overflowing with anger, his heart full of vengeance, started again in pursuit of Lǐ Jìng, swearing that he would punish him. But the Daoist reappeared and prepared to protect Lǐ Jìng.

Nézhā, bristling like a savage cat, threw himself at his enemy and tried to pierce him with his spear, but a white lotus-flower emerged from the Daoist’s mouth and arrested the course of the weapon. As Nézhā continued to threaten him, the Daoist drew from his sleeve a mysterious object which rose in the air, and, falling at the feet of Nézhā, enveloped him in flames.

Then Nézhā prayed for mercy. The Daoist exacted from him three separate promises: to live in harmony with his father, to recognize and address him as his father, and to throw himself at his, the Daoist’s, feet, to indicate his reconciliation with himself.

After this act of reconciliation had been performed, Wénshū Tiānzūn promised Lǐ Jìng that he should leave his official post to become an Immortal able to place his services at the disposal of the new Zhōu dynasty, shortly to come into power.

In order to ensure that their reconciliation should last forever, and to place it beyond Nézhā’s power to seek revenge, he gave Lǐ Jìng the wonderful object by whose agency Nézhā’s feet had been burned, and which had been the means of bringing him into subjection. It was a golden pagoda, which became the characteristic weapon of Lǐ Jìng, and gave rise to his nickname, Lǐ the Pagoda-Bearer. Finally, the Jade Emperor Lǐ Jìng appointed him Generalissimo of the Twenty-six Celestial Officers, Grand Marshal of the Skies, and Guardian of the Gate of Heaven.

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Part III: The Great Rebellion
(from Chapter IV of Werner’s Myths & Legends)

Dramatis Personae

Jiāng Zǐyá 姜子牙
a wise minister affiliated with the rebel cause
Shēn Gōngbào 申公豹
his old school mate, still loyal to the Shāng
Wén Zhòng 闻仲
a general loyal to the Shāng tyrant King Zhòu
Wǔ Wáng 武王
a wise senior lord affiliated with the rebel cause
Qióngxiāo 琼霄
a goddess fighting for the house of Shāng
Thousand-lǐ Eye (Qiānlǐ Yǎn 千里眼)
  and Favourable-Wind Ear (Shùnfēng Ěr 顺风耳)
two demon brothers allied with King Zhòu’s forces
Lǎozǐ 老子
a Daoist sage allied with the rebels
Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn 元始天尊
a Daoist god, allied with the rebels
The Ancient Immortal of the South Pole (Nánjí Xiānwēng 南极仙翁
another one
Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn 元始天尊
a Daoist divinity, lord of the original origination, allied with the rebels
Various other warring divinities

Jiāng Zǐyá

In the wars which resulted in the overthrow of the tyrant Zhòu Wáng 纣王 and his dynasty and the establishment of the great Zhōu dynasty, the most influential generalissimo was Jiāng Zǐyá 姜子牙. His family name was Jiāng , and his own name Shàng , but owing to his descent from one of the ministers of the ancient Emperor Yáo 尧帝, whose heirs owned the fief of Lǚ , the family came to be called by that name, and he himself was known as Lǚ Shàng 吕尙. His honorific title was Tàigōng Wáng Tàigōng Wáng 太公望, “Hope of Tàigōng,” given him by Wén Wáng 文王, who recognized in the person of Jiāng Zǐyá the wise minister whom his father Tài Gōng 太公 had caused him to expect before his death.

Jiāng Zǐyá was originally in the service of the tyrant Zhòu Wáng 纣王, but transferred his services to the Zhōu cause, and by his wonderful skill enabled that house finally to gain the victory. The decisive battle took place at Mùyě 牧野, situated to the south of Wèihuī Fǔ 卫辉府, in 1122 B.C. The soldiers of Shāng, 700,000 in number, were defeated, and Zhòu Wáng, the tyrant, shut himself up in his magnificent palace, set it alight, and was burned alive with all his possessions. For this achievement Jiāng Zǐyá was granted by Wǔ Wáng 武王 the title of Father and Counsellor, and was appointed Prince of Qí , with perpetual succession to his descendants.

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A Legend of Jiāng Zǐyá

The Fēng Shén Yǎnyì 封神演义 contains many chapters describing in detail the various battles which resulted in the overthrow of the last tyrant of the Shāng dynasty and the establishment of the illustrious Zhōu dynasty on the throne of China. This legend and the following one are epitomized from that work.

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Nézhā Defeats Zhāng Guìfāng

The redoubtable Nézhā 哪咤 having, by means of his Heaven-and-Earth Bracelet, vanquished Fēng Lín 风林, a star-god and subordinate officer of Zhāng Guìfāng 张桂芳, in spite of the black smoke-clouds which he blew out of his nostrils, the defeated warrior fled and sought the aid of his chief, who fought Nézhā in some thirty to forty encounters without succeeding in dislodging him from his Wind-Fire Wheel, which enabled him to move about rapidly and to perform prodigious feats, such as causing hosts of silver flying dragons like clouds of snow to descend upon his enemy. During one of these fights Nézhā heard his name called three times, but paid no heed. Finally, with his Heaven-and-earth Bracelet he broke Zhāng Guìfāng’s left arm, following this up by shooting out some dazzling rays of light which knocked him off his horse.

When he returned to the city to report his victory to Jiāng Zǐyá, the latter asked him if during the battle Kuei-fang had called his name. “Yes,” replied Nézhā, “he called, but I took no heed of him.” “When Kuei-fang calls,” said Jiāng Zǐyá, “the hún and the pò [anima and umbra] become separated, and so the body falls apart.”

“But,” replied Nézhā, “I had changed myself into a lotus-flower, which has neither hún nor pò, so he could not succeed in getting me off my magic wheel.”

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Jiāng Zǐyá Goes to Kūnlún

Jiāng Zǐyá, however, still uncertain in mind about the finality of Nézhā’s victories, went to consult Wǔ Wáng 武王 (whose death had not yet taken place at this time). After the interview Jiāng Zǐyá informed Wǔ Wáng of his wish to visit Kūnlún 崑𪨧山 Mountain. Wǔ Wáng warned him of the danger of leaving the kingdom with the enemy so near the capital; but Jiāng Zǐyá obtained his consent by saying he would be absent only three days at most. So he gave instructions regarding the defense to Nézhā, and went off in his spirit chariot to Kūnlún. On his arrival at the Unicorn Precipice he was much enraptured with the beautiful scenery, the colors, flowers, trees, bridges, birds, deer, apes, blue lions, white elephants, etc., all of which seemed to make earth surpass Heaven in loveliness.

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Jiāng Zǐyá Receives the List of Immortals

From the Unicorn Precipice he went on to the Jade Palace of Abstraction. Here he was presented to Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn 元始天尊. From him he received the List of Promotions to Immortals, which the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole (Nánjí Xiānwēng 南极仙翁) had brought, and was told to go and erect a Fēngshén Tái 封神台. (Spirits’ Promotion Terrace) on which to exhibit it.

Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn also warned him that if anyone called him while he was on the way he was to be most careful not to answer. On reaching the Unicorn Precipice on his way back, he heard some one call: “Jiāng Zǐyá!” This happened three times without his paying any heed.

Then the voice was heard to say: “Now that you are Prime Minister, how devoid of feeling and forgetful of bygone benefits you must he not to remember one who studied with you in the Jade Palace of Abstraction!”

Jiāng Zǐyá could not but turn his head and look. He then saw that it was Shēn Gōngbào 申公豹. He said: “Brother, I did not know it was you who were calling me, and I did not heed you as Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn told me on no account to reply.”

Shēn Gōngbào said: “What is that you hold in your hand?”

He told him it was the List of Promotions to Immortals. Shēn Gōngbào then tried to entice Jiāng Zǐyá from his allegiance to Zhōu. Among Shēn Gōngbào’s tactics was that of convincing Jiāng Zǐyá of the superiority of the magical arts at the disposal of the supporters of Zhòu Wáng.

“You,” he said, “can drain the sea, change the hills, and suchlike things, but what are those compared with my powers, who can take off my head, make it mount into space, travel 10,000,000 lǐ, and return to my neck just as complete as before and able to speak? Burn your List of Promotions to Immortals and come with me.”

Jiāng Zǐyá, thinking that a head which could travel 10,000,000 lǐ and be the same as before was exceedingly rare, said: “Brother, you take your head off, and if in reality it can do as you say, rise into space and return and be as before, I shall be willing to burn the List of Promotions to Immortals and return with you to Cháogē 朝歌, the Shāng capital.”

Shēn Gōngbào said: “You will not go back on your word?”

Jiāng Zǐyá said: “ When your elder brother has spoken his word is as unchangeable as Mount Tài 泰山. How can there be any going back on my word?”

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The Soaring Head

Shēn Gōngbào then doffed his Daoist cap, seized his sword, with his left hand firmly grasped the blue thread binding his hair, and with his right cut off his head. His body did not fall down. He then took his head and threw it up into space.

Jiāng Zǐyá gazed with upturned face as it continued to rise, and was sorely puzzled. But the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole, Nánjí Xiānwēng, had kept a watch on the proceedings. He said: “ Jiāng Zǐyá is a loyal and honest man; it looks as if he has been deceived by this charlatan.” He ordered White Crane Youth (Báihè Tóngzǐ 白鹤童子) to assume quickly the form of a crane and fetch Shēn Gōngbào’s head.

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The Ancient Immortal Saves the Situation

Jiāng Zǐyá was still gazing upward when he felt a slap on his back and, turning round, saw that it was the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole. Jiāng Zǐyá quickly asked: “My elder brother, why have you returned?”

The Ancient Immortal of the South Pole said: “You are a fool. Shēn Gōngbào is a man of unholy practices. These few small tricks of his you take as realities. But if the head does not return to the neck within an hour and three-quarters the blood will coagulate and he will die. Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn ordered you not to reply to anyone; why did you not hearken to his words? From the Jade Palace of Abstraction I saw you speaking together, and knew you had promised to burn the List of Promotions to Immortals. So I ordered White Crane Youth to bring me the head. After an hour and three-quarters Shēn Gōngbào will be recompensed.”

Werner p. 160
Shēn Gōngbào threw his head into space, astonishing the normally unflappable Jiāng Zǐyá
Werner, Myths, p. 160.

Jiāng Zǐyá said: “My elder brother, since you know all you can pardon him. In the Daoist heart there is no place where mercy cannot be exercised. Remember the many years during which he has faithfully followed the Path.”

Eventually the Ancient Immortal was persuaded, but in the meantime Shēn Gōngbào, finding that his head did not return, became very much troubled in mind. In an hour and three-quarters the blood would stop flowing and he would die. However, Jiāng Zǐyá having succeeded in his intercession with the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole, the latter signed to White Crane Youth, who was flying in space with the head in his beak, to let it drop. He did so, but when it reached the neck it was facing backward.

Shēn Gōngbào quickly put up his hand, took hold of an ear, and turned his head the right way round. He was then able to open his eyes, when he saw the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole. The latter arraigned him in a loud voice saying: “You as-good-as-dead charlatan, who by means of corrupt tricks try to deceive Jiāng Zǐyá and make him burn the List of Immortals and help Zhòu Wáng against Zhōu, what do you mean by all this? You should be taken to the Jade Palace of Abstraction to be punished!”

Shēn Gōngbào, ashamed, could not reply; mounting his tiger, he made off; but as he left he hurled back a threat that the Zhōu would yet have their white bones piled mountains high at Xīqí 西岐.

Subsequently Jiāng Zǐyá, carefully preserving the precious List, after many adventures succeeded in building the Fēngshén Tái 封神台, and posted the List up on it. Having accomplished his mission, he returned in time to resist the capture of Xīqí by Zhāng Guìfāng, whose troops were defeated with great slaughter.

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Qióngxiāo’ s Magic Scissors

In another of the many conflicts between the two rival states, [the Daoist sage] Lǎozǐ 老子 entered the battle [on the rebel side], whereupon Qióngxiāo 琼霄, a goddess who fought for the house of Shāng and hurled into the air her gold Scaly-Dragon Scissors. As these slowly descended, opening and closing in a most ominous manner, Lǎozǐ waved the sleeve of his jacket and they fell into the sea and became absolutely motionless. Many similar tricks were used by the various contestants. The Gold Bushel of Chaotic Origin succumbed to the Wind-Fire Sphere, and so on.

The goddess Qióngxiāo resumed the attack with some magic two-edged swords, but was killed by a blow from White Crane Youth’s Three-Precious Jade Scepter, hurled at her by Lǎozǐ’s orders. Bìxiāo 碧霄, her sister, attempted to avenge her death, but Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn, producing from his sleeve a magical box, threw it into the air and caught Bìxiāo in it. When it was opened it was found that she had melted into blood and water.

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Jiāng Zǐyá Defeats Wén Zhòng

After this Lǎozǐ rallied many of the skillful spirits to help Jiāng Zǐyá in his battle with Wén Zhòng 闻仲, providing them with the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole’s Sand-blaster and an Earth-Conquering Light which enabled them to travel a thousand lǐ in a day. From the hot sand used, the contest became known as the Red Sand Battle. Rándēng 燃灯, on Pénglái 蓬莱山 Mountain, in consultation with Jiāng Zǐyá, also arranged the plan of battle.

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The Red Sand Battle

The fight began with a challenge from the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole to Zhāng Shào. The latter, riding his deer, dashed into the fray, and aimed a terrific blow with his sword at Nánjí Xiānwēng’s 南极仙翁 head, but White Crane Youth warded it off with his Three-Precious Jade Sceptre. Zhāng Shàothen produced a two-edged sword and renewed the attack, but, being disarmed, dismounted from his deer and threw several handfuls of hot sand at the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole. The latter, however, easily fanned them away with his Five-Fire Seven-Feathers Fan, rendering them harmless. Zhāng Shào then fetched a whole bushel of the hot sand and scattered it over the enemy, but the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole counteracted the menace by merely waving his fan. White Crane Youth struck Zhāng Shào 张绍 with his jade scepter, knocking him off his horse, and then dispatched him with his two-edged sword.

After this battle Wǔ Wáng 武王 was found to be already dead. Rándēng on learning this ordered Léizhènzǐ 雷震子 [the thunder-and-lightning lord] to take the corpse to Mount Péng and wash it. He then dissolved a pill in water and poured the solution into Wǔ Wáng’s mouth, whereupon he revived and was escorted back to his palace.

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Further Fighting

Preparations were then made for resuming the attack on Wén Zhòng. While the latter was consulting with Cǎiyún Xiānzǐ 彩云仙子 and Hàn Zhīxiān 菡芝仙, he heard the sound of the Zhōu guns and the thunder of their troops. Wén Zhòng, mounting his black unicorn, galloped like a whiff of smoke to meet Jiāng Zǐyá, but was stopped by blows from two silver hammers wielded by Huáng Tiānhuà 黄天化.

Hàn Zhīxiān came to Wén Zhòng’s aid, but was opposed by Bì Xiāngyáng 壁厢杨. Cǎiyún Xiānzǐ dashed into the fray, but Nézhā stepped on to his Wind-Fire Wheel and opposed him.

From all sides other Immortals joined in the terrific battle, which was a turmoil of longbows and crossbows, iron armor and brass mail, striking whips and falling hammers, weapons cleaving mail and mail resisting weapons.

In this fierce contest, while Jiāng Zǐyá was fighting Wén Zhòng, Hàn Zhīxiān released a black wind from his magic wind-bag, but he did not know that the Daoist Barge of Mercy (which transports departed souls to the land of bliss), sent by Guānyīn 观音, the Goddess of Mercy, had on board the Stop-Wind Pearl, by which the black storm was immediately quelled.

Thereupon Jiāng Zǐyá quickly seized his Vanquish-Spirits Whip and struck Hàn Zhīxiān in the middle of the skull, so that the brain-fluid gushed forth and he died. Nézhā then slew Cǎiyún Xiānzǐ with a spear-thrust.

Thus the stern fight went on, until finally Jiāng Zǐyá, under cover of night, attacked Wén Zhòng’s troops simultaneously on all four sides. The noise of slaughter filled the air. Generals and rank and file, lanterns, torches, swords, spears, guns, and daggers were one confused melee. Heaven could scarcely be distinguished from earth, and corpses were piled mountains high.

Jiāng Zǐyá, having broken through seven lines of the enemy’s ranks, forced his way into Wén Zhòng’s camp. The latter mounted his unicorn, and brandishing his magic whip dashed to meet him. Jiāng Zǐyá drew his sword and stopped his onrush, being aided by Lóng Xūhǔ 龙 须虎, who repeatedly cast a rain of hot stones on to the troops.

Werner p. 161
Jiāng Zǐyá found Wén Zhòng surprisingly difficult to defeat
Werner, Myths, p. 161.

In the midst of the fight Jiāng Zǐyá brought out his Great Magic Whip, and in spite of Wén Zhòng’s efforts to avoid it succeeded in wounding him in the left arm. The Zhōu troops were fighting like dragons lashing their tails and pythons curling their bodies. To add to their disasters, the Zhōu now saw flames rising behind the camp, and knew that their provisions were being burned by Yáng Jiǎn 杨戬.

Tyrant King Zhòu’s armies, with gongs beating and drums rolling, advanced for a final effort, the slaughter being so great that even the devils wept and the spirits wailed.

Wén Zhòng was eventually driven back seventy lǐ to Qí Hill 岐山. His troops could do nothing but sigh and stumble along. He made for Peach-blossom Range, but as he approached it he saw a yellow banner hoisted, and under it was Guǎng Chéngzǐ 广成子. Being prevented from escaping in that direction he joined battle, but by use of red-hot sand, his two-edged sword, and his Turn-Heaven Seal Guǎng Chéngzǐ put him to flight.

He made off toward the west, followed by Dèng Zhòng 邓仲. His design was to make for Swallow Hill, which he reached after several days of weary marching. Here he saw another yellow banner flying, and Chí Zhōngzǐ 池中子, who was sitting under it, informed him that Rán Dēng had forbidden him to stop at Swallow Hill or to go through the Five Passes. This led to another pitched battle, Wén Zhòng using his magic whip and Chí Zhōngzǐ his spiritual two-edged sword After several bouts Chí Zhōngzǐ brought out his Yīn-Yáng 阴阳 Mirror by use of which irresistible weapon Wén Zhòng was driven to Yellow Flower Hill and Blue Dragon Pass, and so on from battle to battle, until he was drawn up to Heaven from the top of Dead-Dragon Mountain.

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Thousand-Lǐ Eye and Favourable-Wind Ear

“Thousand-lǐ Eye” (Qiānlǐ Yǎn 千里眼) and “Favourable-Wind Ear” (Shùnfēng Ěr 顺风耳) were two brothers named Gāo Míng 高明 and Gāo Jué 高觉. On account of their martial bearing they found favor with the tyrant emperor Zhòu Wáng, who appointed them generals, and sent them to serve with Generalissimo Yuán Hóng 袁洪 (who was a monkey which had taken human form) at Mèngjīn. 孟津).

Gāo Míng was very tall, with a blue face, flaming eyes, a large mouth, and prominent teeth like those of a rhinoceros. Gāo Jué had a greenish face and skin, two horns on his head, a red beard, and a large mouth with teeth shaped like swords.

One of their first encounters was with Nézhā, who hurled at them his mystic bracelet, which struck Gāo Jué on the head, but did not leave even a scratch. When, however, he seized his Fire-Globe the brothers thought it wiser to retreat.

Finding no means of conquering them, Yáng Jiǎn, Jiāng Zǐyá, and Lǐ Jìng took counsel together and decided to have recourse to Fúxī’s 伏羲 [exorcistic] trigrams, and by smearing them with the blood of a fowl and a dog to destroy their [enemies’] spiritual power.

But the two brothers were fully informed of what was designed. Thousand-Lǐ Eye had seen and Favorable-Wind Ear had heard everything, so that all their preparations proved unavailing.

Yáng Jiǎn then went to Jiāng Zǐyá and said to him: “ These two brothers are powerful devils; I must take more effectual measures.”

“Where will you go for aid?” asked Jiāng Zǐyá.

“I cannot tell you, for they would hear,” replied Yang. He then left. Favorable-Wind Ear heard this dialogue, and Thousand-Lǐ Eye saw him leave.

“He did not say where he was going,” they said to each other, “but we fear him not.” Yáng Jiǎn went to Yùdǐng 玉泉山 Mountain, where lived Yùdǐng Zhēnrén 玉鼎真人, “Hero Jade-tripod.” He told him about their two adversaries, and asked him how they were to conquer them.

“These two genii,” replied Yùdǐng Zhēnrén, “ are from Chessboard Mountain (Qípán Shān 棋盘山). One is a spiritual peach-tree, the other a spiritual pomegranate-tree. Their roots cover an area of thirty square lǐ of ground. On that mountain there is a temple dedicated to the Jade Emperor, in which are clay images of two devils called Thousand-Lǐ Eye and Favorable-Wind Ear. The peach-tree and pomegranate-tree, having become spiritual beings, have taken up their abode in these images. One has eyes which can see objects distinctly at a distance of a thousand lǐ, the other ears that can hear sounds at a like distance. But beyond that distance they can neither see nor hear.

“Return and tell Jiāng Zǐyá to have the roots of those trees torn up and burned, and the images destroyed; then the two genii will be easily vanquished. In order that they may neither see nor hear you during your conversation with Jiāng Zǐyá, wave flags about the camp and order the soldiers to beat tom-toms and drums.”

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How the Brothers were Defeated

Yáng Jiǎn returned to Jiāng Zǐyá. “What have you been doing? “ asked the latter. Before replying Yáng Jiǎn went to the camp and ordered soldiers to wave large red flags and a thousand others to beat the tom-toms and drums. The air was so filled with the flags and the noise that nothing else could be either seen or heard. Under cover of this device Yáng Jiǎn then communicated to Jiāng Zǐyá the course advised by the Yùdǐng Zhēnrén.

Accordingly Lǐ Jìng at the head of three thousand soldiers proceeded to Chessboard Mountain, pulled up and burned the roots of the two trees, and broke the images to pieces. At the same time Léizhènzǐ was ordered to attack the two genii.

Thousand-Lǐ Eye and Favourable-Wind Ear could neither see nor hear: the flags effectually screened the horizon and the infernal noise of the drums and gongs deadened all other sound. They did not know how to stop them.

The following night Yuán Hóng decided to take the camp of Jiāng Zǐyá by assault, and sent the brothers In advance. They were, however, themselves surprised by Wǔ Wáng’s officers, who surrounded them. Jiāng Zǐyá then threw into the air his Devil-Chaser Whip, which fell on the two scouts and cleft their skulls in twain.

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Part IV: A Battle of the Gods

(from Chapter XIII of Werner’s Myths & Legends)

Dramatis Personae

Jiāng Zǐyá 姜子牙
a wise minister affiliated with the rebel cause
Zhǔntí 准提
a Daoist of the Western Paradise, allied with the rebels
Kǒng Xuān 孔宣
his follower, originally a red, one-eyed peacock
Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ 东天教主
a specialist in Daoist charms fighting on the Shāng side
Bìlú Xiān 吡卢仙
the Immortal Bìlú Xiān, his unsteady disciple
Wū Yún 乌云仙
the Dark cloud Immortal, originally a precocious black tortoise, supporting the Shāng cause
Lǎozǐ 老子
a Daoist sage, allied with the rebels
Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn 元始天尊
a Daoist divinity, lord of the original origination and friend of Lǎozǐ
Various other warring divinities

Multifarious Versatile Divinities

The book describes at length how, during the wars which preceded the accession of the Zhōu dynasty in 1122 B.C., a multitude of demigods, Buddhas, Immortals, etc., took part on one side or the other, some fighting for the old, some for the new dynasty. They were wonderful creatures, gifted with marvelous powers. They could at will change their form, multiply their heads and limbs, become invisible, and create, by merely uttering a word, terrible monsters who bit and destroyed, or sent forth poison gases, or emitted flames from their nostrils. In these battles there is much lightning, thunder, flight of fire-dragons, dark clouds which vomit burning hails of murderous weapons ; swords, spears, and arrows fall from the sky on to the heads of the com¬batants ; the earth trembles, the pillars of Heaven shake.

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Zhǔntí’s Story

One of these gifted warriors was Zhǔntí 准提, a Daoist of the Western Paradise, who appeared on the scene when the armies of the rival dynasties were facing each other. Kǒng Xuān 孔宣 was gallantly holding the pass of the Jinji Ling [unidentified]; Jiāng Zǐyá was trying to take it by assault —so far without success.

Zhǔntí’s mission was to take Kǒng Xuān to the abode of the blest, his wisdom and general progress having now reached the required degree of perfection. This was a means of breaking down the invincible resistance of this powerful enemy and at the same time of rewarding his brilliant talents.

But Kǒng Xuān did not approve of this plan, and a fight took place between the two champions. At one moment Zhǔntí was seized by a luminous bow and carried into the air, but while enveloped in a cloud of fire he appeared with eighteen arms and twenty-four heads, holding in each hand a powerful talisman.

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The One-Eyed Peacock

He put a silk cord round Kǒng Xuān’s neck, touched him with his wand, and forced him to reassume his original form of a red, one-eyed peacock. Zhǔntí seated himself on the peacock’s back, and it flew across the sky, bearing its savior and master to the Western Paradise. Brilliantly variegated clouds marked its track through space.

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Arrangements for the Siege

On the disappearance of its defender, the defile of Jinji Ling [unidentified] was captured, and the village of Jiepai Guan [unidentified], the bulwark of the enemy’s forces, reached. This place was defended by a host of genii and Immortals, the most distinguished among them being the Daoist Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ 东天教主, whose especially effective charms had so far kept the fort secure against every attempt upon it.

Lǎozǐ 老子 himself had deigned to descend from dwelling in happiness, together with Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn 元始天尊 and Jieyin Daoren [unidentified], to take part in the siege. But the town had four gates, and these heavenly rulers were only three in number. So Zhǔntí was recalled, and each member of the quartette was entrusted with the task of capturing one of the gates.

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Zhǔntí’s duty was to take the Juexian [unidentified] Gate, defended by Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ. The warriors who had tried to enter the town by this gate had one and all paid for their temerity with their lives. The moment each had crossed the threshold a clap of thunder had resounded, and a mysterious sword, moving with lightning rapidity, had slain him.

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Offence and Defence

As Zhǔntí advanced at the head of his warriors, terrible lightning rent the air and the mysterious sword descended like a thunderbolt upon his head. But Zhǔntí held on high his Seven-Precious Branch, whereupon there emerged from it thousands of lotus-flowers, which formed an impenetrable covering and stopped the sword in its fall. This and the other gates were then forced, and a grand assault was now directed against the chief defender of the town.

Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ, riding his ox and surrounded by his warriors, for the last time risked the chance of war and bravely faced his four terrible adversaries. With his sword held aloft, he threw himself on Jieyin Daoren [unidentified], whose only weapon was his fly-whisk. But there emerged from this a five-colored lotus-flower, which stopped the sword-thrust. While Lǎozǐ struck the hero with his staff, Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn warded off the terrible sword with his jade scepter.

Zhǔntí now called to his help the spiritual peacock, Kǒng Xuān, and took the form of a warrior with twenty-four heads and eighteen arms. His mysterious weapons surrounded Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ, and Lǎozǐ struck that hero so hard that fire came out from his eyes, nose, and mouth. Unable to parry the assaults of his adversaries, he next received a blow from Zhǔntí’s magic wand, which felled him, and he took flight in a whirlwind of dust.

The defenders now offered no further resistance, and Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn thanked Zhǔntí for the valuable assistance he had rendered in the capture of the village, after which the gods returned to their palace in the Western Heaven.

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Attempts at Revenge

Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ, vanquished and routed, swore to have his revenge. He called to his aid the spirits of the twenty-eight constellations, and marched to attack Wǔ Wáng’s army. The honor of the victory that ensued belonged to Zhǔntí, who disarmed both the Immortal Wū Yún 乌云仙 and Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ.

Wū Yún, armed with his magic sword, entered the lists against Zhǔntí; but the latter opened his mouth and a blue lotus-flower came out and stopped the blows aimed at him. Other thrusts were met by similar miracles.

“Why continue so useless a fight?” said Zhǔntí at last. “Abandon the cause of the Shāng, and come with me to the Western Paradise. I came to save you, and you must not compel me to make you resume your original form.”

An insulting flow of words was the reply; again the magic sword descended like lightning, and again the stroke was averted by a timely lotus-flower. Zhǔntí now waved his wand, and the magic sword was broken to bits, the handle only remaining in Wū Yún’s hand.

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The Golden-Bearded Turtle

Mad with rage, Wū Yún seized his club and tried to fell his enemy. But Zhǔntí summoned a disciple, who appeared with a bamboo pole. This he thrust out like a fishing-rod, and on a hook at the end of the line attached to the pole dangled a large golden-bearded turtle. This was the Immortal Wū Yún, now in his original form of a spiritual turtle. The disciple seated himself on its back, and both, disappearing into space, returned to the Western Heavens.

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The Battle Won

To conquer Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ was more difficult, but after a long fight Zhǔntí waved his Wand of the Seven Treasures and broke his adversary’s sword. The latter, disarmed and vanquished, disappeared in a cloud of dust. Zhǔntí did not trouble to pursue him. The battle was won.

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A disciple of Dōngtiān Jiàozhǔ 东天教主, Bìlú Xiān 吡卢仙, “the Immortal Bìlú Xiān,” seeing his master beaten in two successive engagements, left the battlefield and followed Zhǔntí to the Western Paradise, to become a Buddha. He is known as Bìlú Fó 吡卢佛, one of the principal gods of Buddhism. Zhǔntí’s festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the third moon. He is generally shown with eight hands and three faces, one of the latter being that of a pig. …

Part V: The Battle of Mùyě and the End of the Shāng Dynasty

The decisive battle took place at Mùyě 牧野, situated to the south of Wèihuī Fǔ 卫辉府, in 1122 B.C. The soldiers of Shāng, 700,000 in number, were defeated, and Zhòu Wáng, the tyrant, shut himself up in his magnificent palace, set it alight, and was burned alive with all his possessions and his remaining supporters.

For this achievement Jiāng Zǐyá was granted by Wǔ Wáng 武王 the title of Father and Counsellor, and was appointed Prince of Qí , with perpetual succession to his descendants.

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