Creation of Lesser Gods: The World of Daoist Magic

Creation of Lesser Gods (also called Enfeoffment of the Gods or Investiture of the Gods, 封神演義 Fengshen Yanyi), ), which was written down in the late Ming Dynasty era (the late fifteenth to early sixteenth century), is heavily imbued with magic stories of Daoism as religion and is not well known outside of the cultural sphere of Daoism. In Japan, which is a country of the Confucian cultural sphere but not of Daoism, Creation of Lesser Gods was practically unknown until the late 1980s when Tsutomu Anou introduced his freewheeling and interpretive translation to the general public. Before Anou’s translation, Creation of Lesser Gods was known only to the scholars of Daoism as religion who study it as the treasure trove of folklore about Daoist deities and magic. Anou’s interpretive translation ignited a Houshin Engi (the novel's title in Japanese) boom in Japan, spurning a series of manga, anime, games, other translations, as well as numerous websites. Though scholars criticize his translation for inaccuracies—Anou added materials taken from other sources, reorganized the plot so as to change his favorite character,  the renegade Daoist Shen-gong Bao, from villain into a kind of lone wolf hero, made Zhou Wang less of an evil, and invented some sexual elements which do not exist in the original—, it is undeniable that Anou’s lively retelling inspired the Japanese discovery of this uniquely important novel.


Creation of Lesser Gods tells the founding of the Zhou dynasty (, traditionally believed 1073 BCE-249 BCE).  The Zhou dynasty established the ground rules of Chinese imperial system.  Confucius regarded the early Zhou dynasty era as the Golden Age to be enumerated.  Creation of Lesser Gods, thus, is as an epic of the founding of the empire and civilization. 

 

Creation of Lesser Gods forms a popular (as opposed to scholarly) attempt at cosmology, explaining why and how the world came to be as it is.  It tells how the world started, how the earthly kings and dynasties rose and fell, and how the heavenly world of Daoist and Buddhist deities and the lesser gods operated.  Being popular literature, the novel contains many details scholars consider as mistakes and misunderstandings.  Such mistakes, however, makes this novel even more honest insight into the common Chinese people’s mental picture of the world, where Confucianism is the moral basis, and Daoism and Buddhism supply the cosmological and magical elements. 

 

Because this was what uneducated peasants understood as the way of the world, army generals used the tales of gods and heroes of popular Daoism novels in conducting armies consisted of peasants.  During peasant uprisings, such as the Boxers Uprising (1897–1900), the agitators often used stories of magical power told in the popular tales such as The Journey to the West and The Creation of Lesser of Gods.  They are not just novels, but the way people lived. 

 

Creation of Lesser Gods unfolds as a story where gods’ battles and human battles progress concurrently and intertwined.  The human villain of Creation of Lesser Gods is the last ruler of the Yin dynasty, Zhou Wang.  Zhou Wang is the posthumous pejorative nameZhou () meaning harming good and justice and Wang () meaning kinggiven to King Di Xin, in order to damn him as the worst tyrant in history.  Similarly, Di Xin's dynasty was called the Shang () dynasty while it was in power.  The dynasty was renamed Yin () after the fall.  The names Zhou Wang and Yin are more commonly used than Di Xin and Shang.  Creation of Lesser Gods tells that Zhou Wang caused the Yin dynasty's fall because of his lack of virtue, and that the new dynasty of Zhou rose to replace it because its founders Wen Wang and Wu Wang possessed high moral virtue. 

 

Being a popular novel of Daosim as religion, Creation of Lesser Gods views Heaven and dao very differently from Confucius and Laozi.  It tells that the Daoist world held Taishang Laojun (太上老君: Laozi) as its supreme leader.  While Taishang Laojun stayed aloft of sectarian politics, two sects existed among Daoists.  One was the Chang sect composed of human-origin Daoists, led by Three Pure Ones, Yuanshi Tianzun (原始天尊: Venerable Heavenliness of the Primordial Beginning), Lingbao Tianzun (霊宝天尊: Venerable Heavenliness of the Numinous Treasure), and Daode Tianzun (道徳天尊: Venerable Heavenliness of Dao and Virtue), and had their home base on the Kunlun Mountain.  The other was the Jie sect composed of non-human originanimals, trees, and even stones could become Daoist deitiesDaoists, led by Tongtian  Jiaozhu (通天教主: Master of Teaching Across Heaven) and had their home base on the Jin-ao (Golden Turtle) Island. 

 

The premise of this novel is that humans cannot escape their inherent aggression even if they become immortal through Daoist training.  Human-origin Daoist deities, despite all their long years of learning and training, still needed to get rid of their accumulated aggression every 1,500 years by warring and killing.  At the time of the fall of Yin and rise of Zhou, this story tells, Three Pure Ones and Tongtian Jiaozhu agreed to a reorganization of the world.  There were too many Jie sect Daoists, some of whom were less qualified than desired.  There were also some humans who had a good deal of Daoist learning and were too good to live among regular humans.  Their plan was to eliminate these undesirable elements and install them as lesser gods who would serve “proper” Daoist deities.  Those who became collateral damage during the war would also become one of 500 lesser gods. (Chapter 5)  Buddhist master Zhunti Daoren knew of this plan and had an agreement with Daoist deities so that he could recruit some Daoists to the West (India).  During the course of the story, more than twenty Daoists would be led to the West, some to become Buddhist deities, and others to become their rides. (Buddhist and Daoist deities often ride magical beasts.) 

 

Since this is a little known novel in the English-speaking world, I offer an extended summary.  This summary focuses on human acts, and omits most of magical battles, because these battles do not translate well into English language.  Movies, anime, and video games are much better suited to present such battles.

 

Before starting on the summary of the story, a few points need to be clarified. Though they are technically not the same, the tiles of king and emperor are used as interchangeable in this story.  Chronology is rather fuzzy.  Dates and time intervals between events mentioned in this story are not always coherent with each other.  After all, this is a popular story, not a book of history.  Exactness cannot be expected.  The same can be said about the size of army.  The numbers should be taken more as an indication of size rather than the actual size, since popular culture thrives on exaggerations.  

 

Creation of Lesser Gods opens with the overture, a poem that summarizes the entire story.  This poem begins by telling how the universe and the human civilization came to be, and how the ancient dynasties fell. 

 

"In the beginning, there was Chaos.  Chaos parted and Pangu came to be.  Then came taiji, yin and yang, and Four Elements.  In the period of the Mouse, Heaven came to be, in the period of the Bull, Earth came to be, and in the period of the Tiger, humans appeared.  "

 

One element here that was not mentioned in Journey to the West is taiji (太極).  Taiji is the idea of the universe comprised by the ever intertwining and complementing powers of yin and yang; its best known visual presentation is the circle filled with intertwining tadpole-shaped black and white halves.  The concept of taiji appears already in the classic divination book of Yi Jing (I Ching), along with Chaos, yin and yang, and Four Elements. 

 

Creation of Lesser Gods continues with the stories of ancient emperors.
"Wise Youchao (有巣) taught humans how to be safe from beasts.  Suiren (燧人) taught humans how to cook with fire.  Fuxi (伏義) created the trigrams to teach humans divination.  Shennong (神農) found medicinal herbs to heal people of disease.  XuanYuan (軒轅; also called Yellow Emperor) established the principles of rituals, customs, and family relations.  Under the five emperors people multiplied and materials became abundant.  "

 

The poetry then tells the story of the rise and fall of Xia () dynasty, starting with its founder Yu Wang:
"Yu Wang controlled flooding, and four hundred years passed in peace and prosperity.  Then came Jie Wang who turned the world order upside down, spending his days with (his concubine) Meixi in wine and lust, making a rank smelling lake in the capital city of Bo.  Jie’s tyrannical deeds were terminated in (the village of) Nanchao and the order was restored.  "

 

Xia is the dynasty that is traditionally said to have preceded the Yin dynasty.  Xia used to be considered a mere legend, but in recent years archeologists have been finding Xia artifacts.  

 

The poem continues to tell how Di Xin, the thirty-first king of the Yin dynasty, posthumously named Zhou Wang, destroyed the Yin dynasty.  Jie Wang of Xia and Zhou Wang of Yin are remembered in Chinese history as twin tyrants, and their names (肘桀; Zhou Jie) are used as a synonym for tyrants.  The poem summarizes the sins of Zhou Wang (Di Xin), the rise of the house of Zhou, and the battles of gods, all of which we will see in more details later.  So we omit the preview part of the poem. 

 

The main body of the story starts with the founder of the Shang (Yin) dynasty, Cheng Tang.  Cheng Tang was the lord of Shang locality, in service of the Xia dynasty during the rule of the last king of Xia, tyrant Jie Wang.  Cheng Tang was a descendant of the legendary ancient sage emperor, Yellow Emperor.  Cheng Tang was a great ruler in the style of ancient sage emperors Yao and Shun.  Jie Wang, who was Cheng Tang’s emperor, was losing people’s hearts and minds because of his debauchery and tyranny. Being a loyal and righteous man, Cheng Tang could not bear to see his lord falling and pleaded Jie Wang to reform.  This plea only angered Jie Wang, who imprisoned Cheng Tang, but later changed his mind and released him.  After Cheng Tang’s release, more than forty lords decided to rally around Cheng Tang in recognition of his kingly virtue.  They raised army, defeated Jie Wang, and ended the Xia dynasty’s four hundred years’ reign.  Cheng Tang was enthroned as the emperor and the Shang dynasty began its rule.  Cheng Tang restored peace and prosperity, as his virtue was such that he not only aided people in need, but also could cause Heaven to send rain in time of drought.  Cheng Tang passed away after 13 years on the throne at the age of 100, and the Yin dynasty lasted 640 years. 

 

Di Xin (who later became Zhou Wang) was born as the third prince to the twenty-seventh emperor of Yin, Di Yi. (Here is the kind of discrepancy I mentioned earlier.  The poem calls Zhou Wang the thirty-first, while the main text of the story lists him as the twenty-eighth.)  Di Xin outshone his two elder brothers by his brightness and physical strength.  Di Xin secured his succession by saving his father’s life.  One day, Emperor Di Yi went to the garden gazebo to admire peony flowers in full bloom.  Suddenly, a ceiling beam started to fall upon the king.  Di Xin swiftly caught the beam and put it back in place.  This remarkable feat sealed his succession to the throne. 

 

Di Xin’s early reign was peaceful and prosperous, assisted by three highly capable advisors, Grand Tutor Wen Zhong, Prime Minister Shang Rong who was also Zhou Wang’s guardian by the request of the late king Di Yi, and Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu.  Di Xin also had three wise empresses, namely Empress Jiang, Western Empress Huang who was a sister of Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu, and Eastern Empress Yang, who jointly ruled the harem in grace.  In the seventh year of his reign, however, things started to go wrong.  The first trouble was the rebellion of the 72 lords of the Beihai region on the Yellow Sea.  A rebellion of this scale (72 out of 800 lords in national total) required the dispatch of an expedition army under the command of Grand Tutor Wen Zhong.  Grand Tutor’s absence from the capital was in itself an administrative problem.  On the top of that, Di Xin created a further problem when he went to goddess Nüwa’s temple to pray for her blessing on the imperial army’s expedition. 

 

(Note: Nüwa has been a very popular deity, known by multiple variations of names and many different attributes.  In Creation of Lesser Gods, Nüwa is described by Prime Minister Shang Rong as the goddess who was born in the ancient times, endowed with high virtue, and the one who, when the pillar that supports Heaven was damaged and caused Heaven and earth to slip, used the powdered five-color stone and water to repair the pillar and restored the world.) 

 

When Zhou Wang went to Nüwa’s temple, Zhou Wang was struck by her beauty depicted in the statue of Nüwa which was the centerpiece of the temple.  He wrote a poem on the wall to praise her beauty, but in his hubris, he wrote, “If you (the statue) could move, I would make you serve me at my harem.” (Chapter 1) 

 

When Zhou Wang wrote these offending words, Nüwa was away, making a ceremonial visit on the occasion of her own birthday to the three Emperors of Heaven, Fuxi, Shennong (also called Fire Emperor), and Xuan Yuan (also called Yellow Emperor).  (In this story, these three Emperors of Heaven preside over the Celestial Court and decide and control the fate of dynasties on Earth.)  When she came back and discovered Zhou Wang’s poem, she was outraged by his hubris of wanting a goddess serve a mere human.  She immediately decided to make this “imbecile emperor (hun jun)” pay for his transgression. 

 

Nüwa, however, could not directly harm him.  Zhou Wang was the Emperor of Earth, and his reign was determined by the will of Heaven (i.e., the three Emperors of Heaven) to last 28 more years.  Still, Nüwa was dead set on doing as much damage as she could.  She summoned three female demons; one-thousand-year-old fox, a nine-headed pheasant, and the spirit of zither-shaped stone.  Nüwa gave them the mission to take human forms to seduce Zhou Wang into neglecting his duties so as to ensure that Di Xin’s reign would be shortened. 

 

In the meanwhile, Di Xin was still haunted by Nüwa’s celestial beauty.  Learning the cause of his distress, his favorite eunuch advisors Fei Zhong and You Hun—these brown-noser eunuchs perpetually cause trouble through their small-minded pursuit of personal gains—suggested Di Xin to give the order that Four Regions should send one hundred of their most beautiful maidens each to the harem.  When Di Xin mentioned this at the meeting with court officials (collectively called One Hundred Literary and Martial Ministers), Prime Minister Shang Rong spoke up to remind him that his duty as the king was to ensure peace and prosperity for his subjects and to take pleasure in his ability to do so.  He begged Di Xin to rethink issuing such an immoral order.  Di Xin accepted this remonstration, and the seventh year of his reign passed. (Chapter 2) 

 

In April of the eighth year of his reign, the lords were arriving at the imperial court for their required annual visit.  Eunuchs Fei Zhong and You Hun noticed that Su Hu, the proud and upright Lord of Jizhou province, had not sent them any bribes.  The eunuchs came up with a scheme to make Su Hu pay for his imprudence.  They told Di Xin that Su Hu had a daughter who looked just like the goddess Nüwa’s statue, and recommended Di Xin to order the Lord of Jizhou to send his daughter to the harem.  When Su Hu was brought to greet him, Di Xin made this request to Su Hu privately (so that Prime Minister could not stop him again).  Proud Su Hu refused the request, and reminded Di Xin that the last king of Xia, Jie Wang, destroyed the dynasty through his reckless spending to please his favorite concubine Meixi.  Outraged by this comment, Di Xin ordered Su Hu’s execution.  But the eunuchs recommended him to show mercy, so that Su Hu might reciprocate his grace by surrendering his daughter.  Su Hu was merely expelled from the court.  After consulting with his men, Su Hu decided to rebel against the “imbecile emperor”, and headed home to prepare to face the inevitable expedition army. (Su Hu was the first of many people whom Di Xin drove away through his lack of ren.  From now on, I call Di Xin Zhou Wang, since he has become the imbecile emperor.) 

 

Zhou Wang ordered Chong Hou Hu, the Lord of Northern Region, and Ji Chang, the Lord of Western Region, to subjugate Su Hu.  Ji Chang had doubts about the justness of this order and wanted to try diplomacy first.  Chong Hou Hu insisted on following the imperial order and using the expedition force.  Ji Chang let Chong Hou Hu go ahead with his expedition, knowing full well that he was no match for Su Hu.  Ji Chang took his sweet time in organizing his army. (Chapter 3)  By the time Ji Chang caught up with them, Chong Hou Hu’s army had suffered a crushing defeat against Su Hu’s army.  Ji Chang offered to negotiate with Su Hu.  Chong Hou Hu had no choice but to agree. 

 

Ji Chang had the reputation of being a man of virtue, and Su Hu was happy to meet him.  Ji Chang tried to reason with Su Hu.  If Su Hu agreed to receive the honor of having his daughter serve the emperor, it would bring prosperity to his family and clan, ensure the peace of his territory of Jizhou, and save the populace from suffering wars.  If Su Hu kept refusing to send his daughter to the harem, it would harm his family’s ability to keep honoring ancestors, bring wars to Jizhou, and make the populace suffer.  As the lord, Su Hu had the obligation to ensure peace and prosperity for the populace.  He should not place his love for his own daughter over his love for the people under his care. 

 

Su Hu saw the rationality of this argument and agreed to surrender his daughter Daji.  Ji Chang and Chong Hou Hu marched back to the capital (which was near the present day city of Anhui), escorting Su Hu and his daughter Daji.  During the journey, the one-thousand-year-old fox kidnapped Daji and took her shape.  The fox, thus, successfully became a concubine of Zhou Wang so as to implement Nüwa’s order. (Chapter 4) 

 

(Note: Harem system has attracted quite a bit of sexual imagination both in the East and West.  Such imagination does not reflect the reality.  Harem was a utilitarian system to secure the enough number of male offspring, with little room for human feelings.  Except for lucky few who caught the emperor’s fancy, the women in harem wasted away their lives as chambermaids.  Their misery was well known so that, when the selection for the service in harem was announced, many parents decided to quickly marry off their daughters to make them ineligible.  The Lord of Jizhou was not the only one who did not want to send his daughter to the harem.) 

 

Zhou Wang had a new residence built for Daji.  This residence was called Longevity and Immortality Palace and had a hall named Star Picking Chamber, which became Zhou Wang’s favorite residence.  Zhou Wang neglected his duties and spent his days partying with Daji.  One day, a famous Daoist named Yun Zhongzi paid an unexpected visit to Zhou Wang.  Yun Zhongzi told him that demonic power was covering the harem.  He gave Zhou Wang a magic sword and told him to hang it on the roof to get rid of the evil power.  Zhou Wang placed the magic sword on the rooftop tower.  The sword started to affect the fox and she fell ill.  The fox begged Zhou Wang to remove the sword, claiming that it was casting evil spell on her.  Zhou Wang ordered the sword to be removed and destroyed. (Chapter 5) 

 

Upon learning that Zhou Wang removed the sword, Yun Zhongzi concluded that the fate was sealed for the dynasty.  He recited a poem on the main street of the capital, warning that the palace was run over by evil power; but the virtuous one would come from the West; and bloodshed in the capital was inevitable in the thirty-seventh year of Zhou Wang’s reign.  Court Advisor Du Yuanxian heard the poem and pondered over its meaning.  He wrote a memorial to Zhou Wang, begging him to remove the evil influence of Daji and return to his imperial duty.  Du Yuanxian consulted Prime Minister Shang Rong on how best to submit the memorial to Zhou Wang.  Shang Rong brought Du Yuanxian to the Longevity and Immortality Palace since that was where Zhou Wang was.  The fox was there to hear this memorial and got mightily upset.  She insisted that Yun Zhongzi was a black wizard, and that Du Yuanxian was conspiring with him to frame her up.  Zhou Wang sided with her, and ordered Du Yuanxian to be executed.  Shang Rong tried to protest but was dismissed. 

 

Minister Mei Bo heard that Du Yuanxian was to be executed, and asked Shang Rong why.  Hearing what had transpired, Mei Bo realized how unreasonable Zhou Wang had become.  Mei Bo insisted that he and Shang Rong petitioned Zhou Wang, even at the cost of death.  Shang Rong took Mei Bo to see Zhou Wang.  Mei Bo asked Zhou Wang why Du Yuanxian was to be executed.  Zhou Wang answered that Du Yuanxian cooked up false stories.  Mei Bo retorted that what Du Yuanxian said was true; Du Yuanxian was the brave and loyal subject who decided to tell the truth at the cost of death.  Zhou Wang accused Mei Bo of being in cohort with Du Yuanxian, and ordered Mei Bo to be stripped of his official title and expelled.  Exasperated, Mei Bo yelled, “Imbecile emperor!  Deceived by Daji, you will kill loyal Advisor Du Yuanxian!  I am not afraid of death, but I cannot let you, imbecile emperor, to destroy the empire’s foundation!  Otherwise, how can I face the late king!” 

 

(Note: Chinese afterlife is generally envisioned as the extension of this world.  After death, people are expected to renew their old relationships with each other that were disrupted by death.  Ancestors are expected to protect the descendants from the underworld.  The worshiping of ancestors is, therefore, believed to be of the utmost importance to keep the house prospering.  Mei Bo is calling Zhou Wang’s father “the late king” because the Chinese etiquette dictates that you do not call your superior by personal name, unless you have explicit permission to do so.  In this story, many call Zhou Wang "imbecile emperor" into his face.  This can happen only because this is a story about the most notorious historical tyrant.  A real person calling the emperor "imbecile emperor" into his face was socially impossible.) 

 

Enraged Zhou Wang yelled, “Smash this creep’s head with metal craws!”  But Daji had a better idea.  She offered, if a few days would be given, she would show Zhou Wang a new execution method called pole burning.  Zhou Wang approved her idea, ordered immediate beheading of Du Yuanxian and imprisonment of Mei Bo.  Unable to stop this madness, Shang Rong despaired and begged to be allowed to resign from the post of Prime Minister.  Zhou Wang agreed.  Court officials gathered to bid farewell to Shang Rong.  Shang Rong explained to the most senior ranking members of the court (Zhou Wang’s uncles Bi Gan, Jizi, and Weizi, Zhou Wang’s brothers Weizi Qi and Weizi Yan, and Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu) why he was retiring.  Since he could no longer fulfill the duty of Prime Minister to keep the emperor in the right way, he had to leave so that those who were more capable would take over his place. 

 

In a few days, Daji’s new torture instrument became ready.  In the palace courtyard, twenty copper poles were planted, and one of them was heated red-hot by burning coal.  Zhou Wang summoned court officials and ordered Mei Bo to be led to the courtyard.  Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu protested, but in vain.  When Zhou Wang told Mei Bo that he would be burned to death on the pole, Mei Bo showed no fear, but protested that it was immoral to punish a loyal subject from the family that had served the dynasty for generations, for no reason.  Mei Bo lamented that he did not know how to face the late king, for he had let Zhou Wang to become such an imbecile emperor.  Mei Bo was stripped of clothing, and was strapped around the pole to be burnt alive.  Court officials were stunned. 

 

(It is known from historical sources that the torture consisted of making people to walk across a bronze pole laid above a hole full of burning coals, until they slipped and fell into the hole to be burned alive.) 

 

Hearing about this inhuman cruelty of pole burning, Empress Jiang decided that, as Mother of the Country, she had the responsibility to remonstrate with Zhou Wang.  She headed to the Star Picking Chamber where Zhou Wang and Daji were partying as usual.  The unexpected appearance of the Empress forced Daji to stand humbly to serve her.  Zhou Wang ordered Daji to dance for the Empress’ entertainment.  Daji did not like this order but had to comply.  Empress Jiang’s refused to acknowledge Daji’s dance.  Instead, she knelt down in front of Zhou Wang, lamented that he had forgotten his duties, and begged him to return to his old righteous self.  Having done what she had come for, the Empress left.  Zhou Wang was furious at her, and promised Daji that he would remove Empress Jiang and make her his Empress. (Chapter 6) 

 

The custom of the harem dictated all those who served in the harem had to, on certain days, report to Empress Jiang, the mistress of the harem.  Daji had to report to the Empress too.  In the presence of the Eastern and Western Empresses, Empress Jiang issued a very stern warning to Daji.  Unless Daji stopped seducing the emperor into debauchery and start pushing him toward the right way, she would punish Daji according to the law of the harem.  Empress Jiang, then, dismissed Daji. 

 

Daji was furious.  She decided to eliminate pesky Empress Jiang.  Daji ordered the eunuch Fei Zhong to come up with a plan to eliminate the Empress.  He set up a fake assassination plot upon Zhou Wang.  After the attack had duly failed, the fake assassin named Jiang Huan claimed that he did it on the order of Empress Jiang. 

 

Empress Jiang had to be interrogated, and Western Empress Huang was put in charge of the interrogation.  Court officials and Western Empress Huang knew that this assassination plot had to be a frame-up.  After Empress Jiang defended her innocence with very reasonable words, Western Empress Huang reported to Zhou Wang that she was innocent.  Daji, however, insisted that the Empress was guilty as charged and that the truth had to be coaxed out of Empress Jiang by torture.  Western Empress Huang protested that Empress was Mother of the Country, and that from the time of ancient Three Kings and Five Emperors the custom dictated that her person could not be harmed.  Zhou Wang, nevertheless, ordered Empress Jiang be tortured. 

 

The Western Empress was mortified to have to tell Empress Jiang that she would be tortured.  Even under the threat of torture, Empress Jiang refused to plead guilty to the false charge.  At the insistence of Daji, Empress Jiang had an eye plucked out and then both hands burnt.  Since she still would not plead guilty, Zhou Wang allowed Empress Jiang to confront her accuser, Jiang Huan.  Even facing the tortured Empress, Jiang Huan stuck to his story.  Just then, Empress Jiang’s two sons, Princes Yin Jiao and Yin Hong rushed in.  Empress Jiang asked the princes to avenge her and expired.  Yin Jiao immediately took up a sword and struck down Jiang Huan. The two soldiers who were guarding Jiang Huang reported the incident to Zhou Wang.  Zhou Wang decided that his own sons were attempting to assassinate him.  The two soldiers were sent to arrest the princes who were still by their mother’s body.  Hearing the order, Western Empress Huang flared up in anger.  Intimidated soldiers scurried away. 

 

Western Empress Huang knew that she could not protect the princes from the imbecile emperor for long.  Western Empress sent the two princes to Eastern Empress Yang in the hope that she might come up with a plan to save them.  When the soldiers came to Eastern Empress in search of the princes, they again had to flee from an Empress’ righteous anger.  Realizing that the harem was no safe haven for them, the Eastern Empress counseled the princes to seek protection from the ministers of the court.  After the princes had left, Eastern Empress was plagued with deep worries about the future of the country.  When she reached the conclusion that the fall of the dynasty was inevitable, she hanged herself in despair. 

 

Hearing the news of Empress Yang’s suicide, Zhou Wang ordered an imperial funeral.  Western Empress Huang begged Zhou Wang to grant Empress Jiang the same, and Zhou Wang agreed. (Chapter 7) 

 

Princes Yin Jiao and Yin Hong told the court officials what had transpired in the harem.  Court officials were at a loss what to do.  Two lower raking officials, the warrior brothers Fang Bi and Fang Xiang, spoke up and demanded action.  When no one answered their call, they grabbed the princes and run, declaring that they would escort the princes to the safety so that the princes would be able to continue the dynasty line; that they rebelled so as to serve the country.  The officials let them go.  Zhou Wang ordered the princes to be tracked down and brought back to the court. 

 

Once on the run, Fang Bi and Fang Xiang quickly realized that it would be less conspicuous and therefore safer for the princes if they split and sought their own ways.  Yin Jiao and Yin Hong vowed to each other to avenge their mother, and went their own ways.  Yin Jiao happened to stumble into ex-Prime Minister Shang Rong’s retirement residence.  The prince’s story greatly alarmed Shang Rong.  When the soldiers came looking for the princes, Shang Rong could not stop them, but promised Yin Jiao that he would do something.  By chance, the soldiers also found Yin Hong resting at a temple and took the princes back to the court. (Chapter 8) 

 

Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu got furious at the soldiers who had brought the princes back.  He accused them of putting their own success before the succession of the imperial line.  Huang Feihu and other high-ranking officials petitioned hard to get the princes pardoned, but in vain.  The princes were about to be executed.  Suddenly, a wind blew and whisked the princes away.  It was two Daoist masters named Chi Jingzi and Guang Chengzi who caused the wind and swept away one prince each.  These Daoist masters had plans for the princes as players in the upcoming war. 

 

After the princes disappeared, ex-Prime Minister Shang Rong arrived at the court.  To the court officials who welcomed him, Shang Rong told that he was deeply ashamed of his failure and intended to die in order to influence Zhou Wang.  Court officials requested Zhou Wang to attend a formal court meeting with One Hundred Literary and Martial Ministers next morning.  Zhou Wang could not reasonably ignore this request so attended the court meeting.  When he asked what emergency required his presence, Shang Rong stepped out. Shang Rong knelt in front of Zhou Wang, wept, and begged him to read his memorial.  The memorial pleaded Zhou Wang to go back to his former self, a righteous and moral king.  The memorial only enraged Zhou Wang, who shouted, “Throw this old low life out and kill him with metal claws!” 

 

When the guards advanced toward him, Shang Rong shouted, “You won’t put your filthy hands on Prime Minister and Imperial Guardian!”  Shang Rong yelled at Zhou Wang, “Imbecile emperor! You have lost your ways to concubine and wine, neglecting the governance of the country, neglecting to honor the ancestors, disrespectful of Heaven, and disgrace the late king!  The way you treated the Empress, Mother of the Country, is despicable.  You abandoned your sons, killed honorable subjects by pole burning, so the lords are rebelling.  The late king built the foundation for the dynasty to last in prosperity, and you, imbecile emperor, ruin it all!  How can I face the late king!”  Furious, Zhou Wang shouted, “Smash this old creep’s head!”  Shang Rong yelled back, “I am not afraid to die!”  Then he called out to the late king; “King Di Yi, I owe you so much, but I cannot save your son!  I am so ashamed that I cannot show my face to you!”  Shang Rong turned back to Zhou Wang and shouted, “You, imbecile emperor, your days are numbered, you will lose the kingdom to another man!”  Shang Rong, then, took a good hard look at the court officials, walked up to a stone pillar, and smashed his head against it to end his 75 years of life.  Zhou Wang ordered to the body dumped outside of the capital without burial. 

 

Zhou Wang was livid, and most court officials kept silence.  Only Minister Zhao Qi dared to speak up.  He called to his fellow ministers, “Do you feel no debt to the late king, even when Prime Minister Shang sacrificed his life right here in this court?”  He pointed an accusing finger at Zhou Wang and shouted, “You are the worst imbecile emperor!  You dismiss great ministers and good officials because you would rather believe Daji’s evil words and make the country fall into ruins!  You made the Empress suffer a cruel death, installed Daji in her place, and disowned the princes, making the foundation of the country shake!  Imbecile!  Imbecile!  You dishonored your wife, disgraced your own sons, neglect your duty to rule, indulge yourself in wine and women, do not know right from wrong, and lead the country into chaos! Imbecile emperor!  The emperor has lost the right way, so the dynasty will fall! I would rather die!” 

 

Outraged Zhou Wang ordered Zhao Qi to be burned at the pole.  Zhao Qi replied, “I have no fear of dying!  I have proven my loyalty to the society (so that people will remember me for my loyalty)!  You, imbecile emperor, you will be remembered as tyrant for ten thousand years!”  Zhao Qi was stripped and burnt at the pole.  Court officials watched the gruesome spectacle in silent admiration. 

 

Zhou Wang retreated to the Star Picking Chamber and complained to Daji that the court officials did not show enough fear at the sight of pole burning.  Daji recommended Zhou Wang to consult the eunuchs on how to control them. Eunuch Fei Zhong came up with a devious scheme.  He proposed to summon Four Great Lords to the palace and execute them, so that there would be no one left who could lead a rebellion against Zhou Wang. (Chapter 9) 

 

Four Great Lords were summoned.  The Lord of Western Region Ji Chang was a master of divination.  He learned through his divination reading that this summon would lead to his imprisonment of seven years, but still reported to the capital.  When they met, Four Great Lords discussed the sorry state of the empire.  The Lord of Eastern Region Jiang Huanchu, the father of late Empress Jiang, was particularly discontent.  Next day, Four Great Lords reported to Zhou Wang accused Jiang Huanchu of treason.  Jiang Huanchu retorted that he had committed no crime; he was deeply indebted to the late king, but felt no debt to Zhou Wang, since Zhou Wang neglected his duty, dishonored his wife, disowned his sons, and used inhuman torture on loyal subjects.  He asked to be released from the post of Great Lord.  Zhou Wang shouted, “You, old traitor!  Your daughter tried to assassinate me and usurp the throne.  You will be executed and your body will be salted.  That is the law of the land to treat a traitor!”  Lord Jiang Huanchu was executed, and his body was chopped up and salted. 

 

Other three Great Lords, at the lead of Ji Chiang, decided to jointly plead Zhou Wang to reform his ways.  Even with Ji Chang’s great rhetorical skill, which earlier yielded the surrender of Lord Su Hu, the petition failed to impress Zhou Wang.  It only enraged him.  Zhou Wang yelled, “Execute these traitors!”  Eunuchs Fei Zhong and You Hun intervened in behalf of the Lord of Northern Region Chong Hou Hu, saying that he had always been loyal and showed his worth in building the Longevity and Immortality Palace.  Zhou Wang pardoned him.  Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu, Minister Bi Gan and other important court officials begged Zhou Wang to pardon the other two.  Zhou Wang compromised so far as to pardon Ji Chang, but the Lord of Southern Region E Chong-yu could not be saved.  He was executed, and his chopped body was salted. (Chapter 10) 

 

Though Ji Chang was pardoned, the villain eunuchs had no intention of letting him go home.  They entertained Ji Chang with wine, and managed to trick him into using his divination skill to predict Zhou Wang’s future.  Ji Chang carelessly told what he read by divination, i.e., that the dynasty would end with Zhou Wang.  Because he made such an inauspicious prediction, Ji Chang was arrested, being accused of treason.  Huang Feihu and ministers intervened again, and Ji Chang was given a chance to prove his divination skill.  Ji Chang made a trigram reading and predicted a fire at the palace next day.  When this prediction came true, Ji Chang’s sentence was reduced to the imprisonment of seven years.  Ji Chang spent his prison time to make the trigram system easier for the regular people to read. (Yi Jing (I Ching) available today contains the chapters attributed to him, under the posthumous name of Wen Wang.) 

 

Learning that their fathers were unjustly executed, the sons of slain two Great Lords rebelled.  Responding to the rising unrest on earth, Daoist deities started their moves.  One of the Three Pure Ones, Yuanshi Tianzun (Venerable Heavenliness of the Primordial Beginning), who was a main architect of the world reorganizing plan, sent down a homunculus to earth to be born as a human.  When fully grown, this homunculus was to become the leader of the army that would install the new ruling dynasty of Zhou.  (Chapter 11) 

 

The homunculus was born in the shape of a baby boy to General Li who was in charge of one of the great fortresses of the empire. (A network of minor and major fortresses was the foundation of the imperial defense system.)  Shortly after his birth, a Daoist master named Tai-yi Zhenren visited General Li.  General Li had studied Daoism himself and had two older sons studying Daoism.  He, therefore, gladly accepted Tai-yi Zhenren’s offer to adopt the newborn boy as his student.  Tai-yi Zhenren named the homunculus Nezha, and gave him two magic weapons.  Nezha was to be raised as a normal child for a while. 

 

Nezha, however, was born with superhero strength, which far exceeded his juvenile brainpower.  At the age of seven, Nezha got into serious trouble by carelessly using his magic weapons while playing in a river.  His magic weapons caused enough water turmoil to shake the foundations of Dragon King’s underwater palace.  Dragon King sent a water demon to investigate what was causing the turmoil.  The water demon and Nezha got into an argument and Nezha killed the demon with his magic weapon.  Dragon King’s third son, then, volunteered to arrest Nezha, but ended up in getting himself killed.  Dragon King went to see General Li, complained about Nezha’s misdeed, and left, saying that he will sue them in the Celestial Court.  Nezha ambushed Dragon King outside the Celestial Court’s gate, to send him home without filing the complaint.  Dragon King vowed to avenge his son and his own humiliation. (Chapter 12)   

 

After having gotten rid of Dragon King, Nezha happened to find a magic bow and arrow and shot it for fun.  The magic arrow accidentally killed a servant of a Jie sect Daoist goddess named Shiji (The name means a stone jetty, indicating her origin as stone).  Shiji came after Nezha. Even armed with magic weapons, young Nezha was no much for a seasoned deity like her.  Nezha run to his master Tai-yi Zhenren for help. The two Daoist deities decided to battle out their differences.  Shijii lost and was burnt to be stripped of her power.  

 

While Nezha was thus engaged, Dragon King took Nezha’s parents (General Li and his wife) hostage.  Seeing his parents in plight, Nezha ripped apart his own body with no hesitation, so that his parents would be released.  His essence—as a homunculus, he does not have a soul—then returned to his master Tai-yi Zhenren. (Chapter 13)  The Daoist master gave Nezha a new body to grow in, so that Nezha could fulfill the mission to lead the new Zhou army. (Chapter 14) 

 

An army required a brain, which Nezha did not have.  Yuanshi Tianzun selected his student Jiang Ziya to be the brain.  Jiang Ziya had been working to become a Daoist master on the Kunlun Mountain for 40 years.  But now, Jiang Ziya received the order to go back to the world of mortals.  His mission was to become Military Advisor to the new king of Zhou (the Lord of Western Region Ji Chang); raise the army to defeat Zhou Wang to establish the new Zhou dynasty; and preside over the ceremony to finalize the installation of lesser gods. 

 

After leaving the Kunlun Mountain, Jiang Ziya sought lodging with his sworn brother Sun Yiren.  Sun Yiren was overjoyed to have his sworn brother back after so many years.  Out of misguided goodwill, he decided that Jiang Ziya should get married and found a 68-year-old Ma Shi as the bride for 74-year-old Jiang Ziya.  Refusing this marriage would have made Sun Yiren lose face.  So, Jiang Ziya wed Ma Shi. (Chapter 15)  Ma Shi was a spirited woman and wanted Jiang Ziya to make his own living so that they would not have to depend upon Song Yiren.  Jiang Ziya tried selling baskets he weaved, selling noodles, and running restaurants.  Having no practical experiences of the human world, he failed in all his business attempts miserably.  Finally, Jiang Ziya succeeded in making living by using his divination skill as a fortune-teller. 

 

One day, the spirit of zither-shaped stone, one of the three demons whom goddess Nüwa had given the mission to shorten Zhou Wang’s reign, paid a visit to Jiang Ziya’s fortune-telling stall.  The demon was disguising herself as a pretty young woman.  Jiang Ziya immediately saw through the demon’s disguise, grabbed her wrist, and struck her down.  To the astonished crowd around his stall, Jiang Ziya declared that she was a demon and he needed to keep her in his grip to prevent her from escaping.  The crowd was unconvinced.  So they and Jiang Ziya, with the demon still firmly gripped in his fist, headed to the palace so as to judiciously settle the matter.  Zhou Wang was very interested in watching the art of demon busting, and ordered Jiang Ziya to perform the ritual.  The fox Daji did not believe that Jiang Ziya could bust her demon friend, so she said nothing. (Chapter 16)  When her friend was stripped of the human disguise and reduced to its natural state as stone, the fox got alarmed.  Before Jiang Ziya could strip all the power from the stone, the fox begged Zhou Wang to give the stone to her so that she could use it as a stone zither.  She also recommended Zhou Wang to hire Jiang Ziya as a court official in charge of divination.  She did this so that she could plot revenge against Jiang Ziya later. 

 

During the usual party at one night, Zhou Wang noticed some chambermaids weeping.  It turned out that the weeping maids used to serve Empress Jiang and could not help but missing their proper mistress.  This greatly displeased Zhou Wang.  The fox proposed that she would come up with a special punishment for them.  Zhou Wang readily agreed to this proposal.  The fox ordered a huge pit to be dug up in the harem courtyard.  The order was issued to the populace of the capital to collect snakes and bring them to the palace.  The pit was filled with snakes. The unfortunate maids were stripped naked and thrown into the snake-filled pit. 

 

Minister Jiao Ge, who had been wondering about the unusual activity of snake collection, heard the death screams of the maids, and rushed to the harem.  Jiao Ge desperately pleaded to Zhou Wang to stop this inhuman deed, but in vain.  Threatened to be thrown into the snake-filled pit, Jiao Ge cried, “Imbecile emperor!  You slaughter loyal advis0rs, cause great harm to the country, ruin this centuries old dynasty, and give away the throne to another man!  I would rather die than seeing that day!”  Pointing accusing finger at Zhou Wang, he yelled, “Imbecile emperor!  Your tyranny will lead to the fate the Lord of Western Region (Ji Chang) predicted (i.e., the fall of the dynasty)!” and jumped from the balcony to kill himself. 

 

Jiao Ge’s death failed to impress Zhou Wang. Daji even proposed to build a new extravagant party hall which featured a pool filled with wine, surrounded by trees with dried meat—the most valued delicacy of the time—hanging from their branches.  Zhou Wang agreed and this outrageous hall was built. (This debauchery is still remembered in the idiom “wine lake and meat forest.”  The history book Shiji (Anal 3:105) reports that this barbaric luxury party’s entertainment was to have the naked attendees chase each other.) 

 

In order to make the zither-shaped stone demon recover her magical power, the stone needed to be laid at the top of a tall tower where it could absorb the energy of the celestial bodies.  The fox Daji asked Zhou Wang to build a new extravagant tower adorned with precious stones, called Deer Terrace.  The fox recommended Jiang Ziya to be put in charge of the tower building. (Chapter 17)  Jiang Ziya tried to derail this plan by saying that such a tower would take 35 years to build.  The fox insisted that Jiang Ziya was insulting Zhou Wang by trying to derail the plan for the tower and therefore deserved to be punished by pole burning.  Zhou Wang agreed.  Jiang Ziya protested that that building such a tower would cause undue suffering to the populace and even invite rebellion, so that he, as a loyal subject, had to try to talk Zhou Wang out of it.  Such reasoning failed to affect Zhou Wang, who now ordered Jiang Ziya to be drowned. 

 

Noticing the commotion, Minister Yang Ren tried to intervene.  Yang Ren reminded Zhou Wang that Grand Tutor Wen Zhong had been fighting against rebellion for more than ten years, and suggested that building such an extravagant tower would only incite more rebellion.  He said, “There is an old saying, ‘When the people rebel, the country falls, and when the country falls, the king perishes.’  I cannot bear the thought of the dynasty’s 600 years’ glory dissipate, therefore, I have to brave your anger.”  Furious Zhou Wang ordered Yang Ren’s eyes be ripped out.  Yang Ren bravely endured the torture. T hen, a magical wind blew and whisked Yang Ren away from the palace to the residence of Daoist master Qingxu Daode Zhenjun (Venerable Lord of Pure Emptiness, Dao and Virtue).  The Daoist master gave Yang Ren the replacement eyes and ordered him to become an advisor to Jiang Ziya. 

 

Jiang Ziya, in the meanwhile, escaped from the palace using his underground running skill.  He told his wife Ma Shi that he would escape to the Western Region, and asked her to accompany him.  Ma Shi refused to leave the imperial capital and demanded a divorce.  Hearing the raised voices, Jiang Ziya’ sworn brother Sun Yiren came to mediate.  Sun Yiren recommended Jiang Ziya to grant Ma Shi the divorce.  Jiang Ziya followed his advice, divorced Ma Shi, and fled to the Western Region. (Toward the end of this novel, hearing that Jiang Ziya had become Military Advisor to the new emperor, Ma Shi hanged herself out of shame and regret for not having recognized her ex-husband’s talent.) 

 

The supervision of the tower building was given to the Lord of Northern Region Chong Hou Hu, who mercilessly drove the project.  His ruthless exploitations, through heavy taxation and Forced labor, caused great suffering to the populace. 

 

While all this was happening in the capital, in the Western Region, Prince Bo Yikao, the eldest son of imprisoned Great Lord Ji Chang, was getting impatient.  After having spent seven year in waiting, Bo Yikao decided it was high time for him to beg Zhou Wang in person for his father’s release. (Chapter 18)  The prince brought family treasures and ten exquisite dancers to the imperial court as gifts to Zhou Wang.  At first, it looked as if his petition would succeed.  But one of his gifts, a rare magical white monkey, recognized fake Daji as a fox, and attacked her.  Zhou Wang killed the monkey on the spot and charged the prince for an assassination attempt upon his person.  Prince Bo Yikao was to be executed and his body was to be chopped up.  The fox suggested that the prince’s meat be made into dumpling stuffing, and the dumplings be fed to Ji Chang. (Chapter 19) 

 

Through his extraordinary knowledge of divination, Ji Chang learned what happened to his eldest son, and that he was to be offered his son’s meat.  In order to survive, Ji Chang swallowed the offered dumplings made with his son’s meat, but kept them undigested in his stomach. 

 

The news of Bo Yikao’s cruel death reached the court of Western Region.  While some called for an immediate rebellion, Counselor San Yisheng recommended Prince Ji Fa, who was now the regent, to get Ji Chang released first.  San Yisheng knew that the best way to achieve Ji Chang’s release was to bribe eunuchs Fei Zhong and You Hun.  San Yisheng took this unpleasant task upon himself and succeeded in securing Ji Chang’s release.  Imperial court officials hosted a party to celebrate his release.  Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu, however, reminded Ji Chang that Zhou Wang changed his mind often, and advised him to leave the capital immediately. (Chapter 20) 

 

Ji Chang took Huang Feihu’s advice and ran.  Zhou Wang already regretted having let Ji Chang go and ordered his recapture.  When the pursuers nearly caught up with Ji Chang, a Daoist master named Yunzhong-zi sent his student Leizheng-zi to save him. Leizheng-zi was Ji Chang’s one hundredth son by adoption.  (Ji Chang is said to have had 24 wives, 99 sons, and unreported number of daughters.)  Leizheng-zi had been given the face and wings of an eagle, to enhance his abilities. (Chapter 21)  Leizheng-zi saved Ji Chang from the pursuers and carried him to the gate of the Western Region, and then returned to his master to study further. 

 

Ji Chang finally returned to his palace.  Counselor San Yisheng recommended Ji Chang to rebel against Zhou Wang.  Supreme Commander of the Army Nan Gongshi also demanded rebellion to avenge the slain Crown Prince, Bo Yikao.  Ji Chang replied that, as a Great Lord whose duty was to support the emperor, he could not even dare to contemplate a rebellion.  Ji Chang, then, suddenly felt pain in the stomach and vomited three pieces of meat, which turned into three rabbits and hopped away.  This apparent manifestation of the late Crown prince’s spirit further convinced Nan Gongshi and San Yisheng that they had to raise an army against Zhou Wang.  Ji Chang performed the proper funeral ritual to console the spirit of his ill-fated son. (Chapter 22) 

 

In the meanwhile, Jiang Ziya also reached the Western Region, took up a residence in a mountain, and waited to be discovered by Ji Chang.  Jiang Ziya pretended to fish at a lake everyday.  His hook was even not touching water, because he was not fishing for fish, but for the Lord of Western Region. (Chapter 23)  Ji Chang, on his part, knew very well that he needed a most extraordinary military advisor if he were to succeed in usurping Zhou Wang.  One night, Ji Chang had a dream of a bear flowing into his bed. (Jiang Ziya’s Daoist name was Flying Bear).  Deciphering this dream as the promise of gaining a sage advisor, Ji Chang and his men started to search for him.  Though the search was not easy, Ji Chang and his men eventually found Jiang Ziya and recruited him.  Jiang Ziya is best known for his nickname of Jiang Taigong, or Taigongwang. The naming comes from the episode where Ji Chang described Jiang Ziya as “the kind of wise man my father (Taigong) would have wanted (wang).”  With the arrival of the much hoped for military advisor, the momentum was starting to build for the revolution (Chapter 24)  (Revolution in Chinese means the change of the dynasty name, i.e., the change of the ruling house.) 

 

In the imperial capital, the Deer Terrace was completed.  The fox invited her fox relatives to a party at the newly-built tower.  The foxes disguised themselves as celestial maidens.  Minister Bi Gan was also invited to the party.  Bi Gan realized that the “celestial maidens” were nothing but demons.  He relayed this finding to Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu, who followed the foxes back to their nest.  Huang Feihu killed the foxes, burnt the nest. (Chapter 25)  He had a coat made from their furs.  Bi Gan presented the coat to Zhou Wang.  By doing this, Bi Gan and Huang Feihu made a mortal enemy out of the fox Daji who vowed to avenge her relatives. 

 

The fox invited the nine-headed pheasant, the third demon that received Nüwa’s order to shorten Zhou Wang’s reign, to join her in the harem as another concubine.  They plotted revenge against Bi Gan.  The fox pretend to be gravely sick.  The pheasant and fox told Zhou Wang that the fox urgently needed the care of a doctor of her home province of Ji.  Province of Ji was, however, too far and the doctor could not arrive in time.  Instead, the fox could be cured if Zhou Wang found her a crystal clear heart.  Crystal clear heart was a sage’s heart that had seven holes.  They said that only the soup made with such a heart would heal Daji; Bi Gan was the owner of just such a heart.  Zhou Wang ordered Bi Gan to be summoned to the court to have his heart ripped out. 

 

Through his divination reading, Jiang Ziya had known that just such a wicked scheme would fall upon Bi Gan.  Before leaving for the Western Region, therefore, Jiang Ziya had left Bi Gan a magic potion to be used in the case of extreme peril.  Bi Gan read the instruction, took the magic portion, and left for the palace.  Zhou Wang ordered Bi Gan to give his heart as the cure for Daji’s illness.  This insane demand outraged Bi Gan, who was an uncle of Zhou Wang.  Bi Gan yelled at Zhou Wang, “You tell me to give my heart!  The heart is the center of every being!  You are ordering me to die!  I do not mind dying, but I do mind that you, imbecile emperor, will believe the evil woman enough to kill me!  Let me live, and show that you still honor our ancestors!”  Zhou Wang coldly asked why Bi Gan was making such a fuss about a piece of heart.  Bi Gan shouted, “Imbecile emperor!  You have lost your way to wine and concubines and can’t see the right from the wrong!  I do not begrudge my heart!  I begrudge that I face such punishment for no crime of mine!”  Zhou Wang ordered his guards to take Bi Gan’s heart. Bi Gan yelled, “Daji is the venom!  How can I face the late king in the world of the dead!”  He called for a sword, and apologized to the late king’ spirit, saying that Zhou Wang was damming the dynasty to the ruin, but that he (Bi Gan) could not make him listen to the voice of reason.  Bi Gan, then, cut open his chest, ripped out his own heart, and walked out of the court.  (Chapter 26)  According to Jiang Ziya’s instruction for the magic portion, Bi Gan was to walk heading south from the palace, without talking to anyone, until his souls—a human soul, according to this novel, consists of ten parts, three parts that control what we call soul in English, and seven parts that control bodily function—were called back into his body. Bi Gan, however, run into a vegetable seller and talked to her, and lost the chance to regain his souls and died. 

 

A minister named Xia Zhao got deeply upset about Bi Gan's death.  Xia Zhao went to Zhou Wang and glared at him.  When Zhou Wang asked why he was glaring, Xia Zhaoreplied, "I came to slaughter my Lord!"  Zhou Wang laughed and said, "Since ancient times, subjects have no justification to kill their Lord."  Xi Zhao yelled, "Imbecile emperor!  Your not knowing dao is the justification to kill my Lord!  You do not appreciate you uncle's feelings!  Bi Gan is the imbecile emperor's uncle, Emperor Yi's brother!  And now, because of evil Daji, Bi Gan's heart is made into a soup!  You slaughtered your own uncle!  I will slaughter the imbecile emperor to make the law of the universe prevail!"  Xia Zhao hit the air.  Zhou Wang ordered the guards to kill him.  Xia Zhao said, "No need!" and jumped off the Deer Terrace.

 

Ministers gathered around the broken body of Xia Zhong.  It was to this gruesome scene Grand Tutor Wen Zhong, who had been away on the expedition against the rebellion of 72 lords of the Beihai province, came back.  The court officials told him what had happened during his absence from the capital.  The Grand Tutor was furious. 

 

As Grand Tutor and as the victorious commander of an expedition army, Wen Zhong was entitled to the full court reception.  This reception was the court officials’ chance to petition Zhou Wang.  Wen Zhong conferred with court officials and agreed upon what to demand.  With their full approval and in presence of all the court officials, Wen Zhong demanded that Zhou Wang agree to a ten-point reform plan, which included the demolition of the Deer Terrace, snake pit, and burning poles, expulsion of Daji, no more extravagant parties, execution of the eunuchs Fei Zhong and You Hun, famine relief for the populace, and restoration of righteous officers to the court offices.  Zhou Wang could not deny the demand out of hand.  Wen Zhong commanded the loyalty of army, without which he could not remain in power. 

 

While willing to grant other demands, Zhou Wang would not agree to the demolition of the Deer Terrace, execution of the eunuchs, and expulsion of Daji, and asked for more time to think things over.  While Zhou Wang was “thinking,” the news of rebellion of Eastern and Southern Regions (whose former lords were unjustly executed by Zhou Wang) reached the court. Grand Tutor Wen Zhong, only four days after returning from a long expedition, had to leave the capital for another expedition. (Chapter 27)  With Wen Zhong gone, Zhou Wang voided his previous premises, and released the eunuchs Fei Zhong and You Hun from jail, overruling the protest of Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army Huang Feihu. 

 

In the Western Region, Jiang Ziya persuaded Ji Chang to raise the army to defeat Zhou Wang, saying that it was Ji Chiang’s moral duty to rescue the people from Zhou Wang’s tyranny.  As the first target of attack, Jiang Ziya picked Chong Hou Hu, the Lord of Northern Region, on the ground that he had harmed the people most directly through his ruthless exploitation during the construction of the Deer Terrace.  The Western Region army invaded Northern Region. (Chapter 28)  Jiang Ziya sent Supreme Commander of the Army Nan Gongshi on a diplomatic mission to see Chong Hou Hu’s brother, Chong Hei Hu.  Unlike his ruthless brother, Chong Hei Hu was a moral and upright man.  Chong Hei Hu agreed that it was better to betray his brother than letting him destroy their family name through unjust exploitations of innocent people.  Chong Hei Hu would continue the family line so that his family honor would be preserved and his ancestors continued to be honored.  Thanks to the co-operation of Chong Hei Hu, Ji Chang’s army easily conquered the Chong family castle, and executed Chong Hou Hu and his son Chong Yingbiao.  The Chong castle was transferred into Chong Hei Hu’s hands. 

 

Ji Chang was no warrior, but a man who constantly worried about morality.  When the severed heads of the Chong father and son were brought to him for inspection, Ji Chiang fainted and fell mortally sick.  Realizing that he was soon to die, Ji Chang chose his second son Ji Fa as his successor and entrusted him in Jiang Ziya’s guidance.  Ji Chang passed away next day at the age of 97, and was honored with the posthumous name of Wen Wang (King of Learning) and proclaimed as the founder of the Zhou dynasty.  Ji Fa, who was left to finish the fighting, was posthumously called Wu Wang (Martial King).

 

The news of rebellion of Western and Northern Regions reached the capital.  In the twentieth year of Zhou Wang’s reign, all Four Regions were rebelling against him. (Chapter29) 

 

Daji was still plotting to avenge her fox relatives.  Bi Gan had been eliminated.  Huang Feihu, however, was harder to get at.  Once she tried to assassinate him herself, but was spotted by his magic golden hawk and repulsed. (Chapter 28)  Now she hatched another plan. 

 

Huang Feihu’s wife, Jia Shi, had the custom of visiting Empress Huang, who was her sister-in-law, once a year on the occasion of the New Year.  On the New Year’s Day of the twenty-first year of Zhou Wang’s rule, Jia Shi, on her way to Empress Huang’s residence, was intercepted by Daji.  Daji insisted that Jia Shi paid her a visit.  Because of the fox’s position as the Empress, albeit without the approval of court officials, Jia Shi could not refuse this invitation.  Once in the Star Picking Chamber, Daji forced Jia Shi to become her sworn sister.  Jia Shi politely begged to be excused, but the fox kept her until Zhou Wang showed up.  The fox, then, suggested that Zhou Wang met Jia Shi.  Zhou Wang demurred, saying that the custom dictated that the lords never met the subjects’ wives.  But the fox insisted, saying that since Jia Shi had become her sworn sister, there was no offense.  Zhou Wang walked up to Jia Shi and put a hand on her shoulder.  With her honor thus threatened, Jia Shi yelled at Zhou Wang, “You, imbecile emperor!  You are there thanks to my husband’s protection, and now you try to dishonor me!  That venom Daji set up a trap for me!”   She called out to her husband, “General Huang!  I have to sacrifice myself for your honor!  Oh, my poor three sons!” and threw herself from the balcony to die in honor. 

 

Hearing the news of her sister-in-law’s death, Western Empress Huang, who was highly praised for her sweet nature and elegance, finally lost temper.  She rushed to the Star Picking Chamber and raged at Zhou Wang.  “Imbecile emperor!  To whom do you owe your reign!  My brother toils day and night to fight and keep the empire in peace for you!  And on this New Year’s Day, you have to violate the sacred trust between the lord and his subjects!  You, imbecile emperor!  You disgrace the late king!”   Zhou Wang could say nothing.  Empress Huang whipped around to face the fox.  “You, venom!  You have led the Lord astray, and now you have destroyed my sister’s body!  I will do the same to you!”  Empress Huang struck Daji’s face.  Empress Huang was a woman of martial family.  Her blow was powerful.  The fox fell, and cried out to Zhou Wang for help.  Zhou Wang said, “Your sister died because I put a hand on her, not because of Daji.”  Empress Huang retorted, “Fine, then you take the venom’s place, imbecile emperor!  Die and make up for my sister’s death!”  Enraged by this unexpected rebuke, Zhou Wang grabbed Empress Huang and threw her down from the balcony.

 

Huang Feihu had been celebrating the New Year at home with his two brothers, Huang Feibiao and Huang Feiao, as well as with four sworn brothers, Huang Ming, Zhou Ji, Wu Qian, and Long Huan.  The news of the double deaths of his wife and sister stunned Huang Feihu.  Orphaned three boys wailed for their mother.  Huang Ming immediately demanded to rebel.  But Huang Feihu replied that he could not rebel just because of a woman, when his family had such a long and distinguished history in imperial service; to do so would dishonor the family name.  His sworn brothers, however, did not agree.  They taunted Huang Feihu, saying that Huang Feihu would rather suffer the indignity of not avenging his wife than giving up the fine title of Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army.  Thus provoked, Huang Feihu agreed to rebel.  In order to make sure that Huang Feihu would not change his mind, Zhou Ji and Huang Ming took him to the palace on the pretext of consoling the wandering souls of two recently deceased women.  Once at the court, they challenged Zhou Wang for a battle. 

 

Zhou Wang appeared to face the challengers.  Huang Feihu, being an extremely loyal man, felt uncomfortable facing his master this way.  Seeing his hesitation, Zhou Ji dealt the first blow to Zhou Wang.  Once engaged in battle, the three mighty brothers soundly beat Zhou Wang.  Huang Feihu, however, refused to finish off Zhou Wang, and left the capital with their families, soldiers, and horses.

 

This time, even Zhou Wang knew that he had made a serious mistake.  Learning that Huang Feihu had left, people of the capital got scared and few walked on the streets.  Court officials were at the end of their wits. (Chapter 30)  To their relief, Grand Tutor Wen Zhong returned to the capital unexpectedly early.  He had been victorious in his expedition against the rebellious Eastern and Southern Regions.  Wen Zhong recommended Zhou Wang to call Huang Feihu back into service.  With his advice accepted, Wen Zhong went in person to pursue Huang Feihu and his company.  After crossing the Yellow River, Wen Zhong nearly caught up with the Huangs.  As it was a part of the Kunlun Mountain Daoists’ plan to have the Huang family join the new Zhou army, Daoist master Qingxu Daode Zhenjun intervened and hid them in fog, and Wen Zhong lost track of them. (Chapter 31) 

 

The empire had great fortresses at key points of transportation.  In order to reach the Western Region, the Huangs needed to pass through five great fortresses.  Huang Feihu and his company passed the first fortress without fight, because Huang Feihu’s former retainer let them slip through.  At the second fortress, however, Cheng Tong, the general in charge, was waiting for the Huangs.  In a battle against this Daoist trained general, Huang Feihu suffered a mortal injury. Qingxu Daode Zhenjun came to their rescue.  He sent his student Huang Tianhua down to the assist Huang Feihu.  Huang Tianhua was the second son of Huang Feihu, who had fallen into water when he was three years old and had been given up for dead.  As it happened, Qingxu Daode Zhenjun had saved him from the water and reared him with Daoist education.  Now, he ordered Huang Tianhua to save Huang Feihu’s life with a magic portion and help his party pass the fortress. (Chapter 32)  Huang Tianhua healed his father, soundly beat Chen Tong, and let the Huangs pass the fortress gate.  His mission thus accomplished, Tianhua went back to his master (to rejoin the Huangs later). 

 

At the third gate, Huang Feihu and his company were received courteously and offered the night’s lodging.  In the middle of the night, Huang Feihu’s late wife Jia Shi’s ghost appeared to Huang Feihu to warn that they were about to be burnt alive.  Saved by this warning, the Huangs broke out the trap and left the fortress safe and sound. (Chapter 32) 

 

The fourth gate was defended by Huang Feihu’s own father, Huang Gun.  Huang Gun was furious at his renegade son and demanded him to surrender to Zhou Wang immediately.  Huang Feihu’s four sworn brothers quickly came up with a plan.  They told Huang Gun that they were intending to make Feihu surrender but needed his fatherly words to convince him.  This ploy secured them the night’s safe stay.  During the night, the brothers set fire to the food and fodder under Huang Gun’s care.  Huang Gun’ fate was sealed.  Zhou Wang would execute him for his failure to safeguard his charge.  Distraught, Huang Gun agreed to join his son rather than suffering such a dishonorable death. 

 

Huang Feihu and his companions reached the fifth and last fortress.  There they found a powerful Daoist named Yuhua waiting for them.  By the use of his magic, Yuhua easily captured some of the Huangs. (Chapter 33)   Homunculus Nezha was sent to rescue the Huangs from this crisis.  Guarded by Nezha, the Huangs finally reached Western Region and joined the Zhou army. (Chapter 34) 

 

With Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army and Prime Minister gone, the defense and running of the country fell heavily upon the shoulders of Grand Tutor Wen Zhong.  The Lords of Eastern and Southern Regions kept trying to rebel, and Western Region (Zhou) was now a clear and present danger to the ruling imperial house.  Outraged by the news that former Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army joined the Zhou army, Wen Zhong ordered his trusted general Chao Tian to lead the expedition army of 30,000 against the Western Region.  This backfired, since Huang Feihu, who knew Chao Tian well, managed to persuade captured Chao Tian and his brother Chao Lei to surrender and join the Zhou army.  The Chao brothers had their families left in the capital who could face execution if the news of their surrender reached Wen Zhong.  Jiang Ziya gave Chao Lei a scheme to get the families out of the capital. (Chapter 35)  Chao Lei went back to the capital and complained to Wen Zhong that his army was not getting enough food and supply.  Wen Zhong authorized Chao Lei to take food and supply from the capital.  Chao Lei got their family members mixed in the transporters of food and supply, to leave the capital safely and join the Zhou army. 

 

Grand Tutor Wen Zhong was taken aback by the fact that he was tricked.  He had a well-earned reputation of being extraordinarily sharp and wise and was unaccustomed to falling for tricks.  He had once studied Daoism under a Jie sect Daoist master named Jinling Shengmu (Holy Mother of Golden Spirits) for 50 years, but was sent back to the human world to serve the Shang dynasty.  He had served three generations of the Shang emperors.  Though he possessed extensive knowledge of Daoist magic and had friends and acquaintances in the Daoist world, Wen Zhong normally did not resort to Daoist magic in human battles.  He was, however, starting to suspect that Daoist magic was used against him.  When he found out through divination readings that Jiang Ziya who had studied on the Kunlun Mountain was plotting against him, Wen Zhong decided to use magic in battles.  He sent a powerful Daoist general named Zhang Guifang to the Western Region to counter Jiang Ziya. (Chapter 36) 

 

Jiang Ziya also had some reservation about resorting to the use of magic in human battles.  Jiang Ziya, therefore, went to the Kunlun Mountain to ask for some guidance.  He was given the name list of those who were to become lesser gods.  Deciphering from the list that the battles in the human world and deities’ world would intersect, Jiang Ziya also decided to use Daoist magic in battles. 

 

On his way back from the Kunlun Mountain, Jiang Ziya was intercepted by Daoist Shen Gongbao who used to be Jiang Ziya’s fellow student.  Shen Gongbao wanted to keep the world as it was and tried to persuade Jiang Ziya to side with the Shang dynasty.  Jiang Ziya would not hear such a proposal.  Shen Gongbao swore to be Jiang Ziya’s enemy and started to plot against him. 

 

Back in the Western Region, Jiang Ziya ordered homunculus Nezha to defeat Zhang Guifang by using his magic weapons. (Chapter 36)  Zhang Guifang suffered a grave injury and wrote an urgent letter to Wen Zhong, asking for reinforcement.  This greatly surprised Wen Zhong, who had full confidence in Zhang Guifang's ability.  Realizing that Zhang Guifang needed more Daoist help, Wen Zhong solicited help from the Great Four of Nine Dragon Island who were the Jie sect Daoists and his friends. (Chapter 37)  The Great Four showed up at Zhang Guifang’s camp and offered assistance.  The Great Four’s arrival invited the rival Chang sect’s Daoists to join the fight.  The Great Four lost and perished. (Chapters 38-39) 

 

Jiang Ziya made the youngest son of Huang family, still preteen Huang Tianxiang, challenge Zhang Guifang.  Huang Tianxiang sparred with Zhang Guifang using a long spear. (Long weapons such as spears allow those of small statues to fight effectively against bigger opponents.)  Zhang Guifang found Huang Tianxiang a surprisingly hard opponent to beat.  When Zhang Guifang and his army got thoroughly demoralized by the general’s inability to beat a little boy, Jiang Ziya ordered the rest of the army to attack.  The brothers Chao Tian and Chao Lei, who earlier had abandoned their expedition and surrendered to the Zhou army, closed in on to capture Zhang Guifang.  Infuriated Zhang Guifang cursed them as traitors but saw no way to escape the capture.  Zhang Guifang called out to Zhou Wang, apologizing for being unable to complete the mission, and chopped off his own head to avoid getting caught, and thus serving his emperor to death. 

 

Receiving the report of the Great Four’s demise, Wen Zhong sent another expedition army under the command of General Lu Xiong to the Western Region.  Zhou Wang decided to send the eunuchs Fei Zhong and You Hun as supervisors of the expedition. (Chapter39)  Jiang Ziya used his magic power to blast blizzard across the Shang army, froze many to death, and captured Lu Xiong, Fei Zhong and You Hun.  Wen Zhong, then, sent his trump card, the mighty Four Brothers of the Mo (Devil) Family to defeat the Zhou army.  The Four Brothers’ bodies were immune to normal weapons and they possessed powerful magical weapons.  Seeing how formidable these opponents were, Qingxu Daode Zhenjun sent down his student Huang Tianhua, the second son of the Huang family, to the rescue. (Chapter 40)  With super secret magic weapons his master had given him for this purpose, Huang Tianhua eliminated the Four Brothers, and saved his family for the second time. 

 

With the rebellions in Eastern and Southern Regions again successfully brought under control, Grand Tutor Wen Zhong was very much looking forward to the news that the Four Brothers conquered Western Region.  Upon receiving the news to the contrary, Wen Zhong decided that he himself had to lead a massive expedition army of 300,000 against Western Region.(Chapter 41) 

 

Though having scored an initial win, Wen Zhong was then dealt a crushing defeat by Jiang Ziya. (Chapters 42-43)  Wen Zhong resorted to seeking help from his Jie sect Daoist friends.  Ten Jie sect Daoist masters gathered and opened ten magic formations at the human battleground to challenge the Chang sect Daoists who were backing Jiang Ziya and the Zhou army.  The Jie sect Daoists also cast a death curse upon Jiang Ziya.  Jiang Ziya's souls left his body.  His wandering souls were discovered by the Chang sect Daoists’ scouts and gently led to the Kunlun Mountain where Daoist masters restored them back into his body. (Chapter 44)  Twelve Chang sect Daoists masters, then, left the mountain to destroy the magic formations the Jie sect Daoists had laid.  The human battles and Daoist masters' battle concurrently ensued. The magic battle escalated to such an extent that Taishang Laojun (Laozi), who usually stayed away from such messy affairs, had to intervene to end the battles by exterminating the Jie sect Daoists. (Chapters 44-51) 

 

After the ten Jie sect Daoist masters lost, Wen Zhong tried to retreat to the capital with the remaining soldiers.  He was intercepted and terminated by a Chang sect Daoist named Yun Zhongzi.  The renegade Daoist She Gongbao, who wanted to keep the Shang dynasty in power, swore revenge upon Jiang Ziya.  Before heading to the Qi Mountain to be installed as a lesser god, Wen Zhong appeared as a ghost in Zhou Wang’s dream, regretted that he had lost, and pleaded him to trust other wise men to assist him as he could no longer be of service.  Bewildered Zhou Wang told of the apparition to Daji who dismissed it as a mere bad dream.  (Chapter 52) 

 

But Grand Tutor was indeed gone.  The defense of the dynasty now fell on the shoulders of Lord Deng Jiu, who was in charge of the Three Mountains Fortress.  He had a secret weapon in his warrioress daughter Chanyu whose extraordinary beauty never failed to dazzle men into defeat.  Through the intervention of Daoist masters, this rare beauty ended up in marring a midget Daoist named Tu Xingsun who was a general in the Zhou army.  Jiang Ziya, through Tu Xingsun, persuaded Chanyu that Lord Deng Jiu should join the cause of usurping Zhou Wang.  Chanyu pleaded to her father to change the side so that she did not have to be torn between her husband and her father.  Lord Deng Jiu gave in to his precious daughter’s plea and joined the Zhou army. (Chapter 53-56)  (Note: Despite the official Confucian preference for sons, Chinese literature is full of fathers who unabashedly dote on their daughters.  In general, patriarchal men seem to hold double standard for their wives and daughters.  They may treat their wives like slaves and spend their time and money in womanizing, but do their utmost to protect their favorite daughters from such treatment by their husbands.) 

 

After Lord Deng Jiu switched his political allegiance, Lord Hu Su, the father of real Daji, received the order to subjugate the Western Region.  Lord Hu Su was given this assignment because of the new eunuch pair, Fei Lian and O Lai, who replaced the previous evil eunuch pair, Fei Zhong and You Hun.  (Shiji lists the eunuchs' names as O Lai and Fei Chong.  Creation of Lesser Gods invented two more.)  Though Fei Lian and O Lai intended to make Hu Su pay for his refusal to bribe them, this appointment actually pleased Lord Hu Su.  He had been mortified by what his “daughter” had been doing to the country.  Su Hu, therefore, welcomed this assignment as his chance to reclaim the honor of his family.

 

Because Su Hu was well known for his uprightness, Jiang Ziya recommended Huang Feihu to negotiate with Su Hu.  Su Hu's son Su Qian and his advisor Zheng Lun had no interest in such a proposal.  Zheng Lun had once studied under a Jie sect Daoist master and could use Daoist magic.  By the use of magic power, Zheng Lun captured Huang Feihu.  Trying to rescue his father, young Huang Tianxiang was also captured by Zheng Lun.  

 

By this time, witnessing the might of Jiang Ziya's generals, Su Hu started to think of surrendering to Wu Wang, to avoid meaningless casualties on the both sides.  Su Qian and Zheng Lun wouldn't hear of it.  Su Hu quietly feasted the Huang father and son, and let them go.  Su Hu wrote a letter to Jiang Ziya, to plan an attack which would end in the Zhou army capturing Zheng Lun (so that he would have to agree to the surrender). 

 

The renegade Daoist Shen Gongbao sent his friend Lu Yue to assist Zheng Lun. (Chapter 57)  Lue Yue's use of Jie sect magic invited the involvement of the Chang sect Daoist masters and Lu Yue was defeated. (Chapter 58)  Daoist master Chi Jingzi sent Zhou Wang’s younger son Yin Hong, whom he saved from the execution and reared with Daoist education, down to the human world to help Jiang Ziya.  Yin Hong fully intended to avenge his mother by killing Zhou Wang, and made a vow to that effect.  The renegade Daoist Shen Gongbao, however, intercepted him and persuaded him that the real killer of his mother was not Zhou Wang but Daji, and that it was morally wrong to fight against his own father.  Yin Hong changed his mind and joined Su Hu’s army to fight against the Zhou army.  As Yin Hong broke his irrevocable vow to fight against Zhou Wang, his master Chi Jingzi was forced to eliminate him. (Chapter 59-61) 

 

After Yin Hong’s fall, Lord Su Hu and his army surrendered to the Zhou army.  Jiang Ziya told Su Hu that the woman who had been ruining the country was not his daughter Daji but one-thousand-year-old fox who took her shape.  This news saddened Hu Su, for his precious daughter was missing and probably dead.  But it greatly relieved his distress over her behavior.  The news that Hu Su surrendered to the Zhou army reached the capital.  Hu Su’s betrayal should have disqualified his “daughter” Daji from serving Zhou Wang, but he would not hear of such suggestion. (Chapter 62) 

 

It was Yin Hong’s elder brother Yin Jiao’s turn to be sent down to help Jiang Ziya.  Not knowing what had happened to his brother, Yin Hong fully intended to avenge his mother and made an irrevocable vow to fight Zhou Wang.  But the renegade Daoist Shen Gongbao again intercepted the prince and managed to turn him against Jiang Ziya, this time by telling him of his brother’s fall.  Yin Jiao decided that avenging his late brother was a higher priority than fighting Zhou Wang.  Some Jie sect Daoists joined Yin Jiao, and they set fire to the Zhou army camp.  A beautiful female Daoist by the name of Long-ji Gongzhu came to the Zhou army’s rescue. She used her rare fire-containment magic and thus earned her place as another dazzling beautiful warrioress of the Zhou army. (Chapter 63) 

 

As Yin Jiao, just as his brother had done, broke his irrevocable vow, his master Guang Chengzi was forced to eliminate Yin Jiao.  Because he had endowed Yin Jiao with powerful magical weapons, Guang Chengzi had to get help from other mighty Daoist masters in order to eliminate Yin Jiao and his Jie sect Daoist helpers.  Yin Jiao was captured.  Wu Wang protested against executing the Crown Prince of Yin, but Jiang Ziya overruled him.  Jiang Ziya's assistant Wuji, a commoner and wood cutter, beheaded Yin Jiao with a magic hoe.  Yin Jiao was so angry that, before heading to the Qi Mountain to be installed as a lesser god, he appeared as a ghost to Zhou Wang and told him that he had been beheaded and urged him to mend his ways in order to stop Jiang Ziya's plan (of dynasty change). Daji again dismissed this appearance as a mere bad dream.(Chapter 64-66) 

 

With all the opponents eliminated, the Zhou army prepared for the expedition to the imperial capital.  A general named Hong Jin challenged the Zhou army but the celestial beauty Long-ji Gongzhu handily defeated his army.  Jiang Ziya made captured Hong Jin marry Long-ji Gongzhu, to ensure that Hong Jin would sincerely submit to Wu Wang.  Their wedding was held on the third day of the third month of the thirty-fifth year of Zhou Wang’s reign, twelve days before the date Jiang Ziya decided the starting date for the campaign to remove Zhou Wang. (Chapter 67) 

 

The designated day came, and Wu Wang gave the order to start marching toward the imperial capital.  With so many former imperial army units having joined them, the army was now 600,000 strong.  Five great fortresses stood between the Zhou army and the capital. (Chapter 68) 

 

The Zhou army conquered the first great fortress. (Chapter 69-76)  While the Zhou army was marching toward the imperial capital, Daoists’ battles started to heat up again.  The renegade Daoist Shen Gongbao was trying to get the Jie sect Daoists to stop the Zhou army.  Influenced by war-mongering members of his own sect, Tongtian Jiaozhu, the head of the Jie sect, decided to go for all out magic battle against the Chang sect in pursuit of the Jie sect domination of the Daoist world.  Tongtian Jiaozhu opened several magic formations and fought formidably against Three Pure Ones.  The magic battle reached such a drastic level that it threatened the integrity of the universe.  Taishang Laojun (Laozi) again had to intervene to make sure that things did not get out of hand. (Chapter 77-78)  

 

Zhou Wang was still living in debauchery with the three female demons, the one-thousand-year-old fox, nine-headed pheasant, and the sprit of zither-shaped stone that had restored its power.  The demons talked Zhou Wang out of listening to the war reports, claiming that all the bad news were just the ploy to depress him.  When a messenger arrived from the second great fort to request reinforcement troops for the fortress, the demons talked Zhou Wang into killing the messenger, so that no more such “false” report would be brought to him.  Zhou Wang's uncle Jizi tried to convince the news was true, but in vain. (Chapter 78) 

 

The Zhou army conquered the second great fortress, and continued on to the third great fortress. (Chapter 79) 

 

The renegade Daoist Shen Gongbao's friend Lu Yue showed up to lend a helping hand.  He lost and the third great fortress fell to the Zhou army. (Chapter 80)  At the firth great fortress, the Zhou army was hit by magic plague.  Shennong, one of the Emperors of Heaven, supplied the magic remedy. (Chapter 81) 

 

In the meanwhile, Tongtian Jiaozhu, the leader of the Jie sect, decided to go for another all-out battle.  Defeating Tongtian Jiaozhu required the help of the Buddhist deities Zhunti Daoren and Jie-yin Daoren.  The battle ended up in a massacre of the Jie sect Daoists.  The renegade Daoist Shen Gongbao was also captured and imprisoned under the North Sea as the punishment for plotting against his own sect.  The Buddhist deity Jie-yin Daoren made the leaders of the two Daoist sects swallow magic potions that would cause terrible pain if they would ever quarrel again.  The war of Daoists thus came to its conclusion. (Chapter 81-84) 

 

The Zhou army conquered the fourth great fortress, and was now besieging the fifth and last great fortress.  This time, even Zhou Wang agreed to send enforcement troops.  The two generals who were put in charge of the troops, however, decided to join the Zhou army, and the last fortress fell. (Chapter 84-85) 

 

After defeating a small defense fort of Shengchi (Chapter 86-87), the Zhou army crossed the Yellow River.  During the crossing, a white fish jumped into Wu Wang’s boat, as a sign of Heaven’s will that Wu Wang would be installed as the Emperor.  After having fought many battles and lost many good warriors (including the lady warriors Chanyu and Long-ji Gongzhu, their husbands, and most of the Huang family), in the thirty-seventh year of Zhou Wang’s reign, the Zhou army arrived the city of Mengjin to meet up with other Great Lords.  The armies of the Lords of Northern and Southern Regions had arrived, but Lord of Eastern Region’ army had been stalled at one of great fortresses along the way.  Jiang Ziya decided to wait for the Eastern Region army with a set deadline. (Chapter 88) 

 

Even when the Zhou army was a stone’s throw away from the capital, Zhou Wang kept living in debauchery.  On a cold winter day, Zhou Wang and the demons were having a party at the Deer Terrace.  From the balcony, they saw an old farmer and a boy crossing a frozen river.  Zhou Wang idly wondered why the boy was running while the old man was walking.  Daji replied that it was all because the difference of the marrow liquid amount; the old man was born when their parents were still young, so he received plenty of bone marrow liquid to keep him comfortably warm, while the boy, who was born when his parents were old, had only little liquid to keep him warm.  When Zhou Wang doubted the veracity of this explanation, the demons persuade him to crack their shinbones open, to see for himself.  The farmer and boy were caught, and had their shinbones cracked.  When the demons spotted a pregnant woman, Daji predicted that the baby was a boy and facing toward the mother’s back in the womb.  The demons proposed to cut up pregnant woman’s womb to prove if they were right.  Zhou Wang had the woman’s womb cut up. 

 

The next day peasant women came to the court and wailed until the ministers came out.  Zhou Wang’s uncles Jizi and Weizi, and Zhou Wang's brothers Weizi Qi and Weizi Yan asked the women why they were so distressed.  The women told them that Zhou Wang had the farmer’s and boy’s shinbones cracked, and cut up the pregnant woman’s womb for fun.  Jizi got furious.  “Imbecile emperor!  When the enemy army is approaching and the dynasty’s fate is at stake, he commits such atrocities!  I have to admonish him!” 

 

Jizi went to see Zhou Wang.  He burst into tears, and said,” Since Cheng Tang founded the dynasty, tens of generations have ruled, and, now, we have come to this day!  You neglect your duty and commit such atrocities.  How could I face the late king!”  Zhou Wang retorted that what he did was not worth making a fuss about.  Jizi wailed,” You do not respect Heaven, you do not care to rule by virtue, so Heaven is angry and the people are rebelling!  Now the empire’s 800 lords have gathered in Mengjin.  Once they arrive at the capital, there is no more hope!  I just cannot bear to see the house of Shang fall!  The dynasty name will change, and the palace, the capital, and the people will fall into another man’s hand!  When you follow the vile women’s words and crack the subjects’ bones and tear up a pregnant woman’s womb, the Zhou army does not even need to fight!  The people will gladly give the capital to them!  It is inevitable that you, the twenty-eighth emperor of the Shang dynasty, will suffer a death at the hands of the empire’s lords!  How can you stand this?”  Zhou Wang shouted back, "Old jerk!  You curse me with the talk of fall!  This is treason!”  He ordered the guards to beat Jizi to death.  Jizi shouted, “I do not mind dying.  I just mind that the imbecile emperor will destroy the dynasty and I cannot change the fate!” 

 

“No!” shouted Weizi, Weizi Qi, and Weizi Yan.  They wept and pleaded Zhou Wang to pardon Jizi.  Zhou Wang decided to strip Jizi of his rank to make him a commoner.  Daji protested that the punishment was too lenient, and proposed to make Jizi a slave.  So Zhou Wang made him a slave, with his hair shaven.  Shocked by the way Zhou Wang treated his own uncle, Zhou Wang’s brothers Weizi Qi and Weizi Yan decided to leave the country, so that when the dynasty fell, there would be sons left to continue honoring the ancestors.  They took the family spirit tablet from the ancestral hall and fled during the night. (Chapter 89) 

 

The Lord of Eastern Region finally arrived. (Chapter 93)  On March ninth in the thirty-seventh year of Zhou Wang’s reign, the 800 lords of the empire held their meeting.  The lords elected Wu Wang as their overlord, and headed toward the imperial capital in order to remove Zhou Wang.  The army was now 1,600,000 strong. 

 

The Zhou army reached and besieged the capital.  The capital was well defended and the siege dragged on. (Chapter 94-95)  Jiang Ziya resorted to an information campaign.  He sent hundreds of leaflets to the common people of the capital.  The leaflets said that the Zhou army was there to rescue the people from Zhou Wang’s tyranny; that the Zhou army did not wish to inflict the ravage of war upon the people of the capital, and called for the people to open the capital’s gates from inside, so that the Zhou army could enter without incurring civilian casualties.  The gates of the capital’s defense wall were opened from the inside in the middle of the night to welcome the besieging army in. 

 

The Zhou army swiftly besieged the palace.  The next morning, Jiang Ziya and the lords asked to see Zhou Wang.  Zhou Wang appeared, dressed in full imperial battle gear.  Jiang Ziya explained why they were there, counting the ten reasons why Zhou Wang had lost the right to be the emperor and should be removed: Zhou Wang lost virtue and harmed human morality through his debauchery; Zhou Wang baselessly persecuted the Empress, Mother of the Country, and condemned her to a death by gouging an eye out and burning hands, and installed another woman as the Empress without the official approval of the court; Zhou Wang ordered the execution of his crown princes, thus endangering the succession of the house; Zhou Wang betrayed the trust of his subjects by killing many good officials, including his own uncle Bi Gan, with no reason; Zhou Wang killed Lords of Eastern Southern Region through trickery and had their bodies hacked to pieces; Zhou Wang abused the burning poles to silence good officials and killed many harem maids by sending them into the snake pit; Zhou Wang wasted the wealth and people of the country in order to build the extravagant Deer Terrace; Zhou Wang let Daji manipulate him into killing Huang Feihu’s wife and Empress Huang; Zhou Wang treated his subjects as toys, by cracking the shin bones of farmers and cutting open a pregnant woman’s womb; and Zhou Wang wasted away his time with his three concubines in drinking and carnal indulgence, while committing atrocious acts of taking a man’s heart to make a soup.  At the conclusion of Jiang Ziya’s speech, all the lords shouted in unison, “We will punish this despicable imbecile emperor!” 

The Lord of Eastern Region Jiang Wenhuan, the brother of late Empress Jiang and the son of slain Lord Jiang Huanchu, was the first to strike at Zhou Wang, vowing to avenge his father and sister.  The Lord of Southern Region E Shun followed the suit, also vowing to avenge his slain father.  The battle commenced.  Wu Wang complained that challenging the emperor this way did not seem morally right, but Jiang Ziya let the battle ensue.  Once a famed warrior, Zhou Wang still fought formidably.  But when Jiang Wenhuan’s whip landed hard on his back, he was forced to retreat so that he would not be captured and suffer a humiliating death at the hands of enemies. (Chapter 95) 

 

Zhou Wang saw his three demon concubines, and told them that he would kill himself.  He had several rounds of wine with them. Demons armed themselves and tried to fight their way out of the siege, but repulsed.  Demons then tried to escape by using magic, but were caught by goddess Nüwa and handed over to Jiang Ziya.  The three demons attempted to attack the Zhou army but were repulsed.  Jiang Ziya issued the order to have three demons arrested.  Demons tried to escape by using magic, but were caught by Nüwa and handed over to Jiang Ziya.  Jiang Ziya put them on trial and executed them as the culprit of Zhou Wang’s decent into tyranny. (Chapter 96)

 

Zhou Wang retreated to the Star Picking Chamber.  Cold wind blew and the ghosts of Minister Mei Bo (who was the first one to be burnt alive by the pole), Empress Jiang, Western Empress Huang, and Huang Feihu’s wife Jia Shi appeared in turn and cursed Zhou Wang, the imbecile emperor.  After the apparitions were gone, Zhou Wang summoned Zu Sheng who was in charge of the chamber, and told him to set the fire to the chamber so that he could die.  Zu Sheng begged Zhou Wang three times to change his mind and escape.  Zhou Wang angrily denied his plea, put on a white lobe and full imperial accessories and calmly sat down.  Faithful Zu Sheng left the chamber, piled up hay, set fire, and wailed for his master.  Zhou Wang perished in the flame and became a lesser god. (Chapter 97) 

Though the Immortal and Longevity Palace burnt itself down, other parts of the imperial palace escaped fire.  Jiang Ziya ordered a search for Zhou Wang’s remains so that he could be properly buried with imperial honor.  The sight of Zhou Wang’s palace, with its snake pit, poles for pole burning, wine pool, and the trees with dried meat dangling from their branches, mortified Wu Wang.  Wu Wang proposed that they should demolish the place and use the palace’s treasures to aid the suffering populace.  Jiang Ziya approved this proposal.  They also discovered that Zhou Wang left a son, Wu Jeng.  Jiang Ziya recommended executing the boy in order to eliminate future worries, but Wu Wang refused, saying that the boy should not be punished for his father’s act. 

A ritual tower was build to celebrate the auspicious event of dynasty change and to honor Heaven.  Wu Wang was proclaimed the Emperor.  Celebratory gifts of food and money were distributed to the populace, and people rejoiced.  Wu Wang officially pardoned Zhou Wang’s orphan Wu Jeng, gave him a small fief so that he could continue his family line and honor his ancestors. (This is to show that he ruled by ren.)  Wu Wang also pardoned the eunuchs Fei Lian and O Lai, despite their shameless exploitation of their position under Zhou Wang.  Wu Wang commended them for keeping the imperial seals safe for Wu Wang. (Actually, Fei Lian and O Lai had stolen imperial seal and other treasure but had to give them to Wu Wang in the hope of advancing their petty career.) (Chapter 98) 

 

Wu Wang decided to abandon the Shang capital and rule from his own capital in the Western Region (which is near the present day city of Xian.).  Jiang Ziya accompanied Wu Wang.  On his way, Jiang Ziya stopped at the Qi Mountain to perform the ceremony to finalize the installment of 500 lesser gods.  To complete this mission, Jiang Ziya took away the souls of the eunuchs Fei Lian and O Lai as the punishment for all the petty evil deeds they had committed and made them into the five-hundredth lesser god in charge of cleaning. (Chapter 99) 

 

Wu Wang rewarded his many brothers and loyal subjects by installing them as lords.  Jiang Ziya was made the Duke of Qi and thus became the founder of the Dukedom of Qi. The Zhou dynasty restored peace and prosperity and lasted 800 years. (Chapter 100)  Thus ends the story.

 

References
许仲琳, 封神演义 (Creation of Lesser Gods)
Tsutomu Anou, trans., Houshin Engi (Creation of Lesser Gods), 3 vols. (Tokyo: Kodan-sha, 1989).
Zu Zizhong, trans, Creation of Gods, 2 vols. (Beijing: New World Press, 1992).
Sheridan Prasso, The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, & Other Fantasies of the Exotic Orient (New York: PublicAffairs, 2005).
Ray Huang, 1587: A Year of No Significance (New Haven/ London: Yale University Press, 1981), p. 29. (On the Harem system.)
Joseph W. Esherick, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising (Berkeley/ Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987).

 

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