Episode 162: Investiture Of The Gods 1 – Shang Dynasty

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We will start the series of the stories from the book Investiture of the Gods 封神演义. We have mentioned the book a few times. It is a 16th century Chinese novel in the gods-and demons genre during the Ming dynasty 明朝 and combines history, folklore, and fantasy. The story is set in the period of the end of Shang dynasty 商朝 between the 1600 BC ~ 1046 BC and the beginning of the Zhou dynasty 周朝 between the year 1046 BC~ 256 BC, around 3000 years ago.

In episode 136 Nine-tailed fox spirits in our podcast, we talked about the character DaJi 妲己 from the book who is an evil nine-tailed fox spirit in a beautiful woman’s form. And the book starts with why DaJi is in the realm of human.

At the beginning of the book, it says, the Shang dynasty 商朝 replaced the Xia dynasty 夏朝 and ruled China for nearly 650 years. The Shang court produced 28 kings of whom King Zhou 纣王was the last.

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Before King Zhou ascended the throne, he and his father, King Di Yi 帝乙, and many civil and military officials were walking in the royal garden one day, viewing the blooming peonies, when suddenly the Flying Cloud Pavilion collapsed and a beam flew towards them. Rushing forward, King Zhou caught the beam and replaced it in a display of miraculous strength. Deeply impressed, Prime Minister Shang Rong 商容 and Supreme Minister Mei Bo 梅伯 advised King Di Yi to name him Crown Prince.

When King Di Yi passed away after 30 years on the throne, Crown Prince was immediately crowned king to rule the country in his father’s place. King Zhou established his capital at ZhaoGe 朝歌. The king had the Queen Jiang 姜氏 and two concubines- Concubine Huang 黄氏 and Concubine Yang 杨氏. They were all virtuous and mild and gentle in manner.

King Zhou ruled his country in peace, and was respected by the neighboring states. His people worked happily in their different professions, and his peasants were especially bless by favorable winds and rains. The four dukes were: the East Grand Duke Jiang Huanchu 姜桓楚 , the South Grand Duke ChongYu 崇禹, the West Grand Duke Ji Chang  姬昌 and the North Grand Duke Chong Houhu 崇侯虎.

One day when King Zhou was holding court, Shang Rong stepped out from the right row, knelt and said, “Your humble Prime Minister Shang Rong begs to report something urgent to Your Majesty. Tomorrow is the 15th day of the third month, the birthday of Goddess Nv Wa 女娲, and your Majesty should honor her and hold a ceremony at her temple.” We have talked about Goddess Nv Wa in our first episode, the goddess that create the universe and human being in Chinese mythology. Please check the episode if you are interested.

“What has Goddess Nv Wa done that a great king such as myself is obliged to go to her temple and worship her?” King Zhou asked.

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“Goddess Nv Was has been a great goddess since ancient times and possess saintly virtues. When the enraged demon Gong Gong 共工 knocked his head against Buzhou Mountain 不周山, the northwest section of Heaven collapsed and the earth sunk down in the southeast. At this critical moment, Nv Wa came to the rescue and mended Heaven with multi-colored stones she had obtained and refined from a mountain,” Shang Rong explained. “She’s performed this great service for the people, who’ve built temples to honor her in gratitude. ZhaoGe is fortunate to have the change to worship her. She’ll ensure peace and health to the people and prosperity to the country. She’ll bring us timely wind and rain and keep us free from famine and war. She’s proper guardian angel for both the people and the nation. So I make bold to suggest that your Majesty honor her tomorrow.”

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“You’re right. I’ll do as you advise.” Returning to his residential palace, King Zhou ordered a notice be issued that His Majesty, together with his civil and military officials, were to worship Goddess Nv Wa at her temple the next day.

The author commented, “I would have been better if he have been better if he hadn’t gone at all, for it was this very pilgrimage that caused the fall of the Shang dynasty, making it impossible for the people to live in peace. It was as if the king had tossed a fishing line into a big river and unexpectedly caught numerous disasters leading to the loss of both his throne and his life.”

 

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封神演义 Investiture of the Gods

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