We will continue the series of the stories from the book Investiture of the Gods 封神演义. 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.
The King Zhou 纣王 and his entourage left the palace and made their way through the south gate of the capital. Every house they passed was decorated with bright silk, and the streets were scented for the king by burning incense.
Reaching the Temple of Goddess Nv Wa, King Zhou left his royal carriage and went to the main hall, where he burned incense sticks, bowed low with his ministers and offered prayers. King Zhou then wandered about the hall, finding it splendidly decorated in gold and other colors. Before the statue of the goddess stood golden lads holding pennants, and jade lasses holding S-shaped jade ornaments which symbolized peace and happiness. The jade hooks on the curtain hung obliquely, like new crescent moons suspended in the air, and hundreds of find phoenixes embroidered on the curtain appeared to be flying towards the North Pole. Beside the altar of the goddess, made of fragrant wood, cranes and dragons were dancing in the scented smoke rising from the gold incense burners and the sparkling flames of the silvery candles.
As King Zhou was admiring the splendors of the hall, a whirlwind suddenly blew up, rolling back the curtain and exposing the image of the goddess to all. She was extremely beautiful, much more than flowers, more than the fairy in the moon palace, and certainly more than any woman in the world. She looked quite alive, smiling sweetly at the king and staring at him with joy in her eyes.
Her utter beauty bewitched King Zhou, setting him on fire with lust. He desired to possess her, and thought to himself in frustration. “Though I’m wealthy and powerful and have concubines and maidservants filling my palace, there’s non as beautiful and charming as this goddess.”
He ordered his attendants to bring brush and ink and wrote a poem on the wall near the image of the goddess to express his admiration for her. When he finished writing, Prime Minister Shang Rong 商容 approached him, “Nv Wa’s been a proper goddess and guardian angel for ZhaoGe 朝歌, I only suggested that you worship her so that she would continue to bless the people. But with this poem, you’ve not only shown your lack of sincerity on this trip but have insulted her as well.” He demanded, “This isn’t the way a king should behave. I pray you wash this blasphemous poem off the wall, lest you be condemned by the people for your immorality.” This part is similar to a part in the story Lotus Lantern that we talked about in Ep. 101 that a human being wrote a “love letter” on the wall of the temple to a goddess after seeing her statue. The act though like the Prime Minister said is disgraceful to the goddess.
“I found Goddess Nv Wa is so beautiful that I wrote a poem in praise of her, and that’s all. Hold your tongue. Don’t forget that I am the king. People will be only too glad to read the poem I wrote in my own hand, for it enables them to identify the true beauty of the goddess.”
King Zhou dismissed him lightly. The other civil and military officials remained silent, none daring to utter a word.
On her birthday, Goddess Nv Wa had left her palace and paid her respects to the three emperors, Fu Xi 伏羲, Shen Nong 神农 and Xuan Yuan 轩辕. They are all ore-historical gods in Chinese mythology. We talked about Fu Xi in our episode 1 and 2 and will talk about the other two in the future.
When she returned to her temple, she saw the poem on the wall. “The wicked king!” She flew into a rage. “He doesn’t think how to protect his country with virtue and morality. On the contrary, he shows no fear of Heaven and insults me with this dirty poem. How vile he is ! The Shang dynasty’s already ruled for over 600 years and is coming to an end. I must take my revenge on him .”
封神演义 Investiture of the Gods