Creation of the Gods: China’s Epic

Creation of the Gods, or Fengshen Yanyi in Mandarin, is a historic Chinese novel about the fall of the Shang Dynasty and rise of the Zhou Dynasty. Though based on true past events, the novel incorporates many elements of Chinese legend, myth and religion, and it has often been noted as one of the major influences on modern understanding of the Daoist system of beliefs.

The novel is a conglomeration of hundreds of different stories, many of them myths and legends about various deities. One of the main tales focuses on the story of King Zhou, the last emperor of the Shang Dynasty, and his pilgrimage to visit the goddess Nu Wa. King Zhou saw Nu Wa’s infinite beauty and was overcome with lust for her, writing her a poem on the wall of the temple. This angered Nu Wa and so she punished the king, bringing an end to the Shang Dynasty and crowning a new king of the Zhou Dynasty.

Most of the stories in the novel relate to the many wars that ensued over this tale and often include mythical and animals like foxes and chickens, or sometimes auspicious inanimate objects, all of which become enveloped in the cause of war. These narratives usually involve gods or goddesses coming to earth and changing destiny with their magical powers, and it is to this that we owe the novel’s title, the Creation of the Gods.

To read Creation of the Gods is to gain a greater understanding for Chinese philosophy and religion, and to learn something about the ancient dynasties and the wars that often resulted when they changed hands. The novel is a storehouse of tidbits about Daoist mythology and the religious systems that were once so influential in China.


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