Creations of the Gods , 封神榜
Creation of the gods, also known as the Investiture of the Gods, is a Chinese novel written by Xu Zhong Lin, 许仲琳, during the Ming dynasty.
The story is set in the last days of the Shang dynasty and tells of a popular social movement to overthrow the corrupted and unpopular tyrant Shang King Zhou, 商纣王, 殷纣王.
The Shang King was accused of cruelty, impoverishing the country through his extravagant lifestyle, and being infatuated with his favorite concubine Daji, 妲己, to the point of neglecting state affairs.
The leader of this movement was King Wu of Zhou, 周武王, who actively seek wise advisors and eventually led a group of disenfranchised nobilities and commoners to overthrow the Shang.
They were also assisted by celestial beings, deities and even the Buddha in their fight resulting in many chapters of magical showdown.
The novel ends with the overthrow of the Shang and founding of the Zhou dynasty.
Social meanings embedded in the Creation of Gods
Creation of the Gods can be compared to the modern day super hero stories and many of the deities such as Nezha, Buddha, are still worshipped to this day.
Apart from its entertainment value, the novel reflects many social ideals; humble and frugal rulers who care for the population, meritocracy society, and perhaps even a democratic ideal in political representation.
This set of social ideals is contrasted with symbols of its antithesis; Shang King’s forests of meat and ponds of wine, 肉林酒池, and the sexual escapades he hosted there, Daji’s interference in court affairs to satisfy her private desires, and cruel punishments imposed on dissents.
“Citations” from Creation of Gods
Many of the stories from Creation of Gods have become idioms and metaphors in popular usage. The story of Zhou King Wu is often used as a metaphor for social movements while the recruitment of his chief advisor Jiang Zi Ya, 姜子牙, symbolizes meritocracy.
The concubine Daji becomes the symbol of political interferences and her execution serves as a warning. Interestingly, Lady Yang Gui Fei of the Tang dynasty suffered almost the same fate as Daji. These ladies are targeted not so much because of their gender but for their unorthodox participation in politics through their relationship with the emperor.
Creation of the Gods may look like exciting entertainment with magic, fights and even sex. But upon careful analysis many social ideals that continue to be relevant today emerges. Perhaps that is why this novel survives from the Ming dynasty to this day.
King Wu of Zhou, 周武王
Jiang Zi Ya waiting for King Wu
King Wu's men requesting for an audience with Jiang Zi Ya
Kheng Hock Keng, Burma
Shang King Zhou, 商纣王
favorite concubine Daji, 妲己