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Chinese Literature
Fengshen yanyi 封神演義 "The Investiture of the Gods"

Attributed to Xu Zhonglin 許仲琳 (d. 1566) or to Lu Xixing 陸西星 (d. 1601), this novel also called Fengshenbang 封神榜 of the type of an historical romance is a great fantasy about the overthrow of the bad, depraved ruler Zhou 紂 of the Shang Dynasty 商 by King Wu of Zhou 周武王. The sources for this novel include oral and written material about Daoist heroes and gods, monsters and spirits that assist King Wu in subduing the bad ruler or help bad King Zhou to resist the heaven appointed rebel. Inspired by his fox-ghost concubine Daji 妲己 (not Danji!), king Zhou murders his loyal ministers and even his own son. After the downfall of Shang, the suicide of king Zhou and the exorcism of Daji by Jiang Ziya 姜子牙, King Wu appointed all his relatives and followers as rulers over a part of the kingdom, creating the system of regional states. The deceased and killed heroes (the "gods" of the title), even the enemies, are invested with a heavenly constellation.
The novel is well-composed and organized in an endless sequence of battles between the heroes that are not only fighting with weapons but also with words, trying to persuade the opponent to follow the justified side. The monotony of the endless battles makes the book a quite boring lecture, even if the author tries to introduce unexpected elements like suddenly joining Daoist magicians or even Buddhist deities.

Kao, Karl S.Y. (1986). "Feng-shen yen-i 封神演義", in William H. Nienhauser, ed. The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press), 384-386.


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Chinese literature according to the four-category system

July 18, 2010 © · Ulrich Theobald · Mail