Creation of the Gods I II III IV
Written by Xu Zhonglin (the Yuan dynasty)
Translated into English by Gu Zhizhong
Published by New World Press, Foreign Languages Press and Hunan People's Publishing House, 2000
Library of Chinese classics Chinese-English edition, hardcover, library binding, 2145 pages
Creation of the Gods, published in the Ming Dynasty (11368-1644), is the most popular and one of the best, if not also the best-written, Chinese classics of mythical literature.
It begins with the grand pilgrimage of King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty (1700 B.C.-1100 B.C.), the most notorious tyrant in Chinese legend, to worship the Goddess Nu Wa, the creator of mankind in Chinese mythology, on her birthday. The beauty of the goddess completely bewitched the monarch and sets him on fire with lust. His poem written on the wall to express his deep love for the goddess infuriates her. She decided to punish the king and bring an end to the Shang Dynasty. The novel culminates with the crowning of King Wu of Zhou Dynasty (1066 B.C.256 B.C.) and the canonization of gods by his prime minister Jiang Ziya.
However, the Chinese was a nation mostly composed of polytheists, who believed that there were numerous gods in the Three Realms Heaven, World, and Hell-that rules over everything in this world and created various deities to suit their varied desires and needs. Most of the gods anti deities were posthumously canonized historical national heroes and upright officials who were believed to have been heavenly deities sent to this world to deliver mankind from misery. In fact the roots of many of such popular beliefs and legend are found in Creation of the Gods.
Therefore, the novel is not simply a piece of literature, but very much an agglomeration of folk beliefs and religion. It is in fact a valuable and indispensable tool in understanding the Chinese folk culture.
Based on true historical events in ancient China three thousand years ago but given a major mythical twist, "Creation of the Gods" (or more accurately "Canonization of the Gods") tells the story of the rebellion against, and the fall of, the last degenerate and tyrannical emperor of the Shang Dynasty, the rise of the benevolent first emperor of the Zhou Dynasty, and the subsequent canonization of the fallen warriors of both sides as gods in the Chinese pantheon.
Creation of the Gods mainly deals with the war between forces loyal to the dying Shang dynasty and those of the rising Zhou dynasty. Warriors with magical powers are aplenty, and Chinese readers should have no problem recognizing their beloved folk heroes and mythical gods, including such colorful characters as the Third Prince Nezha with his three heads and eight arms and his magical weapons (a lance, a ring, a coverlet and a pair of fire wheels) and his brothers Jinzha and Muzha, the warrior god Yang Jian (also called the Little Sage Erlang in "Journey to the West") with his all-seeing mystical third eye, 72 magical transformations and his immortal demon-subduing dog, Thunderbolt the thunder god, the four Heavenly Kings (commonly seen as temple guardians in Chinese Buddhist temples) and Li Jing, the pagoda bearing heavenly general. These characters also make cameo appearances in "Journey to the West".