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A Chinese novel of the Ming Dynasty

During the later Ming Dynasty, in the 1500s AD, a man named Xu Zhonglin wrote a novel called Fengshen Yanyi. The main character is Ji Fa, who overthrew the last emperor of the Shang Dynasty and made himself the first emperor of the Zhou dynasty, about 1100 BC.

The Zhou Dynasty
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Battles of gods and people

Chinese government
The Shang Dynasty

Ji Fa raises an army of the people and fights the emperor in a series of battles. Many gods, spirits, and demons fight in this battles, on both sides, just as the gods fight a sort of shadow battle in Homer’s Iliad (set about the same time, but written much earlier).

More about the Iliad
Chinese gods and demons

Is this kind of like the plot of the Iliad, where Menelaus takes the whole Greek army to war over one woman, Helen? At least, both stories blame the war on bad behavior by women.

Who was Helen of Troy?

What happens in the end?

In the end, many of the heroes from both sides become gods themselves and go to heaven, which explains the name of the book: Fengshen Yanyi means “How the Heroes Became Gods.”

Guanti – a man who turned into a god
Boddhisatvas and Buddhism

Fengshen Yanyi, “How the Heroes Became Gods,” was one of many novels written in China about this time, during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Some other examples are the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Monkey: Journey to the West.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Monkey: Journey to the West

More Chinese literature

Bibliography and further reading about Chinese literature:

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