Friday, August 29, 2008

Myths and Legends of China A Battle Of The Gods

Multifarious Versatile Divinities
The _Fêng shên yen i_ describes at length how, during the wars which preceded the accession of the Chou dynasty in 1122 B.C., a multitude of demigods, Buddhas, Immortals, etc., took part on one side or the other, some fighting for the old, some for the new dynasty. They were wonderful creatures, gifted with marvellous powers. They could at will change their form, multiply their heads and limbs, become invisible, and create, by merely uttering a word, terrible monsters who bit and destroyed, or sent forth poison gases, or emitted flames from their nostrils. In these battles there is much lightning, thunder, flight of fire-dragons, dark clouds which vomit burning hails of murderous weapons; swords, spears, and arrows fall from the sky on to the heads of the combatants; the earth trembles, the pillars of Heaven shake.
Chun T'i
One of these gifted warriors was Chun T'i, a Taoist of the Western Paradise, who appeared on the scene when the armies of the rival dynasties were facing each other. K'ung Hsüan was gallantly holding the pass of the Chin-chi Ling; Chiang Tzu-ya was trying to take it by assault--so far without success.
Chun T'i's mission was to take K'ung Hsüan to the abode of the blest, his wisdom and general progress having now reached the required degree of perfection. This was a means of breaking down the invincible resistance of this powerful enemy and at the same time of rewarding his brilliant talents.
But K'ung Hsüan did not approve of this plan, and a fight took place between the two champions. At one moment Chun T'i was seized by a luminous bow and carried into the air, but while enveloped in a cloud of fire he appeared with eighteen arms and twenty-four heads, holding in each hand a powerful talisman.
The One-eyed Peacock
He put a silk cord round K'ung Hsüan's neck, touched him with his wand, and forced him to reassume his original form of a red one-eyed peacock. Chun T'i seated himself on the peacock's back, and it flew across the sky, bearing its saviour and master to the Western Paradise. Brilliantly variegated clouds marked its track through space.
Arrangements for the Siege
On the disappearance of its defender the defile of Chin-chi Ling was captured, and the village of Chieh-p'ai Kuan, the bulwark of the enemy's forces, reached. This place was defended by a host of genii and Immortals, the most distinguished among them being the Taoist T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu, whose specially effective charms had so far kept the fort secure against every attempt upon it.
Lao Tzu himself had deigned to descend from dwelling in happiness, together with Yüan-shih T'ien-tsun and Chieh-yin Tao-jên, to take part in the siege. But the town had four gates, and these heavenly rulers were only three in number. So Chun T'i was recalled, and each member of the quartette was entrusted with the task of capturing one of the gates.
Chun T'i's duty was to take the Chüeh-hsien Mên, defended by T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu. The warriors who had tried to enter the town by this gate had one and all paid for their temerity with their lives. The moment each had crossed the threshold a clap of thunder had resounded, and a mysterious sword, moving with lightning rapidity, had slain him.
Offence and Defence
As Chun T'i advanced at the head of his warriors terrible lightning rent the air and the mysterious sword descended like a thunderbolt upon his head. But Chun T'i held on high his Seven-precious Branch, whereupon there emerged from it thousands of lotus-flowers, which formed an impenetrable covering and stopped the sword in its fall. This and the other gates were then forced, and a grand assault was now directed against the chief defender of the town.
T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu, riding his ox and surrounded by his warriors, for the last time risked the chance of war and bravely faced his four terrible adversaries. With his sword held aloft, he threw himself on Chieh-yin Tao-jên, whose only weapon was his fly-whisk. But there emerged from this a five-coloured lotus-flower, which stopped the sword-thrust. While Lao Tzu struck the hero with his staff, Yüan-shih T'ien-tsun warded off the terrible sword with his jade _ju-i_.
Chun T'i now called to his help the spiritual peacock, and took the form of a warrior with twenty-four heads and eighteen arms. His mysterious weapons surrounded T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu, and Lao Tzu struck the hero so hard that fire came out from his eyes, nose, and mouth. Unable to parry the assaults of his adversaries, he next received a blow from Chun T'i's magic wand, which felled him, and he took flight in a whirlwind of dust.
The defenders now offered no further resistance, and Yüan-shih T'ien-tsun thanked Chun T'i for the valuable assistance he had rendered in the capture of the village, after which the gods returned to their palace in the Western Heaven.
Attempts at Revenge
T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu, vanquished and routed, swore to have his revenge. He called to his aid the spirits of the twenty-eight constellations, and marched to attack Wu Wang's army. The honour of the victory that ensued belonged to Chun T'i, who disarmed both the Immortal Wu Yün and T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu.
Wu Yün, armed with his magic sword, entered the lists against Chun T'i; but the latter opened his mouth and a blue lotus-flower came out and stopped the blows aimed at him. Other thrusts were met by similar miracles.
"Why continue so useless a fight?" said Chun T'i at last. "Abandon the cause of the Shang, and come with me to the Western Paradise. I came to save you, and you must not compel me to make you resume your original form."
An insulting flow of words was the reply; again the magic sword descended like lightning, and again the stroke was averted by a timely lotus-flower. Chun T'i now waved his wand, and the magic sword was broken to bits, the handle only remaining in Wu Yün's hand.
The Golden-bearded Turtle
Mad with rage, Wu Yün seized his club and tried to fell his enemy. But Chun T'i summoned a disciple, who appeared with a bamboo pole. This he thrust out like a fishing-rod, and on a hook at the end of the line attached to the pole dangled a large golden-bearded turtle. This was the Immortal Wu Yün, now in his original form of a spiritual turtle. The disciple seated himself on its back, and both, disappearing into space, returned to the Western Heavens.
The Battle Won
To conquer T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu was more difficult, but after a long fight Chun T'i waved his Wand of the Seven Treasures and broke his adversary's sword. The latter, disarmed and vanquished, disappeared in a cloud of dust. Chun T'i did not trouble to pursue him. The battle was won.
A disciple of T'ung-t'ien Chiao-chu, P'i-lu Hsien, 'the Immortal P'i-lu,' seeing his master beaten in two successive engagements, left the battlefield and followed Chun T'i to the Western Paradise, to become a Buddha. He is known as P'i-lu Fo, one of the principal gods of Buddhism.
Chun T'i's festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the third moon. He is generally shown with eight hands and three faces, one of the latter being that of a pig.

No comments: