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History and Essence of Daji

Chinese history is famous for monarchs and a biased society with many famous and infamous women in it. There are few women in Chinese history, who are renowned for their cruelty and whose names have been engraved for their brutality and one such woman is Wu Zhao, also known as Wu Zetian or Empress Wu, the daughter of an influential noble. Empress Wu was a cruel woman, known for her wickedness while competing to become the successor for the throne of emperor, held by Kao Tsung in order to become the woman emperor of the Zhou Dynasty.

Her reign as an empress was one of terror, and she was known as West Dowager Empress who came up from the gutter and became the ruler of China. She was a ruthless and brutal woman who killed her own infant daughter to usurp the power of the first empress and became the empress to Emperor Kao Tsung (Nosotro, 2008). She also killed her son when he disobeyed her orders and she found him difficult to handle. The last ruler of the Shang Dynasty was also infamous for following the advice of his evil consort, Daji (Hinsch, 2002).

She loved erotic music and dance and wasted all of the state’s resources and people’s money on extravagances and merriment for personal pleasure. She encouraged drinking and naked dances taking great pleasure in them (Hinsch, 2002). She was extremely evil and is known for the brutal acts which she inflicted upon this who opposed her or even criticized her. Daji was the favorite concubine of King Zhou, the final emperor of the Shang Dynasty in China. Daji was known for her beauty and cruelty and is popularly illustrated in literature as an “evil fox”, particularly in the Chinese novel, “Fengshen Yanvi” (Yuan, 2003).

Her life is mysterious and there are numerous speculations and opinions regarding her, which is the reason why, the history surrounding her is filled with interesting and exciting stories related to her life and death. Despite the vagueness of her character it would be useful to investigate her essence and impression from the past by analyzing and evaluating the history and gossips surrounding her life and the subsequent significance of her life in current times. Historical records indicate that Da Ji was a woman of matchless beauty and the daughter of a noble family named Su in the Yousu state.

Tyrant Zhou attacked the state of Yousu in 1047 B. C. , taking Daji to his court as a medal of his conquest. The King was famous for his brilliance, dexterity and eloquent speeches which made him a powerful ruler, resulting in a wealthy empire and dominant government (Yuan, 2003). King Zhou was crazily in love with DaJi and tried to flatter her by complying with all her wishes. As his involvement with Daji grew he became more and more addicted to drinking and women and lacked morals in every action he undertook.

He began to ignore the state of affairs of his country and his governance began to reduce. His only motive was to enjoy and to ensure that Daji was happy and content. Since Daji liked dancing and music, he would order artists to create lewd music such as the ‘Dance of The Brothel’ (Yuan, 2003). Another instance of the King’s thoughtlessness and selfishness is the creation of the Building Lu Tai, which was constructed by levying huge amounts of taxes on the poor people for about seven year until the building was completely constructed (Yuan, 2003).

The building had numerous towers which were decorated with rare treasures from all over the world by the King’s vassals. The building Lu Tai was constructed to watch over the movements of the states around Zhou and to display of the power of the Zhou Dynasty, however, the main reason for constructing the building was to please Daji. Another important creation by Daji was the Paoplao, called ‘The Bronze Toaster’ which was originally created on Daji’s request to execute criminals (Chew & Chew, 2002).

This bronze toaster is a device of cylindrical shape, over twenty feet tall and eight feet round. The idea came to Daji when she saw an ant climbing up on a bronze plate and was heated up and burnt in agony (Chew & Chew, 2002). Daji found this to be applicable to humans and immediately gave orders for the device to be constructed so that criminals would walk on it with bare feet and could be burnt to death. The agony and pain with which humans writhed seemed to provide Daji with immense pleasure who would laugh with joy while witnessing these gruesome scenes.

Seeing Daji’s happiness during such events would provide great joy to the king who would then punish as many people as possible to see his beloved happy and joyful (Chew & Chew, 2002). Daji is also infamous for the construction of the ‘Snake Pit’ also known as ‘The Scorpian Pit’ which was full of poisonous animals like snakes, crocodiles and spiders at the bottom of the pit (Yuan, 2003). This pit was used to torture and kill humans who were disloyal to the king and his queen and were methods of torture used to kill criminals.

Daji wanted to construct the pit and in order to do so, she asked King Zhou to issue an edict to the people to gather plenty of poisonous animals and accordingly he ordered his people to present a minimum of four spiders and snakes by each household to ensure the success of the pit. After the construction of the pit, the foremost victims were seventy-two maidens who were shaved, bound together, stripped off their clothing, and thrown into the snake pit to be eaten by the poisonous animals waiting at the bottom.

The Alcohol Pool and Meat Forest were creations based on the novel ideas of Daji and were constructed to illustrate the power and oppression of Daji and King Zhou (Yuan, 2003). These words ‘Alcohol Pool and Meat Forest’ are famous as a four-character idiom in China and Japan. As the name suggests, a pool is filled with alcohol and loads of meat was hung down from trees. Huge amounts of alcohol and meat were collected from the people. The alcohol pool was placed on the left side of the Snake Pit, while the Meat Forest was placed to the right. Fifty maidens and fifty eunuchs would be chosen to form pairs and would be stripped off their clothes.

One maiden would be tied to one eunuch to form fifty pairs and individual pairs would be thrown into the pool where they would have to drink the wine and perform swimming tricks. Once each pair was completely readily drunk, they would be placed in the Meat Forest where they would have to chase one another enjoying abundant cooked duck, roasted pig. Daji and King Zhou enjoyed the party for several days and would sometimes hang naked people down from the trees and release tigers in the forest, while watching the people being devoured by the tigers (Yuan, 2003).

In this way, Daji came to be known as a cruel brute animal whose cruelty could not be halted by anyone. She took immense pleasure in listening to the cries, wails and painful screams of the people as they suffered while she enjoyed. So ruthless a woman was she that once she saw a farmer walk barefoot on and ordered his feet be cut off so that she could study the feet and find out the cause of its resistance to such cold temperatures. On another occasion, Daji had a pregnant woman’s belly cut open in order to satisfy her curiosity to find out what actually happens inside the body of a pregnant woman.

On one occasion when Bi Gan, a wise man and an honest minister to the king, tried to persuade King Zhou to stop his evil deeds by explaining to him that “The dynasty will be ruined” if the king neglected his morality and listened only to “a woman”, King Zhou ignored it, but Daji was hurt (Yuan, 2003). She realized what Bi Gan had tried to do and decided to take revenge. She told King Zhou that “a good man’s heart has seven openings” (Yuan, 2003). To verify this, King Zhou had ordered Bi Gan’s heart to be cut. There was no end to the evil deeds of Daji and King Zhou.

King Zhou mercilessly killed anyone who criticized Daji, even if they were his vassals. In order to fund Zhou’s heavy expenses, heavy taxes were imposed upon the people resulting in hunger and poverty everywhere. The people suffered greatly, and lost all hope for the Shang Dynasty. When people remonstrated against the brutality of Daji and King Zhou, regardless of their safety, they were put to death or confined in horrendous ways. Only the vassals who flattered the King Zhou were being speared which resulted in the destruction of fair politics.

However, not everyone was afraid of the king and there were some people in the kingdom who tried to end the Zhou Dynasty in this chaos. King Wen of Zhou named Ji Chang was one of the four feudal lords who ruled the states around Zhaoge, the capital of Shang Dynasty. After the death of his father King Ji of Zhou, he inherited the state of Zhou and governed the land richly by his perfect political philosophy as a result of which King Zhou feared his growing power and imprisoned him for seven years.

However, many officials respected Ji Chang’s great governance and they presented King of Zhou with numerous gifts and treasures beseeching the release of Ji Chang from prison. These gifts and treasures included gold, horses and women. Finally, King Zhou agreed and Ji Chang was released. After he went back to his state, he planned to conquer the Shang Dynasty. He tried to grow even more powerful but in a discreet manner, avoiding King Zhou’s attention. Ji Chang smoothly expanded his territory and welcomed Taigong Wang known as the master of strategy.

Under Taigong Wang’s command, Zhou invaded the neighboring states and keeping more and more states under his contriol. However, Ji Chang was laid back because of his life under confinement and the miserable death of his first son Bo Yi Kao at Zhaoge. Ultimately, Ji Chang died before he could accomplish anything. After Ji Chang’s death, his second son Ji Fa became King Wu of Zhou and inherited his father’s dying wish; the defeat of the Shang Dynasty. Taigong Wang with his exceptional talents to strategize, also helped Ji Fa and Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou and Ji Fa’s younger brother, served as regent.

Their strategies resulted in the Zhou government growing far stronger than the time Ji Chang governed the state as the years elapsed. In 1048 BC, Ji Fa called a meeting of the surrounding dukes who were not satisfied with the rule of King Zhou at Meng Jin. More than 800 dukes attended the meeting. In 1046 BC, when the Shang government facing war, Ji Fa launched an attack along with many other neighboring dukes. In the Battle of Muye, located at Southwest of Zhaoge, the Shang forces were destroyed.

When Zhou’s army, lead by Taigong Wnag defeated Shang’s army, King Zhou gathered his treasures around himself in the Palace, and set fire to his palace. Then, he burned himself to death. After the fall of the Shang Dynasty, Daji’s neck was slit and she was executed by Ji Fa himself. Ji Fa covered her with a white flag with the words “This is the demon who led the Shang Dynasty to be ruined” inscribed on it. Although Daji is known as the worst and most beautiful woman who destroyed one of the greatest dynasties of Chinese history, there are varied opinions about her character.

In many books, Daji is believed to be the image of a fox. In the book “Fengshen Yanyi”, Daji is described as the woman who was possessed by the spirit of the fox. This could be due to the fact that the community in which Yousu lived worshiped nine foxes as gods. The legend revolving around Daji gained immense popularity by the Feng Shen Yanvi which is a popular ‘Historical Romance of Apotheosis. In the novel, Daji is described as the incarnation of a “silvery fox” which takes the form of a human, Daji, after nearly thousand years of “self cultivation” (Yuan, 2003).

On the orders of the Celestial power, Nu Wa, Daji is sent to spoil and corrupt the state of Shang so that the people would rise and overthrow the King Zhou, also known as Di Xin (Yuan, 2003). Another opinion regards Daji was a beautiful shrine maiden who prays and holds a magic ritual by the fox spirit. Some believe that originally Daji could have been a calm and kind woman, but the fox spirit which is extremely amorous could have possessed Daji and made her character turnaround completely. While others are of the view that Daji was the fox spirit itself.

The reason for such discrepancies is because it is very difficult to figure out Daji’s independent actions and her true nature from books. The fox which caused the turmoil in Daji’s life is believed to have nine tails and is called the nine-tailed fox, and appears not only Chinese mythology, but in Korean, Indian, and Japanese myths and fables as well. The fox is also mentioned in the book “Sangoku Youfu Den”. This fox appears numerous times in history as a woman of matchless beauty. Firstly, the fox appeared as Daji in the Shang Dynasty and led to the ruin and destruction of the by leading King Zhou with deceit.

After the Zhou army attacked the Shang Dynasty, the fox appeared to be ruined, but had actually survived. It appeared next in the Zhou Dynasty, as a concubine of King You of Zhou named Baosi. Basoi became a favorite of King Yous, and gave birth to a son named Bofu. King You of Zhou deposed Queen Shen and Crowned Prince Yijiu. He made Baosi the new queen and Bofu the new crown prince. But the deposed Queen Shen and Yijiu were upset and Shen’s father attacked the palace with his army and killed King You of Zhou, while Bofu and Baosi were captured.

King You of Zhou’s death marked the end of the Western Zhou Dynasty, because Baosi misled King You of Zhou and he lost the trust of his nobles. Subsequently, the fox went across the ocean and appeared in Japan. The fox introduced herself as Tamamo no Mae and fascinated Emperor Toba. As soon as this occurred, the emperor’s health deteriorated and Abe no Seimei recognized Tamamo no Mae’s disguise. The fox then fled away from the palace, but the samurais attacked and killed it. Although the fox died, her spirit transformed into the killing stone, the huge stone also called Sessho Seki while leaving a strong deep-seated grudge.

This story of nine-tailed fox helps establish the relationship between Daji and the fox. In East Asian countries, the fox is associated with the attributes of smartness, sex, guile, heartlessness, indecency, and magic. This image matches the image of Daji who was a combination of beauty and guile and with her fascination, controlled King Zhou which is why many books describe Daji as the incarnation of the fox. The contemporary image of Daji is very interesting. In China, the name of Daji is used as a synonym for sexy and disgraced wicked women.

It is believed that Daji could have created an original make-up from the juice of peach to fascinate King Zhou. According to many, Daji is not just a wicked woman, which is why there are many dramas and movies about Daji such as “Qin huai da ji du” and “Da Ji”. The influence of Daji is not restricted to China alone. In Japan, a cartoonist Ryu Fujisaki drew comic series Hoshin Engi, based on Fengshen Yanyi. The primary antagonist of the comic, Dakki, is based on Daji, called “Yokai Sennin”, an unworldly being created from animals and objects and believed to have been a fox monster.

In both, cartoons and comics, Dakki declares Taikoubou (Taigong Wang) to be her rival, and they involve both, humans and Sennin world in war. This comic promotes the the story of Fengshen Yanyi by exaggerating the existences of the characters who are not human beings. This comic was translated in many languages and helped people know the story of Fengshen Yanyi and the existence of Daji. Additionally, in recent popular culture, Daji sometimes appears in a video games. For instance, in Koei’s video game “Warriors Orochi”, Daji appears as “Da Ji,” Orochi’s strategist and right-hand woman.

In the video game, her personality is as deadly and cruel as she is beautiful, usually deceiving and then betraying her allies for personal pleasure. Her design incorporates pointed, fuzzy ears and vulpine feet. Her appearance alludes to the legend that she is the incarnation of a fox. In “Warriors Orochi 2”, she shows great rivalry with Taigong Wang, the legendary strategist who can easily see through her strategies. It is also revealed that she was the one who had originally released Orochi the Serpent King from confinement, just to see what kind of chaos he would bring about.

According to these current impressions of Daji, it seems that people consider Daji as the fox monster which appears in the books such as Fengshen Yanyi and Sangoku Youfu Den, rather than as a wicked woman in real history. From the commercial point of view, it is, of course, needed to put special features on characters in comics and video games to win popularity. Then, as a logical consequence, the personality of Daji is very exciting to consumers and spurs her popularity. As a digression, Daji’s costume appearing in Ryu Fujisaki’s comic Houshin Engi is one of the most popular costumes for showgirls.

Daji is believed to be one of the worst women ever in Chinese history, and her existence is mysterious. While some regard her as a magical woman with the powers of a fox, others believe her to be a power sent by celestial powers to destroy the Shang Dynasty. Whatever may be the case, she is represented as an evil woman with limitless powers and beauty which resulted in the ultimate destruction of the Shang Dyansty. The mystery surrounding her has also led to the numerous liertature which has been written of Daji.

As a result of these written forms and books which were published, the number of opinions and rumors were created about her increased with time. While there are distinct ways in which she is represented, in particular, her heinousness and mysteriousness are emphasized as being synonymous to a fox monster. Although it has been almost 3000 years after Daji appeared in the history, her name is still recognized and she remains to be the epitome of an evil, powerful and brutal woman. Historical books are transformed into comics and video games and her story is being told by the ways which people of today can be acceptable.

However, the essence of Daji never changes and she continues to be the woman who fascinates people with her cruelty and voluptuousness. References Chew Katherine Liang & Chew Felix S. (2002). Tales of the Teahouse Retold: Investiture of the Gods. Hinsch Bret (2002). Women in early Imperial China. Nosotro Rit (2008). Empress Wu Zetian: Only woman to be emperor of China. Retrieved from http://www. hyperhistory. net/apwh/bios/b3wuempress. htm Yuan Haiwang, (2003). Da Ji. Retrieved from http://www. wku. edu/~yuanh/China/tales/daji_b. htm

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