A God's Own Tale
The Book of Transformations of Wenchang, the Divine Lord of Zitong
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This scripture was revealed through spirit writing in 1181. It traces Wenchang's development through his many transformations culminating in his apotheosis as director of the Wenchang Palace and custodian of the Cinnamon Record that determines men's and women's fates. The god has since assumed a high position in the Taoist pantheon, has been introduced into the school system and Confucian temples, and now controls the all-important civil service examinations in China.
The text translated here provides a unique window into the religious world of Traditional China. Numerous anecdotes of good- and evil-doers reveal the ethical dilemmas facing men and women of the time, from social questions like infanticide and discrimination against women to more purely religious issues such as how evil gods are punished and how China's divergent religious traditions can be reconciled.
Terry F. Kleeman is Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Culture in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania.
"It provides a thorough history of the cult of Wenchang, the patron saint of scholars, one of the deities still worshipped by the Chinese in their temples today. The Book of Transformations is a delightful and unique autobiography of the god in which he traces his various lives in the world and his various divine appointments. Kleeman's chapter by chapter commentary to the translation is jam-packed with information on customs and traditions in traditional China, those of the aristocracy and those of common folk. It is also loaded with information on the workings of Chinese folk religion and Buddhism and Taoism, and in following the incarnations of Wenchang, the reader learns a good deal along the way about the history of China from early Chou times into the fourth century of the Common Era. " — Robert G. Henricks, Dartmouth College