The world is a giant ocean of misery.
People are in the ocean.
The physical body is the vessel.
The souls are the people in the vessel.
With the vessels carrying people, they keep on travelling towards the other shore.
Is it a journey of cultivating one’s flesh—strengthening one’s vessel—straight through the ocean of misery?
Or is it to cultivate one’s soul, so the people on the vessel become familiar to the nature of water?
Walk on the road of martial cultivation to become a Human Immortal.
Walk on the road of immortal cultivation to become a Divine Immortal.
Which one should you choose?
Chapter 1 – The Will of the Gods, the Will of the People
After the passing of late autumn, despite the lack of snow, the chilliness in the air became heavier by the day.
The harshness of winter could be felt from the icicles—long, unbroken, as thick as a child’s arm, as pointed as a blade—beneath every family’s eaves in the Jade Capital.
The Jade Capital was the capital of the Dagan Dynasty.
The Dagan Dynasty was flourishing, abundant in resources in its immense land. The population reached several hundreds of millions, and it was the strongest nation in the world.
This year was the sixtieth year of the founding of the nation. Sixty years since the domination of the world.
In these sixty years, the four generation of emperors of the Dagan Dynasty governed their nation well. It had reached a very prospering period.
The “Martial Duke” residence was southeast to the Jade Capital. Its land was sized a hundred mu, and it had a very open terrain. Right at the entrance was a stone statue of a qilin, painted red and three persons tall. The vermillion entrance that had sparkling copper nails and copper rings, bright garments embellishments, a bounty of energy lingering about, as well as the door servants with sharp eye expressions and various things, showed the position of the “Martial Duke”.
[TN: One mu is roughly equivalent to 666.67 square meters.]
“Martial Duke” was a prominent figure in the Dagan Dynasty. Surname Gong, given name Xuanji.
Not only was that person high in nobility ranking, he also had the highest position within officials. He was a Grand Secretariat and the teacher of the prince. He was skilled in both military affairs and academics, and when he was young he could continuously shoot arrows from strong bows requiring nine hundred catties of force. Slaughtering several hundred enemies atop a horse was akin to a leisure scroll about a courtyard.
After outstanding military services at the age of twenty-two, he gave up his martial abilities and strived for academics. He was in the honour roll for the imperial examination—ranking in third—and as a result, he was awarded an official position, thus joining imperial politics. He had also once obtained the highest praise by the fourth generation emperor of the Gadan Dynasty, “Running an army after mounting a horse, soothing the citizens after dismounting a horse.”.
“The heavens see what the citizens see, the heavens hear what the citizens hear . . .”
Early in the morning, a voice of studying came from a remote courtyard in a northwest corner of the Martial Duke residence.
Hong Yi half-opened a window and made a basin of fire inside the residence. He was currently reading on the edge of a table with an attitude of “preparing for the imperial examination and understanding the classics’ meanings”.
He wore green clothing with delicate and refined features. His age seemed to be around fifteen, sixteen years old and his body was slightly thin.
It was very simple inside his room. The basin burning fire was a steel basin, and the coal was ordinary coal. It wasn’t an exquisite ding-legged copper basin with all sorts of beast-shaped “beast coal” formed by the bones of beasts used in noble and rich families.
When he studied, there was no servant by his side to grind an ink stick on an inkstone and provide him paper when he ran out. All of that showed that Hong Yi’s position within the Duke’s residence was not high. Yet, he still had time to study, indicating he wasn’t on the level of servants.
“Whether I am able to establish a proper name for my mother who passed away will depend on the examination in early spring and the one during autumn. First pass the provincial exams, then pass the imperial exam, then enter the honour roll, and then three generations will be bestowed titles. . . . The imperial court will, as a result, grant the title of ‘Lady’ to my mother. Mother’s tomb can then be placed in the Hong family’s ancestral tombs, and her memorial tablet can also be worshiped in the ancestral hall.”
Hong Yi flipped open a book and read two sentences; however, his heart was thinking of his mother who died on the year when he was seven.
Before Hong Yi’s mother married to the “Martial Duke” residence, she was a famous talented woman in the Jade Capital. Be it the zither, chess, calligraphy, or painting, she was proficient in all. Her singing and poetry was full of elegance, and she only sold her art, not her body. In a gathering once with the Martial Duke, she expressed her knowledge in singing and poetry, and afterwards, she married into the Duke’s family.
She’s said to be a talented woman, but really, she was an “untouchable” from a brothel. After joining such a wealthy family, her position was very low.
Moreover, when Hong Yi’s mother married in, the Martial Duke already had an official and two unofficial wives. So, she obtained the status of a concubine.
The laws of the Dagan Dynasty state that one can have one official wife, two unofficial wives, and four concubines. The position of concubine was very low. For some wealthy or noble families, between scholar bureaucrats they would even trade concubines for fun.
When concubines were eating, they could not sit. They had to stand, as servants did.
Hong Yi, as the son of a concubine, simply had no right to inherit nobility or property. His only exit was to walk through the imperial examination.
In his heart, Hong Yi knew clearly that if he could pass the exam, not only could he escape that residence and be an official—which would put him in an outstanding state—most importantly, he could add the title of “Lady” for his mother.
The Dagan Dynasty put emphasis on the imperial examinations. If one could enter the honour roll, they could possibly receive nobility titles for three generations.
The title of “Lady” was not simple. In the residence at present, there were three ladies. They were special gifts the dynasty bestowed to Hong Xuanji for his great achievements.
In an ordinary wealthy or noble family, only the official wife was a lady.
Within nobility, the dynasty granting the title of “Lady” to a wife in one’s family was a enormous honour. It was even more honourable than being promoted to a higher position in nobility.
“If I pass the exam, if I pass the exam, the dynasty will title my mother as a ‘Lady’. At that moment, I wonder what expression that first wife, Lady Zhao, will have?”
Hong Yi murmured “Lady Zhao, Lady Zhao . . .”, and his eyes glittered with hatred.
Hong Yi would never forget the years when he was seven years old, just as he started to mature. At that time, in the residence, there was a banquet for admiring the view of the moon during autumn. When everyone was congregated in a hall and his father was singing a poem with guests, because his mother matched a verse, she immediately bore the first wife’s public rebuke, “Uncultured attitude, going against the rules of women. The habits of the brothel have yet to be changed.”
After returning that night, his mother was so angry her blood accumulated in a spot, causing her to vomit it out and harm her body. Two months later, she died from illness. When she passed away from anger, his mother was only twenty-five years old.
“I’m pretty much done preparing for the early spring’s examination. However, I still need to think about this,” Hong Yi thought in his heart. He closed the essays and opened up Grass Hall Notes.
The book’s cover was very new, but the quality of the paper was very old. Obviously, it was an old book that no one read because the Grass Hall Notes wasn’t a scholar’s classics, etiquette, or essays. They were infinitely absurd peculiar notes.
Scholars don’t talk about monsters, powers, chaos, or divinity. Those who prepare for the imperial examination do not read a book like that.
However, Hong Yi read it exactly for preparing for the examination.
Because that book was a record of notes from the former dynasty’s ruler, Li Yan. In it, things like demons, monsters, ghosts; cultivators, deities; genius men and beautiful women; female immortals and fox immortals; were written.
“Although this Grass Hall Notes is full of gods, demons, foxes, and ghosts, genius men, beautiful women, female immortals, and female foxes, every chapter is actually a fable. As expected of the previous dynasty’s ruler, the founder of the Li clan’s school of thought.
“Right now, even though Li Yan has passed away, in the dynasty, a large number of officials, who obtained their position from the imperial exam, were his disciples. Definitely, the main examiner in this imperial examination is one from the Li clan’s school of thought. I should study the thoughts that Li Yan expressed through fables of demons and foxes and suit their school’s tastes. With that, I will definitely pass the examination.
“The scholars from the Zong School, even if they are exceptional, only know how to study but don’t know that essays are written by the complexity of human relationships. Even if you grow flowers from your writing, if it’s not on the same beat as the examiner’s school of thought, they will certainly fail you.”
Before examination, studying the examiners’ school, thoughts, likes, and creating an essay based on all that was extremely important. Although Hong Yi was young, his heart was very sharp.
“What an interesting ‘The intents of the heavens is the intents of the citizens’. So there was an explanation like that.”
Hong Yi suddenly saw a story, and after carefully reading it through, he was amazed.
The story went like this:
In a rural place, when a young woman and her grandmother were sleeping, the wall suddenly collapsed. The young woman slept inside, so she put her full strength into propping up the collapsed wall, allowing her grandmother to escape. She, however, was crushed to death. After the young woman died, the grandmother was very sorrowful. So, the people in the village consoled her, and said they had dreams of seeing the young woman granted the title of “City God” by the heavens.
At that time, Li Yan and some scholars were discussing that. The group of scholars felt that the young woman’s filial piety was commendable; however, the talk of her being bestowed a title of a god was village nonsense.
But Li Yan stood his ground before the crowd and said that the woman was, in fact, bestowed a title of a god because in the Book of Saint and Virtue, it stated: “The heavens see what the citizens see, the heavens hear what the citizens hear”, and thus, since the citizens felt that the young woman had became a god, it was the will of the heavens for them to feel such a way. Therefore, she did become a god.
The crowd of scholars laughed at Li Yan, saying he read books too unrealistically. However, Li Yan spoke of a great reason. “Actually, gods are no more than the creation of human thoughts. The reason why the gods in temples seems to be divine time after time is because they’ve accepted people’s incenses, offerings, and trust. So there aren’t any gods in this world. There are, however, too many people who believe in gods. Gather up people’s thoughts, and a religion will be born. To destroy gods is extremely simple. As long as you destroy their temples, so that people don’t believe in them and not offer incense, as time passes, they will disappear very naturally.”
One of the scholars nodded, and asked, “If the temples of gods are taken down, causing it so people trust in them no longer, what do we do if the gods release retribution upon us?”
Li Yan said again: “The Book of Saint and Virtue states those upright and smart become gods. As long as scholars have a honest heart, are strict, and are impartial, their thoughts will naturally be as powerful as gods. Why would gods release retribution upon you then?
“If scholars are upright, strict, and impartial, naturally, their thoughts and bodies will be powerfully purified. They will then have already neared my school of thought’s ‘Yang God and Divine Immortals’. In comparison to the ‘Yin Gods’ that cannot manifest themselves and can only rely on dreams and retributions, they are a lot stronger.”
When the crowd of scholars saw Li Yan speak calmly with confidence and reason, respect was born in their hearts. So, they asked him about his school of thought’s Divine Immortal and Yang God cultivation.
Li Yan said: “Yin gods can travel by the escape of their shells. They cannot be seen by human eyes, they are shapeless, they are without substance, and they are a bundle of souls. They can only rely on foreign objects to display their spirituality. As for Yang Gods, there are no differences between them and humans. They use all sorts of techniques to fly in the sky, drill into the ground, and live long without aging.”
When the crowd of scholars were going to ask further, Li Yan said seriously: “Scholars only talk of the life of citizens and imperial politics, as well as benevolence, righteousness, and etiquette. Toss away completely things related to gods and ghosts. It has gone too far today.”
“There has never been religion, and all of it was born from the thoughts and beliefs of people? The stated ‘The heavens see what the citizens see, the heavens hear what the citizens hear, the heavens’ will is the will of the citizens’ has an explanation like that? Those upright and smart become gods? A yin god, a yang god?”
Hong Yi felt completely refreshed. That story seemed as if it opened a mysterious gate for him.
Bang bang bang!
Just as Hong Yi was in contemplation, the sound of the door being knocked rang out.
Someone was knocking; however, it was very loud—someone was using their foot to kick.
Hong Yi frowned, rose, then opened the door.
Yang God (Tentative title) (陽神) is a finished Chinese web novel by Meng Ru Shen Ji (夢入神機). It has over three million characters, and is listed, on qidian, under the category of “Xianxia” and the subcategory of “fantasy cultivation”. There are 782 chapters, and the novel was started on 28th July, 2009, and ended on 3rd July, 2010.