Stories from Ancient China: The Thunder Deity

The following story is from a book dating back to the Song Dynasty (960 A.D.-1279 A.D.) of ancient China.

Wang Tianqing was a Taoist master in Jianchang (today's Nancheng County), Jiangxi Province. His disciple, Zheng, whom people called Taoist Zheng, followed Wang Tianqing for years and learnt from Wang the way to invite the "Thunder Deity" to generate rainfall or eliminate demons. Each time the Thunder Deity granted his request.

During the Gaozong Emperor's time (around 1131 A.D.) in the Song Dynasty, Taoist Zheng went to Linchuan County. Several guests went to visit him and asked to meet the "Thunder Deity." Although Taoist Zheng refused at the beginning, he could not resist their repeated requests and reluctantly agreed.

Taoist Zheng performed his regular routine: he chanted incantations, drew some symbols, and then held a sword and declared something loudly. After a while, accompanied by cold winds and splashes of rain, a deity wearing a tall hat and carrying a heavenly axe in hand appeared. The deity said, "I am the Thunder Deity, I come to Master Zheng's summon. Please tell me what I should do."

Taoist Zheng said, "Several friends of mine want to meet you so I summoned you. I don't have anything particular for you to do." The Thunder Deity was very angry. He said, "Each time you summon me, I must first report to the Heavenly Emperor to get permission before I can come down. Afterwards, I report to the Heavenly Emperor what I have done. Today you summoned me to play with your friends. How can I report this to the Heavenly Emperor? My heavenly axe does not allow me to come down to earth vainly. Master Zheng, you should take a hit from my axe." With these words, the Thunder Deity hit Taoist Zheng's head with the axe. The guests were so horrified they all fainted. After a while they came to and found Taoist Zheng dead.

When I wrote this article, I remembered a conversation between my friends, Mr. Chen, a theist, and Mr. Liu, an atheist. They are good friends but like to argue with each other. One day Liu said to Chen, "You say deities exist, so summon one to come here for me to see!" Chen replied, "I cannot summon deities. I cannot even summon a provincial governor to come here, yet you know we have a governor. You have not met the governor, the chairman of the country, or the president, but they do exist. Deities are far superior to governors, chairmen, presidents, or any human being. How can we human beings summon deities on a whim?"

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