Follow King Mu's epic expeditions across the realm, his pursuit of immortality, and encounters with mythical creatures and divine horses.
In the thirty-second year of King Mu’s reign of the Zhou Dynasty, he began his tour of the realm. King Mu rode in a royal chariot adorned with gold and jade, speeding like the wind, traveling day and night. He set out from high mountains where the sun rises, journeying from day into night, and traversed the entire realm without rest. Accompanying King Mu on his journey were ten court historians who meticulously recorded all the places he visited. King Mu also had ten carriages adorned with beautiful jade, which followed behind his chariot, carrying his books and documents. King Mu was accompanied by eight splendid horses known as the “Eight Dragons.” These eight horses were named: “Strideless,” as they galloped without touching the ground; “Feathered Sprint,” for their speed surpassed that of birds; “Skysoar,” capable of covering thousands of miles in a single night; “Sun Chase,” as they followed the sun; “Radiant Glory,” known for their dazzling appearance; “Superlight,” which appeared as ten horses when in full sprint; “Cloudsoar,” as they could travel on clouds; and “Winged,” with flesh wings. King Mu had these eight horses take turns pulling his chariot and tightened their reins to make them move slowly, circling the heavens and the earth. King Mu was wise, talented, and had great foresight. He allowed his chariot and horses to traverse the entire realm, and as a result, distant and extraordinary foreign nations willingly submitted themselves to King Mu’s rule.
Xiao Qilu said: “Most living beings, born from the essence of the heavens and the earth, are often categorized based on their external appearance. When it comes to their inner nature and abilities, dragons and horses belong to the same category. Therefore, Cai Mo observed the intelligence of horses, and Ju Wei assessed their abilities. Moreover, the characteristics of horses are also recorded in divination texts and ancient documents, symbolizing auspicious signs for the mandate of rulers and aligning with the prophecies of the River Chart and the Luo Book. As a result, depictions of horses’ forms were created through painting, and their likenesses were carved in jade and cast in bronze to be passed down to future generations. Extraordinary horses like Cheng’er, Hualou, Chiji, and White Guan, as well as divine steeds like Huangqu, Shanzi, and Yulun, are not easily obtained, and ordinary horses cannot compare to them. Therefore, King Mu’s eight divine horses could traverse over Jieshi Mountain and reach the ninth heaven; they could also open the gates of heaven, descend back to the mortal world, and cross Mount Gusu.”
If not for the divine speed of those horses, their hooves not touching the dust, how could they achieve such feats! They looked toward the Crimson Palace with lofty spirits, resting only when they reached the Qiong Terrace. Only they could accomplish great deeds and race side by side. As for the horses recorded in the “Book of Songs” and the “Book of Documents,” there are indeed many names. Chestnut and bay horses traveled together in the wilds and open plains, their bright coats shining in the vast and deep valleys under the sunlight. There were also horses with various appearances: lazy horses with yellow bodies and black muzzles, dappled horses, and black horses covered in green manes, to name a few. There were also horses like Longwen and Muniao, listed because they possessed lightning-fast speed. Others like Guan, Xiang, Wei, and Ji were known as excellent horses because they were skilled at prancing with raised heads. All these steeds awaited a flourishing and enlightened era to appear together, becoming miraculous treasures for generations to come.
Next, there were horses like Pushao, Niexi, Yuwen, and Liju. Some of them were renowned upstream of the Han River, while others were produced in the north of Ji Province. These fine horses were adorned with various ornaments and densely arranged in the emperor’s stables. When they were conscripted, some were placed in the middle of the chariot as the lead horses, while others served as carriage horses pulling the emperor’s chariot adorned with beautiful jade. When no longer in use, these fine horses would be returned to the lower-ranked horse pens, where they longed for the days when they used to pull the emperor’s chariots. They awaited the keen eyes of horse experts like Wu Ban and Qin Gong to notice them. In the horse pens, they gazed up at the Heavenly Gate they had once passed through, which now seemed so distant. They yearned to find a way out, but the path was elusive. If only skilled horsemen like Han Ai and Bole would pick up the reins again, where would they let the horses injure their mouths or damage the whips! How could these fine horses hide and not move forward? Of course, these skilled horsemen were not as wise and far-reaching as King Mu of Zhou, who comprehended the universe, observed the distant past, and drove groups of horses without equal.
In the thirty-sixth year of King Mu of Zhou’s reign, he embarked on an eastern tour to the Great Qigu Valley. King Mu’s destination was the Spring Night Palace, where he gathered various experts in the arts of immortality and magical transformations. At this time, extraordinary birds and beasts like Chi, Hu, Long, and She appeared in the sky. As evening approached, King Mu set up a perpetual lamp for illumination, naming it Henghui. He also arranged lamps and candles made from the fat of beautiful jade, spreading their light throughout the Spring Night Palace. There were also Phoenix Brain lamps. In addition, there were Ice Lotuses from the deep valleys of ice mountains, placed about seven or eight feet away from the lamps to prevent their light from extending too far. The Queen Mother of the West arrived at the Spring Night Palace in a phoenix-shaped chariot adorned with emerald. In front of the chariot were decorated tigers and leopards, and behind it were flowered qilin and purple deer in formation as guards. The Queen Mother of the West wore shoes adorned with red jade and was seated on mats woven from green papyrus and yellow sedge. Together with King Mu of Zhou, they held a grand feast. The Queen Mother of the West presented clear jade nectar as fine wine and offered red flowers from Dongyuan, sweet snow from Kunliu, white lotuses from Kunliu, black jujubes from Yinqi, peaches that ripen only once every thousand years, green lotus roots a thousand feet long, and white mandarins with blue patterns. The white lotus, producing a hundred seeds from a single ovary, remained lush with leaves even in the winter. The black jujube tree grew eight hundred feet tall, bearing fruit two feet long, with small and tender pits that ripened only once every hundred years.
Located fifty thousand miles east of the Fusang tree, there is a mountain called Bangduo Mountain. On this mountain stands a giant peach tree with a circumference of one hundred feet. The peach blossoms of this tree are dark green, and it only bears fruit once every ten thousand years. To the east of Bangduo Mountain, there is the Yu River. The flow of water in the Yu River is very small, and it deposits sediments under the large mountain slopes, forming what is referred to as “Chenliu” or “Heavy Springs.” In the waters of “Chenliu,” there grow green lotus roots, which can reach a length of one thousand chang. One chang is equivalent to seven feet. The Tianyang Mountain produces Xianpeng grass, which resembles Artemisia and has stems that can grow up to ten zhang. In the early years of the Zhou Dynasty, someone presented this Xianpeng grass, and King Zhou used its stems as pillars for the palace, giving rise to the “Haogong” or “Artemisia Palace.” Within the Haogong, there is a white mandarin tree with green flowers and snow-white fruits, each as large as a gourd. The fragrance of the fruit can be smelled from several li away. The Queen Mother of the West had her orchestra play celestial music, using precious instruments from the heavenly palace. These instruments included bamboo pipes with carved flowers from Mount Cenhua, carved bells from Yihai, tranquil se from Yuanshan, and feathered chimes from Fuying. The Queen Mother of the West and King Mu sang and clapped to the music, attracting various divine beings to gather. “Huantian” means the center of heaven, and “he” signifies vastness. Source: Excerpt from “The Biography of King Mu of Zhou.” Cen Hua is the name of a mountain located above the Western Sea. On this mountain, there are bamboo groves known as “elephant bamboo.” These bamboo stems are cut and fashioned into bamboo pipes for playing music, capable of producing sounds reminiscent of the calls of a flock of phoenixes. Yezé is renowned for producing high-quality bronze, which is used to craft bronze bells and large chimes. The shape of Yuanshan is circular, covered in vast forests. Even when strong winds blow, causing the earth to tremble, the trees on the mountain remain undisturbed. Instruments made from the wood of Yuanshan are referred to as “Quiet Se” due to their ability to produce serene music. Fuying refers to the Immortal Mountain Yingzhou, where there are blue-colored rocks that can be used to create chimes. Although these chimes can be as long as one zhang (approximately 3.3 meters), they are as light as a feather and can produce sound due to their lightweight nature. After the joyful performance of Queen Mother of the West and King Mu of Zhou, the Queen Mother ordered her attendants to harness auspicious clouds, and they ascended and departed.
Xiao Qilu said: During the Spring and Autumn Period, Lord Chunshen of the State of Chu once said, “In the past, King Mu of Zhou desired to freely tour the world, leaving his chariot tracks and horse imprints everywhere.” By examining the damaged bamboo slips of the “Chronicles of Bamboo Annals” and searching for records in various places, there have been continuous writings on this matter. From the “Classic of Mountains and Seas” to the “Erya,” and even in the “Great Commentary on the Book of Documents,” although it is an ancient era, the content recorded is essentially the same. All these books record that King Mu of Zhou once toured famous mountains and rivers, freely ascending their peaks, and the people of different regions all eagerly paid their respects to him. King Mu of Zhou ascended the Giant’s Terrace to the east, went west to the hall of the Queen Mother of the West for a banquet, crossed the bridge built by tortoises and snakes to the south, and passed through the land of Ji Yu to the north. King Mu also drank and composed poems with the Queen Mother of the West at the Jade Pool, played chess with Jingong, inscribed a monument on Xuanyuan Hill, and achieved immortality in the Xuanpu on Kunlun Mountain. Since the beginning of time, there have been no records in books of someone as extraordinary as King Mu of Zhou.
扶桑東五萬里，有磅磄山。上有桃樹百圍，其花青黑，萬歲一實。郁水在磅磄山東，其水小流，在大陂之下，所謂“沉流”，亦名“重泉”。生碧藕，長千常，七尺為常也。條陽山出神蓬，如蒿，長十丈。周初，國人獻之，周以為宮柱，所謂“蒿宮”也。中有白橘，花色翠而實白，大如瓜，香聞數里。奏環天之和樂，列以重霄之寶器。器則有岑華鏤管，(目弗)澤雕鐘，員山靜瑟，浮瀛羽磬，撫節按歌，萬靈皆聚。環天者，鈞天也。和，廣也。 【 出《穆天子傳》。】 岑華，山名也，在西海上，有象竹，截為管吹之，為群鳳之鳴。(目弗)澤出精銅，可為鐘鐸。員山，其形員朼。有大林，雖疾風震地，而林木不動，以其木為琴瑟，故曰“靜瑟”。浮瀛，即瀛洲也。上有青石，可為磬，磬者長一丈，輕若鴻毛，因輕而鳴。西王母與穆王歡歌既畢，乃命駕升雲而去。