YaZi/睚眦: The Vengeful Mythical Beast of Ancient China

YaZi/睚眦: ancient chinese mythical revenge beast

“YaZi” is a mythical creature in ancient Chinese legends, the second son of the dragon among the nine sons born from the dragon and jackal union. It has the body of a jackal and the head of a dragon. Historical records describe it as a creature with a love for killing and fighting, characterized by a fierce and courageous nature, a fondness for bloodshed, and always seen with a precious sword in its mouth. It is depicted with angry eyes, intricately carved on sword rings and sword hilts, symbolizing its formidable power.

The original meaning of “YaZi” is to gaze angrily, as reflected in the saying, “One must repay a favor, and the grudge of Yazhi must be avenged.” When seeking revenge, it inevitably involves bloodshed, turning YaZi into an embodiment that overcomes and destroys all evil.

The Legend of YaZi

In ancient Chinese mythology, “YaZi” is one of the nine sons of the dragon, resembling a jackal despite being of dragon lineage. His father, displeased with his appearance, intended to abandon him, but thanks to the plea of his mother, YaZi’s life was spared.

Upon reaching adulthood in ten years, YaZi bid farewell to his family and ventured into the unknown. Standing in the vastness of the world, he witnessed the boundless sea and sky, and the tumultuous winds and clouds stretching endlessly. Overwhelmed with emotions, he exclaimed, “Although my form may not be that of a dragon, my aspirations are dragon-like. Despite lacking the abilities of controlling winds and clouds like dragons, I possess a proud and ambitious spirit. My father judges by appearance, and I dare not speak. For those with aspirations, adaptability is crucial. Now, I establish my own path and vow to achieve great things, upholding the name of the dragon’s son, YaZi!” With these words, he embarked on a journey to fulfill his aspirations.

Ji Chang, also known as King Wen, was the king of Zhou who served under King Zhou of Shang. King Zhou, driven by lust and corruption, abandoned his loyal ministers, leading to chaos and moral degradation. King Wen advised him, but King Zhou, displeased, first killed King Wen’s eldest son and later harmed King Wen himself. Fortunately, King Wen’s life was spared, and he wandered through hardships until he returned to the western outskirts of the capital.

Infuriated, King Zhou issued decrees to various lords, intending to mobilize an army and eliminate the Zhou dynasty. King Wen, since his return to Zhou, found no peace day or night, as the peril to Zhou was imminent.

One day, King Wen had a dream where a divine dragon approached, and he intended to seek its aid, but he woke up. Skilled in divination, King Wen chose an auspicious day to consult the oracle, which revealed, “In the east of Xi Qi, there is a capable individual who can assist.” King Wen set out.

After traveling a few miles, by the river, he found an extraordinary person near a giant rock. The person had a peculiar appearance, with a face like a jackal, a body like a leopard, carrying a silver knife, dressed in tattered golden armor. With a majestic and imposing presence, resembling a force that could swallow the moon, the person exuded an aura as if he could embrace the sun. This person was none other than YaZi, the son of the dragon.

King Wen, bolstered by courage, asked, “Valiant one, who are you? Why do you have such a peculiar appearance?”

YaZi replied, “I am YaZi, the son of the dragon!”

King Wen was astonished, suspecting a divine intervention, and said, “I am Ji Chang, King Wen of Zhou.”

YaZi was also surprised, realizing the elderly man had an extraordinary aura but did not expect him to be Zhou King Wen. Delighted, YaZi thought that success was now possible. He saluted and said, “How is King Wen?”

King Wen returned the greeting and said, “Afflicted by illness, making rest and sleep elusive. Like sitting on a bed of needles.”

YaZi laughed heartily, and King Wen, not understanding, asked the reason.

YaZi chuckled and said, “King Wen’s illness has persisted for a long time, merely a consequence of King Zhou’s aggression against Zhou.”

King Wen, shocked and bewildered, then sadly said, “King Zhou has decreed to various lords, branding us as rebels. Zhou is in great danger!”

“How should the king respond?” YaZi inquired.

King Wen replied, “King Zhou is like a tiger. Now, he wants to unite the forces of the world to attack Zhou. Surrounded by enemies, we are outnumbered. If we resist with force, both sides will suffer. If we don’t resist, we’ll be sitting ducks. Alas! The pain!”

YaZi coldly laughed several times and asked the reason for such laughter.

YaZi said, “King Wen of Zhou is praised as a benevolent and righteous ruler, but seeing him now, he appears to be an old and dull fool!”

King Wen, angered, said, “Ji Chang has treated you with respect. Why do you speak like this?” and attempted to leave. YaZi laughed again.

King Wen said, “Our conversation doesn’t seem to resonate. What is there to laugh about?”

YaZi sternly said, “Now, Zhou is raising troops against us. If we don’t fight back and surrender, it shows a lack of determination. Our ancestral foundation is fragile, and if we destroy it by yielding to King Zhou’s whims, it is not filial. Ji Chang should present his head, acknowledging guilt, and thus divert King Zhou’s forces without compromising our reputation.”

YaZi coldly laughed several times and said, “People say Zhou King Wen is a ruler of benevolence and righteousness. Now that I see him, he’s just an old fool! Ji Chang treats others politely, why make such a proposal?”

King Wen, enraged, said, “Ji Chang treats you with courtesy, why do you say such things?” and tried to leave. YaZi laughed again.

King Wen said, “Our conversation doesn’t seem to resonate. What is there to laugh about?”

YaZi, with a serious expression, said, “Now, Zhou King Wen wants to raise troops. If he doesn’t fight back and surrenders, showing no determination, it means he lacks ambition. Our ancestral foundation was created with great difficulty, and now it is about to be destroyed in Ji Chang’s hands. If he surrenders to King Zhou and compromises our ancestral heritage, it means Ji Chang lacks wisdom. Laughing at his lack of talent!”

King Wen realized the truth and, with a sense of shame, said, “Ji Chang is naive and incompetent, not daring to accept the responsibility, risking a major catastrophe. Your words are like thunder, waking me from a dream. Our ancestral foundation is like a candle in the wind. How should we welcome it?”

YaZi drew his silver knife and, on the giant rock, drew a map, pointing to the rivers and mountains with the knife. He said, “King Zhou’s territory spans thousands of miles, reaching every corner of the world, externally strong but internally weak. King Zhou’s military power is scattered among various lords, directly taking orders from King Zhou, mostly concentrated around Chaoge. Therefore, King Wen must first form an alliance with various lords. Promptly dispatch a skilled messenger to say, ‘King Zhou’s tyrannical rule has left people in fear, and Zhou and the various lords are in a symbiotic relationship. If the lips are lost, the teeth will be cold. We should not assist King Zhou in his mockery. Now, King Zhou is raising an army, and the people’s voices are filled with sorrow. The country is on the brink of collapse, and Zhou can take advantage of this. The distance from Chaoge to the western outskirts is over a thousand miles, not reachable in a short time. Zhou can take advantage of the geographical conditions. King Zhou’s lust and abandonment of loyal ministers are acts against the heavens. Zhou can take advantage of the timing. In ancient times, when King Tang took over Xia, and when King Shang replaced King Tang, the creation and replacement of foundations were not easy. Now, as King Shang goes against the heavens with tyranny, various heroes should replace him. Zhou can take advantage of this. Form an alliance with various lords, swear a blood oath, and then raise an army to attack Shang! If King Wen acts accordingly, the various lords will have a reasonable basis for forming an alliance.”

King Wen was delighted and said, “YaZi, you are wise.”

King Wen continued, “YaZi, King Zhou is about to raise an army. How should we respond?”

YaZi pointed to the map and said, “Now, observing the situation, Zhou is in the west, and Shang is in the east, separated by a thousand miles. If Shang’s army is slow, it will take a year; if fast, a few months. It cannot arrive overnight. During this time, King Wen can focus on governance, accumulate food, and stockpile troops. Then, King Wen can resist the invading army. When they come from a thousand miles away, people and horses will be tired, and King Wen can sit and wait, exploiting their fatigue. When they come from a distance, they will attack urgently. King Wen can avoid them, and if they fail to capture the city quickly, they will make noise. Soldiers fear noise. King Wen can use a strategy to counter-attack, and the enemy army will collapse like a landslide. King Wen can take advantage of the victory to pursue and attack, achieving a swift victory. With one powerful stroke, King Wen can reach Chaoge, and then the world will be settled!”

King Wen was overjoyed and, bowing to YaZi, said, “The person with great ambitions has a far-reaching vision and extraordinary talents. A true person with aspirations is indeed better than Ji Chang! Ji Chang is now seeking talented individuals like you. If there are strong individuals willing to assist, the matter can be accomplished. Do not refuse.”

YaZi, bowing to King Wen, said, “Although YaZi is the son of a dragon, my appearance is ugly, and I lack the ability to command wind and rain. I am not recognized by my father, and I am merely a common man from the mountains and fields. Grateful for King Wen’s recognition, I, YaZi, am not talented, but I will exert all efforts to assist and uphold the name of the dragon’s son. I am a simple warrior, skilled in leading soldiers to kill enemies. However, when it comes to governing a country, I am weak. Now, King Wen can follow the riverbank and find an elderly man named Jiang Shang, also known as Son of Tooth, fishing there. Despite his age, Jiang Shang is truly wise, possessing talents to govern the heavens and the earth. King Wen can promptly invite him. If you obtain Jiang Son of Tooth, then the world can be settled.”

After speaking, King Wen, accompanied by YaZi, followed the riverbank in search of Jiang Son of Tooth.

Subsequently, as YaZi had predicted, numerous feudal lords formed an alliance with Zhou and sent troops to support it. With the assistance of those with aspirations, King Wen gained much support. A year later, King Wen passed away, and his son Ji Fa ascended to the throne, taking the title of King Wu. Soon, the army of King Zhou arrived, and Jiang Son of Tooth, along with YaZi, led the forces to confront them. The army of King Zhou suffered a major defeat, and King Wu personally led the pursuit. In a decisive battle at Muye, the Zhou army crushed the forces of King Zhou, leading to the downfall of the Shang dynasty. King Wu unified the realm, and the feudal lords, acknowledging his rule, gathered to congratulate him in the capital.

Following these events, King Wu granted Jiang Son of Tooth the title of Marquis, known as “Qi.” On the day when all under heaven returned to Zhou, YaZi, without saying farewell, departed. King Wu expressed deep regret and personally commissioned craftsmen to create an image of YaZi, depicting him with a sword and a dragon swallowing its prey. This image was passed down through generations as a token of gratitude to the dragon’s son, YaZi, for assisting Zhou in its time of need.

The Idiom of YaZi Bi Bao/睚眦必报

means “YaZi Must Revenge”

During the reign of King Zhao of Qin, there was a powerful prime minister named Fan Ju, who hailed from the Wei state. Fan Ju was extremely eloquent, and King Zhao of Qin had great trust in him.

Originally from the Wei state, Fan Ju had once accompanied the “Middle Official” Xu Jia to the Qi state during his time in Wei. Xu Jia suspected Fan Ju of colluding with the Qi state and reported it to Prime Minister Wei Qi upon returning to Wei. Wei Qi ordered Fan Ju to be severely beaten. Feigning death, Fan Ju narrowly escaped danger and sought refuge in the home of his good friend Zheng Anping, where he changed his name to Zhang Lu and slowly recovered from his injuries. Subsequently, through the connections of an envoy sent to Wei by the Qin state named Wang Ji, Fan Ju secretly made his way to the Qin state. In Qin, he gained the favor of King Zhao through Wang Ji’s recommendation and his persuasive eloquence, eventually rising to the position of prime minister.

Not long after becoming prime minister, Fan Ju persuaded King Zhao of Qin to send troops to attack the Wei state. Wei dispatched Xu Jia to Qin to request a cessation of hostilities. Knowing that Xu Jia had arrived in Qin, Fan Ju disguised himself as a poor wanderer in a foreign land and went to visit him at an inn. Xu Jia was surprised to see Fan Ju and exclaimed, “Ah, you’re still alive!” After a brief conversation, feeling pity for Fan Ju, Xu Jia spontaneously gave him a luxurious robe. Later, when Xu Jia learned that Fan Ju was actually Prime Minister Zhang Lu of Qin, he remembered the past and became terrified. Immediately, he stripped off his upper garment and knelt before Fan Ju, begging for forgiveness. Fan Ju berated Xu Jia, listing his crimes, and held a grand banquet where he publicly humiliated Xu Jia in front of representatives from various states and all the guests. Fan Ju acknowledged Xu Jia’s previous gift of the robe, sparing his life as a gesture of mercy. However, he insisted that Wei Qi’s head be swiftly delivered, or else Qin’s army would march to the capital of Wei.

Upon hearing this news, Wei Qi was frightened and fled to the Zhao state. However, Zhao, fearing to offend Qin, refused to shelter him. Wei Qi then considered escaping to the Chu state, but Chu was unwelcoming. Ultimately, the prime minister was forced to take his own life.

Fan Ju recommended his good friend Zheng Anping, who had saved his life, as a general for Qin. He promoted Wang Ji to the position of “Protector of Hedong” and distributed part of his wealth to others who had previously assisted him. The Records of the Grand Historian, in the biography of Fan Ju, also states: “A small favor, even as little as a meal, must be repaid; a small grievance, even as minor as a resentful glance, must be avenged.” This is expressed as “一饭之德必偿,睚眦之怨必报” (Yī fàn zhī dé bì cháng, yá zì zhī yuàn bì bào). It means that even a small kindness, represented by a single meal, should be repaid, and even a slight grievance, symbolized by a resentful glance (睚眦), must be retaliated against.

Other Page: Chang’e: Chinese Goddess Flying to the Moon

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