Daji

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For the village in Comoros, see Daji, Comoros.
Left:Wen Zhong and Bi Gan; Right: King Zhou and Daji

Daji, sometimes spelled Da Ji (pronounced Ta-chi; Chinese: 妲己; pinyin: Dájǐ; Wade–Giles: Ta2-chi3) was a favorite concubine of King Zhou of Shang, the last king of the Shang dynasty in ancient China. She is considered a classic example of how a beauty causes the downfall of an empire/dynasty in Chinese culture. She is portrayed as girl possessed by an evil fox spirit in the Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi.

Biography[edit]

King Zhou of Shang and his consort Daji as depicted in Faits mémorables des empereurs de la Chine, tirés des annales chinoises (1788)

Daji was from a noble family called Su (蘇) from the state of Yousu (有蘇). Hence, she is also known as Su Daji. In 1047 BC, King Zhou of Shang conquered Yousu and took Daji as his prize.

King Zhou became extremely infatuated with Daji and started to neglect state affairs in order to keep her company. He used any means necessary to ingratiate himself with her and to please her. Daji liked animals so he built her a zoological Xanadu with several rare species of birds and animals. He also ordered artists to compose lewd music and choreograph bawdy dances to satisfy her musical taste. He gathered 3000 guests at one party to indulge in his "pond of wine" and "forest of meat". He allowed the guests to play a cat and mouse game nude in the forest to amuse Daji. When one of King Zhou's concubines, the daughter of Lord Jiu, protested, King Zhou had her executed. Her father was ground in pieces and his flesh fed to King Zhou's vassals.

Daji said that her greatest joy was to hear people cry in physical torment. Once, she saw a farmer walking barefoot on ice and ordered his feet cut off so she could study them and figure out why they were so resistant to low temperatures. On another occasion, she had a pregnant woman's belly cut open so it satisfied her curiosity to find out what happened inside. To verify an ancient saying that "a good man's heart has seven apertures", she even had the heart of the minister Bi Gan (King Zhou's uncle) dug out and subjected to her futile scrutiny.

Daji was best known for her invention of a method of torture known as Paolao (炮烙). A bronze cylinder covered with oil was heated like a furnace with charcoal beneath until its sides became extremely hot. The victim was made to walk on top of the slowly heating cylinder and he was forced to shift his feet to avoid the burning. The oily surface made it difficult for the victim to maintain his position and balance. If the victim fell into the charcoal below, he would be burnt to death. The victim was forced to dance and scream in agony before dying while the observing King Zhou and Daji would laugh in delight.

Daji was executed on the orders of King Wu of Zhou after the fall of the Shang dynasty on the advice of Jiang Ziya.

In literature[edit]

Depiction of Daji in the Hokusai Manga

Daji is featured in the Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi as a major antagonist. She was the first featured corrupter of the declining Shang dynasty in the novel. Her father Su Hu gave her in to King Zhou of Shang as an appeasement offer after armed conflict broke out between Su's and Shang military forces.

One night before Daji was sent to the capital city of Zhaoge, she was possessed by an evil nine-tailed fox spirit (aka Thousand-Year-Old Vixen). When Daji arrived in Zhaoge, she became the centre of attention of King Zhou and caused the king to be extremely obsessed with her. King Zhou neglected state affairs to keep her company and ignored the advice of his subjects. Yunzhongzi was the first man to act against Daji by giving the king a magical peach-wood sword which would make Daji ill and kill her eventually. She rose above the ranks from a minor concubine to become the queen based on the king's favouritism towards her.

Daji was blamed for the fall of the Shang dynasty by corrupting King Zhou and causing him to neglect state affairs and rule with tyranny and despotism. This ultimately led to the dynasty's decline and widespread chaos. King Zhou's tyranny incurred the anger and resentment of the common people, who eventually rose up in revolt against him under King Wu of Zhou's leadership. After the fall of the Shang dynasty, Daji was exorcised by Jiang Ziya (aka Jiang Taigong) and died eventually.

In popular culture[edit]

Da Ji as she appears in Koei's Warriors Orochi.
  • The primary antagonist of Ryu Fujisaki's Manga series Hoshin Engi (based on Fengshen Yanyi), Dakki, is based on Daji. She is a "yokai sennin" said to have been originally a fox monster. In both anime and Manga, Dakki declared that Taikoubou (Taigong Wang = Jiang Ziya) is her rival.
  • Daji appears in Koei's video game Warriors Orochi as "Da Ji," Orochi's strategist and right-hand woman. Her design incorporates pointed, fuzzy ears and vulpine feet, alluding to the legend that she is a fox spirit. In Warriors Orochi 2 she is a strong rival of Taigong Wang, who is the one who can easily see through her strategies. She is also the one who had originally released Orochi the Serpent King from confinement (she is implied to have once been one of the "mystics", the game world's organization of Chinese and Japanese semi-mythical figures) because she sympathised with him.
  • Daji appears as a general that players can control in the strategy game War of Legends.
  • Daji is also seen as one of the antagonists of the light gun shooting game SEGA Golden Gun in the final part of the Shilitan stage. In this game, Daji transforms into a moe anthropomorphism of Byakko. She only attacks using her tiger tail, which she thrusts toward the players. One of her lines include "Please accept my love...." which she says to the players upon unleashing hearts to blind them. She can also summon red-armored bodyguards (which is only seen in the first half of the boss fight), but these bodyguards do not add either player's points. She can also create 4 copies of herself in the second half of the boss fight to confuse the players. In the end, Daji is defeated and screams out King Zhou's name upon dissolving into the abyss.
  • Daji/Dakki is featured in the anime Hoozuki no reitetsu (episode 9) where she is the most expensive courtesan in Human Hell.
  • Hong Kong/South Korean film "Da Ji" better know in English as "The Last Woman of Shang" (1964) directed by Choi In-hyeon and Yueh Feng proposes unusual view of the title character (played by Linda Lin Dai) contrasting to the all above-listed - as a heroine who did not have actual taste for killing and torture but was encouraging King Zhou for such activities in order to destroy his kingdom/push the nation to overthrow him to restore the rightful dynasty.

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