A book of poetry dating back to the 16th century and written by Liu Chan-fang. In Chinese, the book is called "Xuán-shan nu-shên." It is approximately 50 pages long and is nearly impossible to find in the West, outside of a few carefully-guarded rare-book collections in university libraries. In China, the government possesses all copies of the book, or so they claim; numerous copies of the book are believed to be owned by private collectors.

"The Goddess of the Black Fan" has a profoundly unsavory reputation; it is said to be the holy text of a particularly bloodthirsty cult whose members believe their goddess will help them drive all humanity insane and destroy the world. It's believed that they are responsible for over 500 deaths in China since 1950, and the American government holds them responsible for almost a dozen in the US. There are stories of a curse attached to the book -- several Chinese scholars who have studied it have come to bad ends.

The book has been translated only twice into English. In 1879, Roderick Rutherford Blain, a professor at Oxford, spent almost a year on a translation. Two weeks after it was published, he walked into a butcher shop near the campus and committed suicide by driving a pair of carving knives into his eyes. In 1933, Professor Edmond Pincker of Massachusetts apparently finished his translation one night, organized his papers neatly, hacked his wife and two children to pieces in their sleep, and vanished into the countryside. Police were never able to locate him.

Of the few people who have read all three versions of the book, most say the poem loses a lot in its translation from the original Chinese -- the meter of the original poem is impossible to translate into English, and many of Liu's more colorful (and horrific and disturbing) passages sound downright bland in English. Most also say they prefer Blain's version, mainly because it's considered the least faithful to the original text. Nevertheless, we'll use excerpts from Pincker's translation for the summary below.

At the beginning of the book, Liu is in mourning after the deaths of his wife and son in a fire. He has been employed by the emperor as a scribe and minor dignitary, but he has abandoned his responsibilities so that he may spend his life drunk:

The winter moon shines down
on frosted trees and chilled temples
I sit alone with my cup of wine
And sing toasts to death and life

A man may sing to his cups and the moon
For what else is there to life, yes?
I loved my wife and child
But now they have gone to Hell

After several days of besotted self-pity, Liu hears a new voice and a new song from a nearby valley.

My song drifts and fades like autumn
And a new song is lifted from the valley
It is a woman's song, wordless and sweet
The voice soars like a bird's flight

The voice sings, Come to me, come to me
Come to me, and I must go
Who could deny such a sweet, high voice?
Who could refuse her soft plea?

Entranced, Liu follows the voice to a deserted and decaying temple far in the wilderness. It is there that he meets his goddess for the first time.

She stands alone in her temple
Alone atop a bejeweled dais
Her beauty would blast the heavens
Her eyes are dark green pools

A silken tunic she wears
Yellow and black in color, like a wasp
And in her belt she has tucked her sting
Six sickles, sharp as a dragon's tooth

Her face she hides behind a fan
Black metal, as black as darkness
My lady, remove your fan
I would feast upon your beauty

The fan flutters but does not fall
She simpers behind the fan and says
"You would make such requests of a god?"
Her voice is like iron shredding velvet

I did not know you were a god, my lady
Tell me how I may worship you
Tell me how I may praise you
My life has been but a prelude to you

She simpers, and her eyes imprison me
"No one may say my name," she coos
"But you may serve me, forever and ever"
Songs of joy gibber behind my lips

Liu soon discovers that his goddess craves worship and followers...

"A goddess must be pampered," said she
"Loved, adored, and worshipped
"She must be fed with sacred offerings
"Bring me children for my congregation."

Liu is enraptured and leaves the temple immediately. Soon, he discovers a peasant's child gathering berries in the forest. The little boy distrusts Liu, but the man gathers his wits, lures the child close with promises of sweets, and captures him. The boy kicks and screams all the way back to the temple, but there is no one to hear him...

The boy's struggles cease as he beholds the Goddess
A quiet joy holds him fast as she takes him in her arms
She turns from me, lifts a sickle from her belt
And removes her fan. The child screams for a moment

Liu is either blinded by love or is a bit of a simpleton, as he disregards the child's alarm, not to mention that his goddess apparently has at least four arms. The Goddess takes the child into another room, and when Liu follows a few minutes later, he makes an unpleasant discovery.

The child's head was opened with the sickle
Then discarded once plucked of brain
Behind her fan, the Goddess slurps
"I love no offering more than grey lilies from a child"

But even this gruesome sight is forgotten after a bit more time of speaking with and adoring the Goddess, still hiding all but her eyes behind her metal fan. Soon, Liu is again lost in abject worship...

There is no glory greater than the Goddess of the Black Fan
Her beauty and wisdom are more vast than the numbers of stars at night
The Goddess of the Black Fan is the meaning of all life and death
Nothing is to be denied her, and no sacrifice is too great

If the Emperor comes to you and demands your home and wife
You give them both up for his glory and honor
How much more does the Goddess deserve, when she is greater than the Emperor?
She loves her grey lilies, so with joy do I attend to the harvest

Soon enough, the Goddess is demanding more children, and Liu begins a campaign of kidnapping throughout the region, targeting his brother and his family first...

Why should Hsien have children when I have lost mine?
He has never been an honorable man
If there were justice, he would have lost his children
But thanks to the Goddess, there can be justice again

Hsien's house was quiet, and even the servants and dogs slept
None heard me enter, none heard me leave
A dozing child in my arms, a baby in my sack
All glory and praise to the Goddess of the Black Fan!

Over the following weeks, Liu continues to kidnap more children to feed the appetites of the Goddess. At the beginning of the most controversial, most stomach-churning, most reviled section of the poem, she decides to reward her faithful servant...

Sated on lilies, the Goddess regards me with endless green eyes
"Your faithfulness must have a reward, and your love must have an answer"
She takes my hand, draws it behind her fan, and kisses it
Softly, hidden from view, she kisses me and sucks on my fingers

And what follows is the longest section of the book -- over five full pages of Liu and the Goddess doing the nasty. And when I say "nasty," what I actually mean is "filthy, disgusting, retch-inducing, utterly-lacking-in-sex-appeal sex." You think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. This shit makes horse porn look sweet and romantic. It makes goatse.cx look appealing. If you don't have a strong stomach, you'll be puking your guts up by the end of the first page. If you do have a strong stomach, you'll be puking your guts up by the middle of the second page. If you make the mistake of reading it, you probably won't be able to think pleasant thoughts about sex for at least two weeks. You will not be able to look at an attractive member of your chosen sex without having libido-killing visions of tooth-filled orifices, snapped spines, and things that should not be that spiky or eye-covered pushing into places that should not be pushed into at all.

And the only thing worse than reading it is re-typing excerpts from it, so I ain't doing it. I don't care if you want to judge the content for yourself -- you'll just have to suffer through your blissful, nookie-enjoying ignorance.

Anyway, by the time this is all over, Liu is fucked up beyond all rational recognition, and he dedicates himself even more fervently to harvesting more children for his Goddess.

The woman is dead, struck down with my blade
She should have surrendered when I said the name of the Goddess
The girl is near death and may die before we reach the temple
The boy lies stunned and weeping and will live to the lips of my beloved

My Goddess awaits my return, awaits the harvest she craves
My heart surges with pride and lust to think that she needs me
She gluts down grey lilies and listens for my footfalls
I ride my steed the faster, for she awaits my return

And finally, seemingly pleased with Liu's loyal service, the Goddess makes him a promise...

"You will see my face, worthy little man
"For you, my black fan will be cast aside
"You will behold the full glory of your Goddess
"Your ecstasy will know no limits"

It is worth noting that while Pincker uses the word "ecstasy" here, Blain's translation says "madness."

Liu changes the format of the final section of the book -- he writes the last two pages in a faded brown ink which the translators thankfully did not try to reproduce. Liu wrote it soon after the Goddess kept her promise and let him see her face.

Her eyes remained the same, so green and deep
So rich and lovely, still could they put me in a trance
Her eyes remained the same, yet when the black fan fell
Everything else about her changed

I have focused on her fan and her eyes, but now I finally see her
Before my eyes, she expands, sluglike and bloated, immense and howling
Her sweet mouth sprouts into five fang-snaggled maws
Her arms become like venomous snakes, questing for blood

The dragon-toothed feaster towering above me, her own temple too small
Her mouths open and five voices giggle girlishly, licking the air
"Tell your Goddess that you love her, Liu Chan-fang" she taunts
I love her, I love her, I love her, I love her, I love her

After this revelation, Liu, reeling between extremes of disgust and desire, flees from the temple of the goddess, taking with him only the book of poems he has been writing and one of the sickles from the goddess' belt. After a hallucinatory flight through the wilderness, he returns to the ruins of his former home, where he completes his final poem.

She remains my Goddess yet, and the greatest love of my life
But she is also the greatest beast, more terrible than tigers or dragons
She has devoured my soul just as she has the grey lilies I have harvested
All my life, all my art is forfeit for her beauty and for her evil

Thus have I taken the sickle of the Goddess and opened my belly
My quill is dipped into my own reservoir and my own red, red ink
As my heart has bled for the glory of my Goddess
Now let my heart bleed to commemorate her horrors

With these words, my poem is completed
With these words, I die
All praise and worship to my Goddess
My Goddess of the Black Fan

Legend has it that Liu's body was found sitting bolt upright in the house where his wife and child had died. He was holding his completed poem in his lap -- and despite his own blood and gore coating his body and poured onto the floor, the book was completely clean and without blemish.

Legend also has it that the top of Liu's head had been sliced open and his brain removed.

The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep, "Shanghai" by Larry DiTillio and Lynn Willis, p. 206
Encyclopedia Cthulhiana by Daniel Harms, p. 84, 152

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