Chinese Culture Guide:
A brief introduction to Traditional Chinese Art Culture, CHinese Food Culture, Chinese Tea Culture, Chinese Kungfu, etc
Chinese Art: A comprehensive list of Chinese traditional art including Beijing opera, Chinese seals, chinese kites and much more.
Chinese Festivals: Introduction to major festivals in China inlcuding traditional chinese festivals, major tourist festivals, famouse Chinese holidays,
History of Chinese Mythology
The writing of such stories began in the Wei and Jin
Dynasties (220-420), when various writers, influenced by the alchemist's
ideas and Taoist and Buddhist superstitions, were interested
in inventing stories about gods and ghosts. Some of them
show their unusual imagination and mastery of the written
language. This practice was continued in the next period, the
period of Southern and Northern Dynasties.
But the dawn of fiction, in the true sense of the term,
came much later, in the middle of the Tang Dynasty, when
many well-known writers and poets went in for story-writing.
Their stories have a wide range of subject matter and themes,
reflecting various aspects of human nature, human relations
and social life. In form they are not short notes or anecdotes
like the tales produced before them, but well-structured
stories with interesting plots and vivid characters, often
several thousand words in length. Among them are many
tales whose main characters are gods, ghosts, or foxes.
Mythical stories of the Song Dynasty show strong influence of Tang fiction, but hardly attain the Tang level. One achievement in the field of fiction worthy of special mention is
the compilation of the great Taiping Guangji or Extensive
Records Compiled in the Taiping Years (976-983), which is a
collection of about seven thousand stories published before
and in the first years of the Song Dynasty. The stories were selected from over three hundred
books, many of which have long been lost to us. A large
portion of the seven thousand stories are about gods, deities,
fairies, and ghosts.
In Song times there were stories written in the vernacular, called "notes for story-tellers". In the Yuan, Ming and
Qing Dynasties that followed the best-known works of fiction
were novels in the vernacular, such as Romance of the Three
Kingdoms,Water Margin, Pilgrimage to the West, The
Scholars, and Dream of the Red Mansions.
In the early period of the Qing Dynasty there appeared
an anthology of short mythical stories written in the classical
style-- Strange Stories from Happiness Studio by Pu Songling. For some time it was a most popular book, praised and
liked by many people. After Pu, Ji Yun, who presided over
the compilation of the Siku Quanshu (Complete Collection of
Written Works Divided into Four Stores), wrote a book entitled Notes from a Thatched House, which includes anecdotes,
rumours and tales about gods, foxes and ghosts.
Features of Chinese Mythology.
Scholars and critics have written about the special features of Chinese mythology. Among the most obvious are:
Mythical stories are entwined with history.
The history of the long period before recorded history began is partly based on legend, which is interwoven with mythology. Such ancient heroes and leaders as Fuxi, Shennong, Huangdi (the
Yellow Emperor) and Yu are both historical figures according to legend and important characters in mythical stories.
They sing the praises of labour and creation.
They extol perseverance and self-sacrifice.
One typical example is the story of Gun and Yu trying to tame the
floods. Gun steals the "growing earth" from the Heavenly
God with which to stop the floods, but the god has him killed.
Out of his belly Yu is born, who continues his cause. Yu goes
through countless hardships, remains unmarried until he is
thirty, and leaves his wife only four days after their wedding
to fight the floods, and finally brings them under control.
They praise rebellion against oppression.
One such story is about a boy whose eyebrows are one foot apart.
Ganjiang, who is good at making swords, is killed by the king
of Chu. His son Chibi is determined to take revenge. For this
he kills himself so that a friend may take his head to see the
king and then kill him.
They eulogize the yearning for true love.
"The Cowherd and the Girl Weaver" is certainly one of China's
earliest love stories. Many of the mythical stories written by
intellectuals tell stories of how men and goddesses, fox fairies
or ghost women love each other passionately and sincerely.
Such stories reflect, in an indirect way, the yearning for true
love when it was stifled by feudal ethical codes.
They encourage good deeds and warn against sin.
This is an important theme of the mythical stories produced
after the Wei and Jin. Their writers may have been motivated
by Confucian teachings about humanity and righteousness,
and the Buddhist tenet that good will be rewarded with good
and evil repaid with evil.
All these features add up, perhaps, to one prevailing
characteristic: China's mythical stories, either those created
by the primitive people or those written by later scholars, are
full of human feelings. Gods, ghosts, foxes and spirits are
commonly described as living things with human qualities and
human feelings. Chinese inventors
of myths describe gods the way they describe man, or treat
them as if they were human, and endow them with human
There are also stories that try to illustrate fatalism, reincarnation, and all sorts of feudal ethical principles. This is only natural, because literary works inevitably reflect the
beliefs of the age in which they are produced.
Style and Art of Writing
In style and art of writing, both early and later mythical stories are superb. Classical Chinese is extremely concise. A few hundred, even a few dozen words are enough to tell a story complete with dialogue and behavioral and psychological descriptions. Take The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains. After he heard that the Foolish Old Man of North Mountain had begun digging the Taihang and Wangwu Mountains,