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Handbook of Chinese Mythology Oxford University Press USA Lihui Yang


4th September 2012 Literature & Fiction 9 Comments

Every year, at the Wa Huang Gong temple in Hebei Province, China, people gather to worship the great mother, Nuwa, the oldest deity in Chinese myth, praising her for bringing them a happy life. It is a vivid demonstration of both the ancient reach and the continuing relevance of mythology in the lives of the Chinese people.
Compiled from ancient and scattered texts and based on groundbreaking new research, Handbook of Chinese Mythology is the most comprehensive English-language work on the subject ever written from an exclusively Chinese perspective. This work focuses on the Han Chinese people but ranges across the full spectrum of ancient and modern China, showing how key myths endured and evolved over time. A quick reference section covers all major deities, spirits, and demigods, as well as important places (Kunlun Mountain), mythical animals and plants (the crow with three feet; Fusang tree), and related items (Xirang-a kind of mythical soil; Bu Si Yao-mythical medicine for long life). No other work captures so well what Chinese mythology means to the people who lived and continue to live their lives by it.
With more than 40 illustrations and photographs, fresh translations of primary sources, and insight based on the authors’ own field research, Handbook of Chinese Mythology offers an illuminating account of a fascinating corner of the world of myth.

Grade 9 Up–An authoritative, but not comprehensive, resource. The authors have drawn on many works in Mandarin as well as extant scholarly texts in English. They discuss sources and treatments of Chinese myths in the past and present, offering an overview of the interaction between myth and society. Surveying Chinese history and the history of the study of myths, the authors identify some areas for future scholarship. They provide a chronology of Chinese dynasties and include non-Han minorities in their discussions. The writing is clear and correct (though the Weaving Maiden is said to wed a cowboy), if not inspired. An extensive annotated bibliography cites selected Internet and video as well as print resources. The index is detailed. Although entries on dragons and on culture-heroes are fascinating, users will look in vain for Guanyin, Monkey (Sun Wukong), Yen Lo Wang, Feng Du, Yuan Shi Tian Zong, Guan Yu, and other folk and Taoist gods. This book should expand students ideas about the extent and significance of Chinese myths, but the absence of many myths that are known, even if imperfectly, in the West will limit its usefulness.–Patricia D. Lothrop, St. Georges School, Newport, RI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Information about Chinese mythology has been limited by language and access to primary sources. This volume attempts to fill a gap by providing a resource written in English by Chinese mythologists. The wife and husband team of Lihui Yang and Deming An, who were research fellows in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University in Bloomington, have studied Chinese mythology extensively. Yang teaches mythology at Beijing Normal University.

The introduction comprises about a quarter of the volume and provides an in-depth look at Chinese mythology as a whole. It explains the difficulty of researching these myths, the most obvious being that no integrated system of myths exists among the 56 ethnic groups in China. Some myths are recorded in ancient writings and artifacts (such as vessels, shells, or bones), and some are transmitted only orally. The main sources are described, and commonalities of myths across China are noted. The history and cultural context of these myths are then detailed.

The dictionary portion of the work describes 70 deities, themes, and concepts. Most entries are about two pages long, although they vary in length from a page to almost 10 pages (for Shennong, the Divine Farmer). Most of the entries treat figures (largely unknown to Western readers), but a few describe mythological concepts and places such as elixir of Immortality and Kunlun Mountain. Entries note definitions, sources of information, stories, and the role of each myth, and most include cross-references and bibliographic information. Black-and-white illustrations and photographs dot the book. An appendix offers an annotated list of print, video, and Web resources about Chinese mythology. A detailed index concludes the volume.

Although it is not well illustrated, this volume provides useful information to the reader. The authors’ credibility and in-depth scholarship offer a rare opportunity to experience Chinese mythology through Chinese eyes. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. Lesley Farmer
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Handbook of Chinese Mythology (Handbooks of World Mythology)










  • 9 responses to "Handbook of Chinese Mythology Oxford University Press USA Lihui Yang"

  • Selene
    5:54 on September 4th, 2012
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    This is a wonderful collection of simple wonder stories and fables from China, most of very ancient origin. There are even some from the Taoist master Chuang Tzu. They are all very brief, in typical Chinese fashion, very direct to the point, and therefore very leisurely reading. Very reminiscent of the Grimm Brothers, Charles Perault and even Aesop, they also give us a rare and fascinating look at Taoist folklore, for most of these stories come for Taoist tellers speaking out against the Confucian way of thinking. Filled with magic crickets, dragons, and a few ghosts, these make for exotic bedtime stories suitable for all ages.

  • HawkEye
    7:35 on September 4th, 2012
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    This book is a mine of wealth in Chinese mythology with inputs from ancient texts and Chinese different ethnic groups over the long Chinese history.

    It highlights the creation, major deities, spirits and demigods. It showed human in relation to heaven and earth with the universe in the belief in cultural context.

    Reading this book will help understand Chinese characters, vision and belief. As they are independently developed, will Christian West look at mysterious East to defeat and convert?

  • For Real
    12:14 on September 4th, 2012
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    I actually thought this book was pretty good. Though, the illustrations are very simple. The stories are short and simple, but they are fun to read. I liked it.

  • Another Hugo
    8:19 on September 5th, 2012
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    When I first bought this book I had high expectations for it based on the quality of the other books in the Pantheon Folk Tale/Fairy Tale library, and to tell the truth It met those expectations. This book does a fine job of providing several different aspects of Chinese folk tradition through short yet involved tales which challenged the prior thoughts and beliefs of confucionism and promoted the contrary ideas developed by Lao Tse in Taoism. overall these stories, although short are seemingly deliberate are really much more, the stories that these books tell are truly philosophical and cultural and work to inspire a more fluid vision of the ancient chinese literary and folk beliefs. Thses fables then are short in length but long in meaning and should be enjoyed as such. I highly reccomend this book to anyone seeking a short read that pleases and that has a interest of folklore in any culture.

  • HowmaNoid
    12:14 on September 5th, 2012
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    I just had to come in here and pen this to counterbalance the so-and-so who assigned this opus but a single star. The stories are often short, but that should not detract from them, nor should the simplicity of some. They are, after all, CHINESE. The culture is different; the values are different; the symbology is different. I found the collection delightfully refreshing, and I particularly found some of the pieces extremely funny. This book is a definite keeper that the reader will remember for some time–both for its difference from the common European traditions and for its similarities thereto.

  • Dan Fonseca
    12:48 on September 5th, 2012
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    Don’t let the title’s ‘Fairy Tales’ give you the wrong expectation. A few stories here (such as “Girl in Green”) do resemble Western fairy tales, with supernatural beings, animal transformations, and unknowing mortals enchanted by these beings or enmeshed in their mysterious affairs.

    Other stories (including “The Tiger Behind the Fox”) would be at home among Aesop’s fables – stories acted out by anthropomorphized animals, showing some moral or insight into human nature. Yet others (like Chuang Tzu’s familiar “Butterfly Dreams”) extract pithy parables from the classic books of wisdom.

    Most of these stories are very short – some contain only one paragraph, few extend beyond their second page. This isn’t a children’s book, even if kids might like a few of the stories. It is a fascinating and varied glimpse at many of the ages and traditions that make up Chinese culture. It also shows how myths can grow up in very different ways than they did in the West; that sense of the familiar-but-not makes up a big part of this books quirky charm.

    – wiredweird

  • Simply O.
    19:44 on September 5th, 2012
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    ABC-CLIO’s wonderful handbooks on world mythology offer in-depth explorations linking traditional cultural myths to insights on behavior and ideals, and Handbook Of Chinese Mythology is an essential reference for any high school to college-level collection with a Chinese studies program. From main sources of myths and their importance to Chinese society and psyche to a timeline of myths as they evolved through Chinese history and a survey of the myths and themes themselves, Handbook Of Chinese Mythology is a real winner.

  • Mikelm
    21:20 on September 5th, 2012
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    I just got this book and I’m writing on my experience last night, when I began reading a story to my daughter. In the course of three pages, a woman was cut up “inch by inch starting at the feet”; a man’s head was cut off; in hell he was tortured with “molten bronze, the iron rod, pounding, grinding, the fire pit, the boiling cauldron, the hill of knives, the forest of swords”; as further punishment he was reborn as female; as a child, she fell into a fire and could get “no relief from the pain”; later her husband smashes her baby’s head against a rock.

    Browsing more today I haven’t found anything approaching that level of violence, just my bad luck perhaps. The stories are fascinating, and the introduction is a wonderful explanation for Taoism and the tension with Confusianism that is reflected in this anthology.

  • TEK.GADG
    1:32 on September 6th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    ABC-CLIO’s wonderful handbooks on world mythology offer in-depth explorations linking traditional cultural myths to insights on behavior and ideals, and Handbook Of Chinese Mythology is an essential reference for any high school to college-level collection with a Chinese studies program. From main sources of myths and their importance to Chinese society and psyche to a timeline of myths as they evolved through Chinese history and a survey of the myths and themes themselves, Handbook Of Chinese Mythology is a real winner.

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