Chinese Mythology -Anthony Christie

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Chinese historical tradition knows noth-
ing of prehistory in the archaeologist’s
sense, but maintains that the cultural
developments which prehistorians at-
tribute to mesolithic and neolithic peo-
ples were the work of the Three Sov-
ereigns San Huang and the Five Em-
perors Wu Ti. These culture heroes were
followed by three dynasties known as
Hsia, Shang and Chou.There was never any doubt about the existence of the Chou dynasty, but until relatively recently it was thought that the Hsia and Shang were as legendary as their imperial precursors. However,excavations at An-yang in Honan between 1927 and 1938 established the existence of the Shang dynasty and fully substantiated the account of it that was given in the Shih Chi, the history of China written by Ssu-ma Chhien in the first century B.C. So far, no trace has been found of the Hsia, but there still remains the possibility that it too will be confirmed by archaeological research.China is a country whose civilisation has developed over 3,000 years of written history. Its mythology dates from an even remoter past and reflects both the charm and the violence of a society that remained feudal until
this century. Charming tales of country
life contrast with horrific accounts of
human sacrifice and the cruelties of
gods and tyrannical emperors. Chinese
mythology is a tapestry of the grotesque
and the beautiful, the crude and the
exquisite.It contains several myths of the creation of the world and of men. One
story tells how the human race devel-
oped from the fleas on the body of a
dwarf named Phan-ku. Another how
the goddess Nu-kua created men out of
mud. Many delightful myths concern
animals with human personalities. We
read of the dog who married a princess,
of the farmer who befriended a fox,
of the monkey who wished to rule
Heaven, and of how oxen acquired
their twisted horns.The author, who knows the country and its people well and lived for some years in Asia, gives a fascinating account of Chinese mythology. He presents it not just as a collection of entertaining stories, but as an expression of the attitudes and beliefs underlying the civilisation that produced it. The Chinese people lived under impersonal and arbitrary bureaucracies for centuries.In many of their legends the poor man is portrayed as the hapless victim of injustice at the hands of gods and rulers. Other legends show him escaping from harsh reality into a world of make believe and fantasy.The art of China, delicate and powerful at the same time, is splendidly equipped to portray this strange and exciting world. This book draws on the achievements of Chinese painters,potters and sculptors to provide beautiful illustrations that illuminate and complement the text.

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