Gods & Demons Fiction

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Gods & Demons Fiction

Unread postby XuanPin » Tue Feb 19, 2019 3:27 am

I recently tried to find good books on Chinese Mythology, without much success. The reason is the Chinese just didn't write out extended accounts of their own mythology as the Greeks, the Romans and the Norse did. (There's a reason for that, and an interesting one, but that's a discussion for another day.)

Until the Ming Dynasty (14th -17th centuries), when mythology and folklore became the subject of a major literary genre: Gods and demons fiction (Shen Mo Xiao Shuo). The Journey to the West, Pu Song Ling's Tales, The Creation of the Gods. A lot of this has recently appeared in English for the first time. Here's a useful overview.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gods_and_demons_fiction

The RTK, insofar as it touches on Taoist magic, is part of this literary movement.

I'd like to discuss the books and their translations if anyone's interested.
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Re: Gods & Demons Fiction

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:53 am

XuanPin wrote:Until the Ming Dynasty (14th -17th centuries), when mythology and folklore became the subject of a major literary genre: Gods and demons fiction (Shen Mo Xiao Shuo). The Journey to the West, Pu Song Ling's Tales, The Creation of the Gods. A lot of this has recently appeared in English for the first time. Here's a useful overview.

There was an earlier major literary genre that discussed folklore, gods, demons, ghosts, and daoist miracles: zhiguai xiaoshuo, which became especially popular during the Eastern Jin (317–420). Zhiguai texts cover primarily anecdotes of interactions between humans and the supernatural, but there’s a lot of room for inferring the greater mythology from the accounts.

One of the authors you mentioned, Pu Songling, upon writing the well-known Liaozhai zhiyi, credited Gan Bao’s extensive zhiguai text Soushen ji from 350 as a major influence for his own work.

There was definitely a resurgence in the Ming dynasty, but shenmo xiaoshuo texts weren’t quite the first major appearance of a folklore/mythology genre, though it very well may be the first major fiction avenue (whereas the zhiguai xiaoshuo were intended to be historical).

Also, Pu Songling’s tome, particularly John Minford‘s translation (titled in English “Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio”) is incredible. If you have an interest in the supernatural and mythology, I highly suggest you (and everyone else) read it if you haven’t already. :D Just avoid Giles’ heavily abridged and censored version.
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Re: Gods & Demons Fiction

Unread postby XuanPin » Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:51 pm

Thank you for filling in this gap in my knowledge! I see this book on Amazon, Kao's Classic Tales,

https://www.amazon.com/Classical-Supern ... 0253313759

any comment?
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Re: Gods & Demons Fiction

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:16 pm

XuanPin wrote:Thank you for filling in this gap in my knowledge! I see this book on Amazon, Kao's Classic Tales,

https://www.amazon.com/Classical-Supern ... 0253313759

any comment?

I unfortunately haven't bought that book yet. It's on my wishlist though.

I highly recommend A Garden of Marvels: Tales of Wonder from Early Medieval China by Robert Campany. In my opinion it is the best introductory book to the zhiguai genre, and it is relatively affordable. The first 25 pages cover the history of the genre, and Campany has informative commentary throughout the book; in addition, of course, to the numerous translations. Here is the Amazon listing.

Campany also wrote Signs from the Unseen Realm: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval China, which translates the Mingxiang ji from the late 400s. It focuses primarily on miracles done by Taoists, in the anecdotal style of zhiguai texts. In a way it reads very similarly to Pu Songling's fiction, though it's of course presented as factual.
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