By Richard E. Strassberg
Seventy six b/w plates, 37 b/w illustrations A chinese language Bestiary provides a desirable competition of legendary creatures from a different and enduring cosmography written in historical China. The Guideways via Mountains and Seas, compiled among the fourth and primary centuries b.c.e., includes descriptions of thousands of amazing denizens of mountains, rivers, islands, and seas, besides minerals, plant life, and drugs. The textual content additionally represents a variety of ideals held by way of the traditional chinese language. Richard Strassberg brings the Guideways to existence for contemporary readers by way of weaving jointly translations from the paintings itself with details from different texts and up to date archaeological unearths to create a lavishly illustrated consultant to the innovative international of early China. not like the bestiaries of the past due medieval interval in Europe, the Guideways was once no longer interpreted allegorically; the unknown creatures defined in it have been considered as genuine entities came across in the course of the panorama. The paintings used to be initially used as a sacred geography, as a guidebook for tourists, and as a publication of omens. at the present time, it truly is considered as the richest repository of historical chinese language mythology and shamanistic knowledge. The Guideways can have been illustrated from the beginning, however the earliest surviving illustrations are woodblock engravings from an extraordinary 1597 variation. Seventy-six of these plates are reproduced the following for the 1st time, and so they supply an excellent instance of the chinese language engraver's paintings throughout the overdue Ming dynasty. this pretty quantity, compiled by way of a widely known expert within the box, offers a desirable window at the options and ideology of an historic humans, and may pride experts and normal readers alike.
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Extra info for A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas
1500–c. 1582) allegory, The Journey to the West (Xiyouji, printed 1592), which contained numerous demons challenging the spiritual progress of the heroes as I N T R O D U C T I O N 2 1 they journeyed to India. Other late-Ming novels such as Epic Tales Since Creation (Kaipi yanyi, c. 83 The immense popularity of fiction among all classes began to alter the reception of the Guideways from that of a geographical work to a collection of ancient narratives. This change is suggested by the perceptive literary critic and textual scholar Hu Yinglin (1551–1602), who was one of the first to write about the generic characteristics of “minor narratives” (xiaoshuo).
Their roles may have been largely, though not exclusively, hereditary, while only the names and myths about a few individuals have been preserved. Although images, charms, demonological texts, and almanacs have recently begun to be excavated from tombs, suggesting an abundant pragmatic literature at the time, no theological texts have survived that can be directly connected with them. Most of the shamans’ esoteric expertise was probably transmitted orally and only began to be written down during the Warring States period.
Most of the encomiums cleverly paraphrase the original descriptions, but a number express Guo’s own delight and amazement at the oddity of the creatures—precisely a perception of their bizarre otherness that Guo’s preface urges the enlightened reader to suspend. For example, the Pearl-Turtles [no. 145] are recorded in chapter 4 as living in abundance in the Li River and resembling lungs with eyes, possessing six feet, and containing pearls. Their taste is sweet and sour, and they can cure seasonal epidemics if eaten.
A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas by Richard E. Strassberg