bodde,_derk._myths_of_ancient_china._mythologies_of_the_ancient_world._1961._part_1_of_2._pp.369-3

Bodde,_derk._myths_of_ancient_china._mythologies_of_the_ancient_world._1961._part_1_of_2._pp.369-3

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Mythologies of the Ancient World EDITED AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY Samuel Noah Kramer WITH CONTRIBUTIONS BY . , ". Rudolf Anthes Hans G. Guterbock ,Derk Bodde Michael H. Jameson W. Norman Brown Samuel Noah fiarnei M. J. Dresden Miguel L6n-Portilla Cyrus ' Gordon E. Dale Saunders Anchor Books ' Doubleday & Company, Inc. ~ardin City, New York 1961
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Myths of Ancient China BY DERK BODDE
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I. INTRODUCTION The student of Chinese religion quickly learns that there is a world of difference between the gods of classical China (ending with the fall of the Han dynasty in A.D. 220) and those of post-classical times. The latter are large in number, diverse in origin (Buddhist, Taoist, or numerous local cults), have clearly dehed anthropomorphic traits, and belong to a spiritual hierarchy which, in its gradations, closely parallels the terrestrial hierarchy of bureaucratic imperial China. These gods are portrayed for us in art, described in religious literature, and even satirized in works of fiction such as the great sixteenth-century novel Hsi yu chi (translated by Arthur Waley as Monkey). It is notable that relatively few. of them are known as early as the classical period. This means that though several compendia have been published under such generalized titles as "Chinese mythology," they are of little relevance for the study of ancient Chinese myth since, despite their titles, they limit themselves very largely to these later gods.* The gods-of ancient China, by comparison, are fewer * For these compendia, see the Selected Bibliography under Ferguson, Maspero, and Werner. In this bibliography will be found all modem studies mentioned in this essay, as well as others not mentioned. Primary Chinese sources, however, are not listed, since for the specialist this is unnecessary, whereas for the general reader it has litde purpose.
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370 MYTHS OF ANCIENT CHINA number, appear very rarely or not at all in art, and are commonly described so vaguely or briefly in the texts that their personality, and sometimes even their sex, remains uncertain. Side by side with them, on the other hand, appear a good many figures who, at first sight, seem to be human beings, yet on closer examination ar6 found to display more than ordinary human qualities. They are gods or demigods who, through a process to be discussed presently, have been largely stripped of their divine attributes and transformed into men. It would be tempting but erroneous to conclude from this that there are no myths in ancient China. More. accurate would be the statement that individual myths certainly do occur, but not a systematic mythology, meaning by this an integrated body of mythological materials. On the contrary, these materials are usually so fragmentary and episodic that even the reconstruction from them of individual myths-let alone an integrated system of myths-is exceedingly diEcult.
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This note was uploaded on 02/18/2010 for the course SOC 23415 taught by Professor Oakman during the Three '10 term at University of Melbourne.

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Bodde,_derk._myths_of_ancient_china._mythologies_of_the_ancient_world._1961._part_1_of_2._pp.369-3

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