Ancient myths and legends permeate daily life in modern China. Across the vast country, people gather to celebrate festivals in accordance with the ancient lunar calendar: from Yuanxiao in the first month of the year, when lanterns are paraded through streets to drive out the dark, to Shousui, when families wait up all night to welcome the New Year. Tao Tao Liu expertly weaves together Chinese history and philosophy to bring forth the mythical figures and stories that live on in popular beliefs and rituals.
Liu introduces us to the fundamental principles of Daoism, China’s most ancient philosophy, and the creator gods: Pangu, who formed the universe and separated the Yin and Yang, and Nuwa, who crafted humanity from China’s yellow clay. We meet the Three Sage Kings of the classical era, Yao, Shun and Yu, who embodied Confucian principles of virtue and filial piety. The influence of Buddhism, following its arrival in China in the first century CE, is seen in such enduring tales as Journey to the West, one of the most famous works of Chinese literature. Liu explores the roots of these legends, popularized in the classical writings of the Han dynasty and novels of the Ming dynasty, revealing a complex tradition passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years.