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The Chinese Myths (Myths)

A Guide to the Gods and Legends

Tao Tao Liu


The perfect introduction to the world of Chinese myths, gods and legends

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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.

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'An absolutely fascinating introduction … accessible and entertaining, it’s an excellent primer in the field'
All About History

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 19.6 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 101

Publication date: 15 September 2022

ISBN: 9780500252383

Contents List


Part I: The Myths of the Classical Era (Ancient)
1. Origin and Creation myths of China – Pangu, and Yin-yang Nuwa
2. The Major Gods: eg Nuwa, Fuxi & Huang Di
3. Mother Goddesses incl. Queen Mother of the West
4. The Heavenly Bodies: the Sun and Moon eg Yi the Archer & Chang’o
5. The Demi-gods: Yao & Shun
6. The Flood – Gun & Yu who tamed the water
7. The Culture Gods, eg Shennong
8. Rivers and Mountains
9. Dragons
10. Myths of the Metalsmiths

Part II: Legends of China
1. Buddhism
2. Dunhuang and Pianwen
3. Some Gods of Daoism
4. The Ming Dynasty printed works
5. The Ming dynasty vernacular Short stories

Part III: Endmatter
1. Temples in China
2. Festivals in China


About the Author

Tao Tao Liu is a retired Senior Lecturer in Chinese Literature in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford.

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