A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways by Richard E. Strassberg

By Richard E. Strassberg

Seventy six b/w plates, 37 b/w illustrations A chinese language Bestiary offers 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., comprises descriptions of countless numbers of amazing denizens of mountains, rivers, islands, and seas, besides minerals, plant life, and medication. The textual content additionally represents a variety of ideals held through the traditional chinese language. Richard Strassberg brings the Guideways to lifestyles for contemporary readers through weaving jointly translations from the paintings itself with details from different texts and up to date archaeological unearths to create a lavishly illustrated advisor to the ingenious international of early China. not like the bestiaries of the overdue medieval interval in Europe, the Guideways used to be 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. this present day, it's 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, they usually offer a superb instance of the chinese language engraver's artwork throughout the overdue Ming dynasty. this gorgeous quantity, compiled via a well known professional within the box, offers a desirable window at the strategies and ideology of an historic humans, and may satisfaction experts and common readers alike.

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Extra resources for A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas

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45 The first five chapters of the Guideways provide measurements of the distances between each mountain in addition to the location of useful trees, plants, and minerals. The presence of metals including copper is noted in over two hundred places, while a few mountains are specifically prohibited from being climbed. 46 The Bamboo Annals (Zhushu jinian, c. ) records strange peoples such as the People with Per- 1 0 I N T R O D U C T I O N forated Chests [no. 220] and the Long-Thighs People [no. 47 Painted scrolls with extensive colophons that survive from the Six Dynasties period indicate that records were kept of such peoples, including images of their appearance, a practice that may have begun much earlier (see fig.

65, 275]. e from an aristocrat’s tomb dated c. e. and were also edited by Guo Pu, who used them in his commentary to support the factuality of the Guideways. Yet another text about strange creatures circulating during this era was the Master Lie (Liezi, c. 64 The Daoist Ge Hong’s (283–343) Biographies of Gods and Transcendents (Shenxianzhuan, before 317), following the model of Liu Xiang’s Biographies of Various Transcendents (Liexianzhuan, 1st cent. ), gathered detailed descriptions of some ancient and more recent gods, cultic figures, and magical practioners who together comprised a new, more complex, and universalized pantheon.

Nevertheless, the text continued to circulate at imperial courts as well as among scholars, Daoists, and various other kinds of occult practitioners 1 8 I N T R O D U C T I O N F I G U R E 3 . The first page of chapter 1 from the 1180 printed edition of the Guideways through Mountains and Seas. ). 73 A reference to it can also be found in a Tang manuscript of strange creatures from the Silk Road oasis city of Dunhuang (see fig. 2o, page 65). 75 It remained a credible source of geographical information during the Tang, when it was used by Sima Zhen (fl.

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