2011-05-25

the Shānhǎi Jīng (山海經)


This ancient (at least 2,200 years old) Chinese bestiary has been mentioned in yesterday's post as the epitome of the Chinese fear of the Mountains and the Seas. Literally translated, its title does indeed mean the Classic of the Mountains and Seas.

The book does not follow any plot. It simply describes various real and mythological locales along with their many fabled inhabitants, mostly monsters or people with strange customs. In this respect, it is very much similar to European mediaeval bestiaries. The Shānhǎi Jīng hasn't had much influence on Chinese fantasy or wǔxiá fiction; this is why I haven't used the creatures described in the Shānhǎi Jīng for The Celestial Empire. Some of them will appear in this blog over time, though.

A longer description of the book, containing some excerpts, may be found here.

The Shānhǎi Jīng is available in English in two editions:
  • Birrell, Anne. 2000. The Classic of Mountains and Seas, Penguin
  • Strassberg, Richard. 2002. A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas, University of California Press

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