Dover Book

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    For someone who is seriously interested in China and Indigenous myths, this book is the Bible! Amazingly, I would say it is less difficult than many non-fictional books I have read, and much of it I breezed through, or would have, had I not filled up nearly an entire spiral notebook with my notes. The most difficult chapter was "The Gods of China," which was 83 pages—the longest one, and really was more explanatory than story-telling. Since many of the gods were developed through war and difficulties of the Chinese people, this section was about who was fighting whom and, gosh, all those Chinese names drove me nuts. Each person is known by so many titles! However, I really enjoyed the first chapter, "The Sociology of the Chinese," and realized I knew little to nothing about these peoples. Well! That has certainly been corrected. To a point, I guess. This book was originally published in 1922, and republished by Dover in 1994. A lot has changed for the Chinese people since they became a Communist nation, finalized in 1949. The book is out of print now, but hey, no problem. Project Gutenberg has it available for free, complete with the beautiful artwork, that is not in color in the Dover edition, but is in the Project Gutenberg one, and the color makes such a difference. There is a separate page linked to this one at the bottom that includes all the artwork. And for those who would rather not read the over 400 pages of text, here's an audio version. It is 9 hours, 4 minutes and 18 seconds long. Going on a road trip?
    Once I got past the long explanatory chapters, the rest were the myths and legends, and even with the confusing names, it was like reading little stories, and a skilled parent or grandparent could read or tell these to a child, which would be greatly enjoyed, I would think, as they are very childlike in nature, filled with magic and fantastical creatures and outrageous adventures. Greek and Roman myths seem conservative and mature compared to these, which are more like fairy tales, and the author of the book pointed that out, too. Much of the Western myths had to do with jealousy and relationships, but these, many of them, were tied to Buddhism and Taoism, two of the main religions of China, the third being Confucianism. Whereas the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses got away with behaving badly, in the Chinese myths, it seems there was most often a lesson to be learned, followed by moral and/or spiritual growth, which I found refreshing. Gods were punished for being bad, but rewarded for being good or forgiven if they changed their ways. Oh, my, I could go on and on because I had SO many thoughts as I read. I will just make one more introductory remark, then get on with reviewing the book, where I will profusely supply my own commentary as usual.
    And my remark is this. For those who follow my articles and spiritual writings, they know that I firmly believe we create our own reality with our minds. Yes, I most certainly DO believe in magic and the mystical. Absolutely! We here on Planet Earth in August 2023, are going to be leaving it soon or leaving what we believe to be our reality. That is inevitable. The old paradigm has ended. The Earth's life support systems are dying by the day and we will all be gone soon. Where will we be? I believe we will be where our consciousness takes us, which is why I have spent these last several years, since the plandemic was foisted upon us and began our process of extinction, creating "My Own Little Planet," where I will abide when we are done here. There was so much in the book that supported that notion, the whole idea of our powers of imagination and creation put into action, but those who wanted it all were put through great trials and tribulations to prove themselves worthy. It is about people who become gods and goddesses because of their immense benevolence and determination. It is about beings who evolve into something magnificent through their own good works. I saw myself in these peoples and truly fell in love with them. The book was such an inspiration to me.
    We need to remember how to play. We need to remember that we are extraordinary beings. Most people have not only forgotten, but have moved so far in the other direction that they have become something other than god-humans or human-gods. They have become machines. That is what the transhumanism movement is. It seem the more "civilized" a society becomes, the farther it moves from its spiritual roots. The Indigenous peoples who lived simple lives were very close to the spirit, not only their own, but the spirits that make up every aspect of our existence—the animals, waters, clouds, mountains, plants—all were spirits. And that is not a sign of people who are uneducated, it is a sign of people who are conscious. I am part of this community. Let us move on, beginning with the first chapter, "The Sociology of the Chinese."
    I am glad I found the Project Gutenberg page for this, so I can easily copy and paste quotes. The problem is deciding what to include, because I learned SO MUCH and found it all so interesting. One point I want to begin with is "duality." The New Age movement brought that word to the forefront, but it had a different meaning, referring to the dissolving of judgment and borders between "evil/good," "right/wrong," and any words that eliminated the "All That Is," as Elia Wise calls it in her book, Letter to Earth: Who We Are Becoming . . . What We Need to Know, which is excellent, but there are some things she says in which I disagree. We need to be able to make judgments in order to guide us to appropriate behavior, and "anything goes" is not appropriate, as we can see blatantly clearly now. It was written 23 years ago, so maybe she has changed her perceptions. So I had difficulties trying to grasp what the author of this present book meant when he used that term, and it appears often. It was not until I realized that what I have been working toward for all these decades is exactly what he meant. He is referring to the separation between the physical reality and the spiritual, or non-physical reality that was a strong part of the Chinese belief system—the yin/yang, which comes from Taoism. I believe that we here now who are working on a full-blown awakening are also working to dissolve the borders between those two states of being. The Chinese took "duality" to the extreme, however, believing that life in the Heavens corresponded exactly to life on Earth. Here are some of the numerous aspects of Chinese Sociology that the author discusses, which sets up the rest of the book, explaining why Chinese myths are not considered among the greats. Although he rather contradicts himself, pointing out constantly how uncreative and unimaginative these basically quiet and peaceful people were, and still are, I believe, in many ways. But when you get to the chapters that tell the stories of the myths and legends themselves, well, they sound pretty darn creative and imaginative to me!
    The Preface states the sources in which he used, he being an Englishman with an extraordinary knowledge of the Chinese peoples and language. He begins with a discussion of the origins of the Chinese peoples and their migrations. This paragraph sort of sums it up.

Taking into consideration all the existing evidence, the objections to all other theories of the origin of the Chinese seem to be greater than any yet raised to the theory that immigrants from the Tarim valley or beyond (i.e. from Elam or Akkadia, either direct or via Eastern Turkestan) struck the banks of the Yellow River in their eastward journey and followed its course until they reached the localities where we first find them settled, namely, in the region covered by parts of the three modern provinces of Shansi, Shensi, and Honan where their frontiers join. They were then (about 2500 or 3000 B.C.) in a relatively advanced state of civilization. The country east and south of this district was inhabited by aboriginal tribes, with whom the Chinese fought, as they did with the wild animals and the dense vegetation, but with whom they also commingled and intermarried, and among whom they planted colonies as centres from which to spread their civilization.

    He then continues describing the actual physical region—its layout, geological features, resources, minerals, etc., plus the different periods in Chinese history: The Feudal Period, between the twenty-fourth and third centuries, BCE and the Monarchical Period, which lasted from 221 BCE to CE 1912. There were numerous Dynasties within those periods, as I understood it. Next he describes the "Organic Environment," such as what food crops and plants, and animals were found there.
    In the paragraphs on "Sociological Environment, he says:

On their arrival in what is now known as China the Chinese, as already noted, fought with the aboriginal tribes. The latter were exterminated, absorbed, or driven south with the spread of Chinese rule. The Chinese "picked out the eyes of the land," and consequently the non-Chinese tribes now live in the unhealthy forests or marshes of the south, or in mountain regions difficult of access, some even in trees (a voluntary, not compulsory promotion), though several, such as the Dog Jung in Fukien, retain settlements like islands among the ruling race.

    Which makes them no different than Western Invaders, eh? Next he describes their "Physical, Emotional, and Intellectual Characters." describing them as "sober, industrious, of remarkable endurance, grateful, courteous, and ceremonious, with a high sense of mercantile honour, but timorous, cruel, unsympathetic, mendacious, and libidinous." Of course the man was the head of the household and could kill his wife if he pleased, but that doesn't only apply to China, remember. He also writes that "intellectually they were until recently, and to a large extent still are, non-progressive, in bondage to uniformity and mechanism in culture, imitative, unimaginative, torpid, indirect, suspicious, and superstitious," and notes that "until recently the nation held aloof from alliances and was generally averse to foreign intercourse," which he believes contributed to their characters.
    He goes on to describes just about every aspect of their lives, habits, beliefs, institutions, politics, entertainment, trades, professions and classes, and so on, way too lengthy to even begin to cover here.
    The next chapter is "On Chinese Mythology," and here's a bit more on duality.

The Manichæst, yin-yang (dualist), idea of existence, to which further reference will be made in the next chapter, finds its illustration in the dual life, real and imaginary, of all the peoples of the earth. They have both real histories and mythological histories. In the preceding chapter I have dealt briefly with the first—the life of reality—in China from the earliest times to the present day; the succeeding chapters are concerned with the second—the life of imagination. A survey of the first was necessary for a complete understanding of the second. The two react upon each other, affecting the national character and through it the history of the world.

    Here is further commentary on circumstances that probably influenced Chinese myths.

The Chinese are not unimaginative, but their minds did not go on to the construction of any myths which should be world-great and immortal; and one reason why they did not construct such myths was that their intellectual progress was arrested at a comparatively early stage. It was arrested because there was not that contact and competition with other peoples which demands brain-work of an active kind as the alternative of subjugation, inferiority, or extinction, and because, as we have already seen, the knowledge required of them was mainly the parrot-like repetition of the old instead of the thinking-out of the new—a state of things rendered possible by the isolation just referred to. Confucius discountenanced discussion about the supernatural, and just as it is probable that the exhortations of Wên Wang, the virtual founder of the Chou dynasty (1121-255 B.C.), against drunkenness, in a time before tea was known to them, helped to make the Chinese the sober people that they are, so it is probable—more than probable—that this attitude of Confucius may have nipped in the bud much that might have developed a vigorous mythology, though for a reason to be stated later it may be doubted if he thereby deprived the world of any beautiful and marvelous results of the highest flights of poetical creativeness. There are times, such as those of any great political upheaval, when human nature will assert itself and break through its shackles in spite of all artificial or conventional restraints. Considering the enormous influence of Confucianism throughout the latter half of Chinese history—i.e. the last two thousand years—it is surprising that the Chinese dared to think about supernatural matters at all, except in the matter of propitiating their dead ancestors. That they did so is evidence not only of human nature's inherent tendency to tell stories, but also of the irrepressible strength of feeling which breaks all laws and commandments under great stimulus. On the opposing unæsthetic side this may be compared to the feeling which prompts the unpremeditated assassination of a man who is guilty of great injustice, even though it be certain that in due course he would have met his deserts at the hands of the public executioner.

    I want to include two more quotes from this chapter that are important in understanding Chinese myths, and myths and legends in general.

We may thus expect to find in the realm of Chinese mythology a large number of little hills rather than a few great mountains, but the little hills are very good ones after their kind; and the object of this work is to present Chinese myth as it is, not as it might have been had the universe been differently constituted. Nevertheless, if, as we may rightly do, we judge of myth by the sentiments pervading it and the ideals upheld and taught by it, we shall find that Chinese myth must be ranked among the greatest.

    The next paragraph is true but unfortunate. Let us hope that those who are awakening and reconnecting with their souls and spirits will once again reject the so-called "educated," which is becoming obvious here in 2023, are some of the stupidest beings that ever walked the face of the earth, and return to the "primitive" imagination.

The general principles considered above, while they explain the paucity of myth in China, explain also the abundance of legend there. The six hundred years during which the Mongols, Mings, and Manchus sat upon the throne of China are barren of myth, but like all periods of the Chinese national life are fertile in legend. And this chiefly for the reason that myths are more general, national, divine, while legends are more local, individual, human. And since, in China as elsewhere, the lower classes are as a rule less educated and more superstitious than the upper classes—have a certain amount of constructive imagination, but not enough to be self-critical—legends, rejected or even ridiculed by the scholarly class when their knowledge has become sufficiently scientific, continue to be invented and believed in by the peasant and the dweller in districts far from the madding crowd long after myth, properly so called, has exhaled its last breath.

    He also lists what he believes to be the "prerequisites to myth," and I'm not sure I totally agree with it all. He discusses the sources of Chinese myth, along with its different phases. He points out that Buddhism was an inspiration for myths and their magical quality, and that is understandable. One of my all-time favorite non-fictional books is Magic and Mystery in Tibet. The author travelled this forbidden land about the same time as this present book was written, and she experienced some of the magic, and also learned to do it, so, I will state again, it is not as far-fetched as most people believe. We need to recover our sense of magic and mystery. Here's another quote from this present book.

The legends and history of early China furnish abundance of material for them. To the Chinese mind their ancient world was crowded with heroes, fairies, and devils, who played their part in the mixed-up drama, and left a name and fame both remarkable and piquant. Every one who is familiar with the ways and the language of the people knows that the country is full of common objects to which poetic names have been given, and with many of them there is associated a legend or a myth. A deep river's gorge is called 'the Blind Man's Pass,' because a peculiar bit of rock, looked at from a certain angle, assumes the outline of the human form, and there comes to be connected therewith a pleasing story which reaches its climax in the petrifaction of the hero. A mountain's crest shaped like a swooping eagle will from some one have received the name of 'Eagle Mountain,' whilst by its side another shaped like a couchant lion will have a name to match. There is no lack of poetry among the people, and most striking objects claim a poetic name, and not a few of them are associated with curious legends. It is, however, to their national history that the story-teller goes for his most interesting subjects, and as the so-called history of China imperceptibly passes into the legendary period, and this again fades into the mythical, and as all this is assuredly believed by the masses of the people, it is obvious that in the national life of China there is no dearth of heroes whose deeds of prowess will command the rapt attention of the crowds who listen.

    Taoism also supported myths and magic, but Confucius and Mencius, who were Agnostics, did not. Here is a quote about Lao Tzŭ, the founder of Taoism. These men are all pictured on the Artworks page linked at the bottom of this review.

There are other cosmogonies in Chinese philosophy, but they need not detain us long. Lao Tzŭ (sixth century B.C.), in his Tao-tê ching, The Canon of Reason and Virtue (at first entitled simply Lao Tzŭ, gave to the then existing scattered sporadic conceptions of the universe a literary form. His tao, or 'Way,' is the originator of Heaven and earth, it is "the mother of all things." His Way, which was "before God," is but a metaphorical expression for the manner in which things came at first into being out of the primal nothingness, and how the phenomena of nature continue to go on, "in stillness and quietness, without striving or crying." Lao Tzŭ is thus so far monistic, but he is also mystical, transcendental, even pantheistic. The way that can be walked is not the Eternal Way; the name that can be named is not the Eternal Name. The Unnameable is the originator of Heaven and earth; manifesting itself as the Nameable, it is "the mother of all things." "In Eternal Non-Being I see the Spirituality of Things; in Eternal Being their limitation. Though different under these two aspects, they are the same in origin; it is when development takes place that different names have to be used. It is while they are in the condition of sameness that the mystery concerning them exists. This mystery is indeed the mystery of mysteries. It is the door of all spirituality.

    Chapter III is about "Cosmogony-p'an Ku and the Creation Myth," Every civilization probably had their own beliefs about how they came to be, after they reached the intellectual level where they would wonder about those things. He also compares Scandinavian Myths to Chinese, and I thought the same—that there are more similarities than compared to the Greek/Roman myths. I also want to point out that most of these gods and heroes had many different descriptions and legends pertaining to them, sometimes varying quite a bit, such as a change in gender, and I found that aspect confusing, at least at first. I seemed to get familiar with things as I worked my way through the book. Many, or perhaps most of the legends were built around a real person who became a hero for certain deeds, often connected with winning battles. The next chapter, "The Gods of China" continues the in-depth discussion on Chinese gods, myths, legends and heroes.
    I will stop there on that subject, interesting material, but again, too much for a review. I want to spend the remainder of this review sharing a few of the legends that I found beautiful and profound, and moved something spiritually within me. Remember, unlike many or most Greek and Roman myths, Chinese myths are often about spiritual evolution and growth in morals, strength and courage. So they have a positive purpose. This long chapter does contain lots of stories and legends, but they are not as much fun as the ones in subsequent chapters. Here is just one paragraph listing some of the numerous Chinese gods, these being Protectors of the People. (The Chinese has a god for everything!)

Besides the gods who hold definite official posts in these various Ministries, there are a very large number who are also protecting patrons of the people; and, though ex officio, in many cases quite as popular and powerful, if not more so. Among the most important are the following: Shê-chi, Gods of the Soil and Crops; Shên Nung, God of Agriculture; Hou-t'u, Earth-mother; Ch'êng-huang, City-god; T'u-ti, Local Gods; Tsao Chün, Kitchen-god; T'ien-hou and An-kung, Goddess and God of Sailors; Ts'an Nü, Goddess of Silkworms; Pa-ch'a, God of Grasshoppers; Fu Shên, Ts'ai Shên, and Shou Hsing, Gods of Happiness, Wealth, and Longevity; Mên Shên, Door-gods; and Shê-mo Wang, etc., the Gods of Serpents.

    And here's a few more. HA!! This made me laugh.

That the names of the gods of China are legion will be readily conceded when it is said that, besides those already described, those still to be mentioned, and many others to whom space will not permit us to refer, there are also gods, goddesses, patrons, etc., of wind, rain, snow, frost, rivers, tides, caves, trees, flowers, theatres, horses, oxen, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, pigs, scorpions, locusts, gold, tea, salt, compass, archery, bridges, lamps, gems, wells, carpenters, masons, barbers, tailors, jugglers, nets, wine, bean-curd, jade, paper-clothing, eye, ear, nose, tongue, teeth, heart, liver, throat, hands, feet, skin, architecture, rain-clothes, monkeys, lice, Punch and Judy, fire-crackers, cruelty, revenge, manure, fornication, shadows, corners, gamblers, oculists, smallpox, liver complaint, stomach-ache, measles, luck, womb, midwives, hasteners of child-birth, brigands, butchers, furnishers, centipedes, frogs, stones, beds, candle-merchants, fishermen, millers, wig-merchants, incense-merchants, spectacle-makers, cobblers, harness-makers, seedsmen, innkeepers, basket-makers, chemists, painters, perfumers, jewelers, brush-makers, dyers, fortune-tellers, strolling singers, brothels, varnishers, combs, etc., etc. There is a god of the light of the eye as well as of the eye itself, of smallpox-marks as well as of smallpox, of 'benign' measles as well as of measles. After reading a full list of the gods of China, those who insist that the religion of China was or is a monotheism may be disposed to revise their belief.

    The remainder of the book became easier and more enjoyable to read because they were stories that seemed to get more outrageous as they progressed! Let no one proclaim that the Chinese didn't have a wild imagination. There were so many that I liked, but I will, for the purpose of this review, only discuss a few.
    As with all primitive peoples who did not have great knowledge of science, the functioning of the natural world relied on the gods that controlled each particular area, and holding them in reverence was essential, lest the sun would fail to shine, the lands would dry up, food crops would fail, and so on. Indigenous peoples, especially, had well-developed myths to explain what they could not. Quite a while back, I read a book called Sun Lore of All Ages, and I own another book called Star Lore: Myths, Legends, and Facts by the same author, William Tyler Olcott, but I have not read it yet. In addition, I also read an excellent book, Myths and Legends of the Polynesians, whose myths were also more magical and mystical than Western societies. The Popol Vuh covers some Maya myths. Even the Ancient Egyptians had a great fear when the sun went down, that it would fail to rise the next day, however, the big difference was (and this applies somewhat to the Greeks and Romans who also knew better), that the priests, who were educated, knew about the movements of the celestial bodies, and used the ignorance of the common people as a means to control them. Hmm. Gosh, something sounds familiar here. I learned that in another excellent book, The Dawn of Astronomy: A Study of Temple Worship and Mythology of the Ancient Egyptians. These are all Dover Publications books, and they have many others available on this subject. Check Project Gutenberg before you pay for a paper volume.
    What is different with the Chinese is that many of these myths were tied to Buddhism and Taoism, which were and still are legitimate religions, especially Buddhism, which is practiced, or influential to people in Western civilizations, including myself. The myths explained concepts to the people with a message for spiritual growth.
    Chapter V is about "Myths of the Stars," which explained the yin/yang principle, with Hêng Ô who was married to Shên I. But when he was away, she found the pill of immortality he had hidden and ate it, suddenly feeling freed from the laws of gravity. Her husband returned and asked her where his pill was. She opened the window and flew to the moon, where she remained for eternity. You can see the artwork for this story on the linked page at the bottom of this review.

The God of the Immortals said to Shên I: "You must not be annoyed with Hêng Ô. Everybody's fate is settled beforehand. Your labours are nearing an end, and you will become an Immortal. It was I who let loose the whirlwind that brought you here. Hêng Ô, through having borrowed the forces which by right belong to you, is now an Immortal in the Palace of the Moon. As for you, you deserve much for having so bravely fought the nine false suns. As a reward you shall have the Palace of the Sun. Thus the yin and the yang will be united in marriage." This said, Tung-hua Ti-chün ordered his servants to bring a red Chinese sarsaparilla cake, with a lunar talisman.

    The next chapter contains myths of "Thunder, Lightning, Wind and Rain," also tied to Buddhism. Here's a good quote.

As already noted, affairs in the Otherworld are managed by official Bureaux or Ministries very similar to those on earth. The Fêng shên yen i mentions several of these, and gives full details of their constitution. The first is the Ministry of Thunder and Storms. This is composed of a large number of officials. The principal ones are Lei Tsu, the Ancestor of Thunder, Lei Kung, the Duke of Thunder, Tien Mu, the Mother of Lightning, Feng Po, the Count of Wind, and Yü Shih, the Master of Rain. These correspond to the Buddhist Asuras, the "fourth class of sentient beings, the mightiest of all demons, titanic enemies of the Dêvas," and the Vedic Maruta, storm-demons. In the temples Lei Tsu is placed in the centre with the other four to right and left. There are also sometimes represented other gods of rain, or attendants. These are Hsing T'ien Chün and T'ao T'ien Chün, both officers of Wên Chung, or Lei Tsu, Ma Yüan-shuai, Generalissimo Ma, whose exploits are referred to later, and others.

    "Myths of the Waters" are explained in the next chapter, and here we become familiar with dragons and Dragon-kings which were important and make their way into numerous stories in the remainder of the book. The dragon was not an evil creature to the Chinese, but beneficent. Dragon-gods are also pictured on the Artworks page linked below.
    One of my favorite stories was in this section, called "The Marriage of the River-god." It is about a witch who collected money each year from the people of Yeh Hsien for the marriage of the River-god. A beautiful maiden was selected and clothed in rich garments, then placed on a bed and floated out to sea until she disappeared under the water. The people were told that if this wasn't done yearly, they would be flooded and killed.
    However, a Magistrate became suspicious, and when the girl was to be floated that year, he proclaimed that she wasn't pretty enough, then sent the witch out to tell the River-god there would be a delay. The witch was thrown into the water, but never returned, so one by one, her disciples were thrown in, then finally one of the male attendants was also thrown in. When he didn't return, the others confessed their sin, thus ending the celebration of the marriage of the River-god! HA!!
    The other story that I really liked from this chapter was "Legend of the Building of Peking." It is too long to tell here, but it is about a brave and honest Prince who is sent out into the wilderness by the jealousy of the Empress, but is protected by a mysterious Taoist priest who hands him a packet before he sets off, telling him to open it in times of difficulty, which he does. He finds a map of a well-laid-out city—the future Peking, now, of course, called Beijing because of the language reform in the 1950s. So apparently, it is no different to the Chinese, just to the rest of the world. In any case, the Prince builds the city, which prospers, but there are other difficulties and tragedies which must be overcome. This is a really cool, heroic story!
    The next two chapters are about "Myths of Fire" and "Myths of Epidemics, Medicine, Exorcism, Etc.." But my favorite chapter by far is the one following those, "The Goddess of Mercy." Most of it is about one heroic woman, and in Chinese myths, the men certainly dominate. The main story in this chapter comprised most of it, about a woman whose benevolence earned her divinity. It begins with Queen Pao Tê and King Miao Chuang, who had lived nearly fifty years without having a son to succeed to the throne. The Queen suggests praying to the God of Hua Shan, the sacred mountain in the west, which had the reputation of being always willing to help. So "the two Chief Ministers of Ceremonies were sent to the temple to request fifty Buddhist and Taoist priests to pray for seven days and seven nights in order that the King might obtain a son." But it is discovered that the King is being punished for his war crimes. The priests intercede and it is agreed that a worthy soul would be incarnated as the King's heir.
    It happened that "there lived a good man named Shih Ch'in-ch'ang, whose ancestors for three generations had observed all the ascetic rules of the Buddhists. This man was the father of three children, the eldest Shih Wên, the second Shih Chin, and the third Shih Shan, all worthy followers of the great Buddha." But it happened that Wang Chê, a brigand chief, and thirty of his followers sought refuge with the good sons. Knowing how evil he was they refused, so they instead broke into a house of a wealthy family, killing one hundred people and stealing their possessions. Unfortunately the brothers were charged with the murder, because it was judged that if they had provided for the evil men, the more serious crime would not have happened.
    Well, that really sucks, doesn't it?
    As it works out, the decision is made to, rather than imprison them, reincarnate them as the King's offspring. Tragically, for the King, so he believes, they are all girls, thus outraging him. The reason is because he still must be punished in some way for his war cruelty. So the King and Queen choose sons to marry the daughters, who would be suitable to take over the kingdom when the King dies. But the youngest daughter, Miao Shan has other plans for her life.

One day, when the three sisters were playing in the palace garden of Perpetual Spring, Miao Shan, with a serious mien, said to her sisters, "Riches and glory are like the rain in spring or the morning dew; a little while, and all is gone. Kings and emperors think to enjoy to the end the good fortune which places them in a rank apart from other human beings; but sickness lays them low in their coffins, and all is over. Where are now all those powerful dynasties which have laid down the law to the world? As for me, I desire nothing more than a peaceful retreat on a lone mountain, there to attempt the attainment of perfection. If some day I can reach a high degree of goodness, then, borne on the clouds of Heaven, I will travel throughout the universe, passing in the twinkling of an eye from east to west. I will rescue my father and mother, and bring them to Heaven; I will save the miserable and afflicted on earth; I will convert the spirits which do evil, and cause them to do good. That is my only ambition."

    Miao Shan refuses to give in, even when the King, her father, threatens her with terrible punishment. She is finally allowed to join the Nunnery of the White Bird, but her father's anger doesn't end there. He orders the nuns to make her change her mind, so they assign her laborious tasks. She is being protected, however, and gets help from spiritual beings, alarming the Superior at the Nunnery, and compelling her to beg the King to recall his daughter. So he orders the nunnery burnt down, but again, spiritual aid arrives. Then he orders his daughter to be beheaded, but as she is separated from her body, both her body and spirit are transported elsewhere and reunited.
    Of course, King Miao Chuang is only chalking up more punishment points. But his daughter is determined to bring him to goodness and repentance. Though she sacrifices herself for love of her family and humanity, it all is returned to her. She reaches perfection and becomes a Buddha, and also converts her family.
    What a wonderful and uplifting story! I could relate to so much of this tale, as I continue on my long and difficult path. It was an inspiration. Next come three short chapters, "The Eight Immortals, "The Guardian of the Gate of Heaven," and "A Battle of the Gods."
    After that is a rather long chapter, "How the Monkey Became a God," which contains the Monkey's stories of the his adventures as he learns to be not a rascal, but a courageous hero, another set of inspiring tales. And again, these myths have moral significance, with the characters going through great trials and tribulations that transform them to heroes and gods. I will quote the opening paragraphs.

In dealing with the gods of China we noticed the monkey among them. Why and in what manner he attained to that exalted rank is set forth in detail in the Hsi yu chi—a work the contents of which have become woven into the fabric of Chinese legendary lore and are known and loved by every intelligent native. Its pages are filled with ghosts, demons, and fairies, good and bad, but "it contains no more than the average Chinese really believes to exist, and his belief in such manifestations is so firm that from the cradle to the grave he lives and moves and has his being in reference to them." Its characters are said to be allegorical, though it may be doubted whether these implications may rightly be read into the Chinese text. Thus:

Hsüan (or Yüan) Chuang, or T'ang Sêng, is the pilgrim of the Hsi yu chi, who symbolizes conscience, to which all actions are brought for trial. The priestly garment of Hsüan Chuang symbolizes the good work of the rectified human nature. It is held to be a great protection to the new heart from the myriads of evil beings which surround it, seeking its destruction.

Sun Hou-tzŭ, the Monkey Fairy, represents human nature, which is prone to all evil. His unreasonable vagaries moved Hsüan Chuang to compel him to wear a Head-splitting Helmet which would contract upon his head in moments of waywardness. The agonizing pressure thus caused would bring him to his senses, irrespective of his distance from his master.

The iron wand of Sun Hou-tzŭ is said to represent the use that can be made of doctrine. It was useful for all purposes, great or small. By a word it could be made invisible, and by a word it could become long enough to span the distance between Heaven and earth.

Chu Pa-chieh, the Pig Fairy, with his muck-rake, stands for the coarser passions, which are constantly at war with the conscience in their endeavours to cast off all restraint.

Sha Ho-shang, Priest Sha, is a good representation of Mr. Faithful in The Pilgrim's Progress. In the Hsi yu chi he stands for the human character, which is naturally weak and which needs constant encouragement.

    And with that I must stop, even though the next chapter on "Fox Legends" has some interesting stories, but is much shorter than the previous chapter. The last chapter is made up of "Miscellaneous Legends," many of them ridiculously outrageous. However, there is one that, even if you do not plan to read the book, please click the link I provided at the top to the Project Gutenberg digital version, which is that same as the book except the pictures are in color. Go to this final chapter and read "The Dream of the South Branch." It is perhaps the best single story in the entire book, about a degenerate gallant who gets drunk and is put to bed by his friends. He dreams, unaware it is a dream, of being escorted to a kingdom where he is destined to marry the Princess. He is given responsibilities, and his whole life changes to one of service and goodness (again, the theme of so many of these myths). But it is the ending that will give you a jolt, so I won't tell it!
    Yes, this is a long review and it is a long book, but very well worth the time invested in it. I cannot begin to express how much I learned and how much these stories moved me and inspired me and expanded my mind and spirit. Very highly recommended!
    Here is the link to the page I provided with the colored artworks.

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