By Richard E. Strassberg
Seventy six b/w plates, 37 b/w illustrations A chinese language Bestiary provides a desirable festival of legendary creatures from a special and enduring cosmography written in old China. The Guideways via Mountains and Seas, compiled among the fourth and primary centuries b.c.e., comprises descriptions of thousands of wonderful denizens of mountains, rivers, islands, and seas, besides minerals, plants, and drugs. The textual content additionally represents a variety of ideals held through the traditional chinese language. Richard Strassberg brings the Guideways to existence for contemporary readers through weaving jointly translations from the paintings itself with info from different texts and up to date archaeological unearths to create a lavishly illustrated consultant to the inventive global of early China. not like the bestiaries of the overdue medieval interval in Europe, the Guideways was once no longer interpreted allegorically; the unknown creatures defined in it have been considered as genuine entities came upon through the panorama. The paintings was once initially used as a sacred geography, as a guidebook for tourists, and as a booklet of omens. this present day, it's considered as the richest repository of historic chinese language mythology and shamanistic knowledge. The Guideways could have been illustrated from the beginning, however the earliest surviving illustrations are woodblock engravings from a unprecedented 1597 variation. Seventy-six of these plates are reproduced the following for the 1st time, they usually supply an excellent instance of the chinese language engraver's paintings throughout the past due Ming dynasty. this pretty quantity, compiled through a well known professional within the box, offers a desirable window at the innovations and ideology of an historic humans, and may satisfaction experts and basic readers alike.
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Additional info for A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas
The author of commentaries on the five Confucian classics, he sought to improve on Guo Pu, whose version he regarded as too enamored of the strange and insu‹ciently concerned with elucidating the rational cosmic patterns of Neo-Confucianism. 91 Nevertheless, the book remained popular among middlebrow readers, who were undoubtedly impressed by the status and orthodox reputation of the commentator. It was to one of the later reprints of Wang’s edition in 1597 that the earliest surviving illustrations reproduced here were appended [plates I–LXXVI].
The various performance pieces that were later grouped together in the Songs of Chu (Chuci, c. 3rd cent. ) anthology strongly reflect shamanistic cultural elements, although they were probably written down by poets or other literary figures. Chu was the major feudal state in what is now central and southern China and a strong contender during the Warring States. Its culture was regarded by the other Chinese states, especially those of the Central Plains and to the northeast, as only partially civilized and was characterized by its strong faith in shamanistic religion.
Cosmographies project the possibilities of a totalizing perspective by seamlessly mapping the near and the distant, the known and the unknown, the visible and the hidden, the verifiable and the imaginary. The reader willingly consumed an illusion that all the important objects of reality had been collected and ordered according to a fundamental taxonomy and that these things were now manageable and available for exploitation. ” To later readers, they have also revealed the conceptual strategies of power that operated within the dominant culture both internally and in its foreign relations.