This course will introduce students to the diversity and dynamics of myths, legends, and beliefs in China from ancient time up to the present. We will look at Chinese myths, legends, and beliefs from an interdisciplinary perspective that will include folklore studies, history, religion, literature, archaeology, art, performance studies, anthropology, etc. We will assume a critical stance in our study of Chinese myths and beliefs at all times, and our focus is on the following mythical figures that are central to Chinese culture: Pangu, Fuxi, Nüwa, the Yellow Emperor, Yao, Shun, and Yu, etc.
We will primarily cover the earliest periods of Chinese history and formative myths from both the classical tradition and the living folklore. In addition, we will discuss popular legendary figures such as Butterlfy Mother, Guanyin (Miaoshan), Mulian, Meng Jiangnü, White Snake, Mulan, and Nezha. Their legends are very influential to Chinese people, and have been represented and reinterpreted broadly in different literary and artistic genres through time and across space. We will examine the historical development and modern transformation of these legends as well as the reinterpretation of Chinese myths and legends in contemporary popular culture.
The class will be in discussion format and class readings include both primary materials in English translation and recent secondary scholarship. No knowledge of Chinese is presumed. It is counted toward Chinese major or minor. It fulfills C, AH, and R requirements. It is open to majors and non-majors alike interested in Chinese/ East Asian culture and religion in general or comparative culture and religion.