Myths and Legends of China, E. T. C. Werner
Myths and Legends of China
E. T. C. Werner
13:55 h History Lvl 9.48
Myths and Legends of China is a 1922 fascinating and comprehensive collection of Chinese myths and legends by E. T. C. Werner.

Myths & Legends of China

E.T.C. Werner

Myths and Legends of China


The chief literary sources of Chinese myths are the Li tai shên hsien t’ung chien, in thirty-two volumes, the Shên hsien lieh chuan, in eight volumes, the Fêng shên yen i, in eight volumes, and the Sou shên chi, in ten volumes. In writing the following pages I have translated or paraphrased largely from these works. I have also consulted and at times quoted from the excellent volumes on Chinese Superstitions by Père Henri Doré, comprised in the valuable series Variétés Sinologiques, published by the Catholic Mission Press at Shanghai. The native works contained in the Ssŭ K’u Ch’üan Shu, one of the few public libraries in Peking, have proved useful for purposes of reference. My heartiest thanks are due to my good friend Mr. Mu Hsüeh-hsün, a scholar of wide learning and generous disposition, for having kindly allowed me to use his very large and useful library of Chinese books. The late Dr. G.E. Morrison also, until he sold it to a Japanese baron, was good enough to let me consult his extensive collection of foreign works relating to China whenever I wished, but owing to the fact that so very little work has been done in Chinese mythology by Western writers I found it better in dealing with this subject to go direct to the original Chinese texts. I am indebted to Professor H.A. Giles, and to his publishers, Messrs Kelly and Walsh, Shanghai, for permission to reprint from Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio the fox legends given in Chapter XV.

This is, so far as I know, the only monograph on Chinese mythology in any non-Chinese language. Nor do the native works include any scientific analysis or philosophical treatment of their myths.

My aim, after summarizing the sociology of the Chinese as a prerequisite to the understanding of their ideas and sentiments, and dealing as fully as possible, consistently with limitations of space (limitations which have necessitated the presentation of a very large and intricate topic in a highly compressed form), with the philosophy of the subject, has been to set forth in English dress those myths which may be regarded as the accredited representatives of Chinese mythology — those which live in the minds of the people and are referred to most frequently in their literature, not those which are merely diverting without being typical or instructive — in short, a true, not a distorted image.

Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner

February 1922

Mais cet Orient, cette Asie, quelles en sont, enfin, les frontières réelles?... Ces frontières sont d’une netteté qui ne permet aucune erreur. L’Asie est cesse la vulgarité, naît la dignité, et commence l’élégance intellectuelle. Et l’Orient est sont les sources débordantes de poésie.

La Reine de Saba

Chapter I
The Sociology of the Chinese

Racial Origin

In spite of much research and conjecture, the origin of the Chinese people remains undetermined. We do not know who they were nor whence they came. Such evidence as there is points to their immigration from elsewhere; the Chinese themselves have a tradition of a Western origin. The first picture we have of their actual history shows us, not a people behaving as if long settled in a land which was their home and that of their forefathers, but an alien race fighting with wild beasts, clearing dense forests, and driving back the aboriginal inhabitants.

Setting aside several theories (including the one that the Chinese are autochthonous and their civilization indigenous) now regarded by the best authorities as untenable, the researches of sinologists seem to indicate an origin (1) in early Akkadia; or (2) in Khotan, the Tarim valley (generally what is now known as Eastern Turkestan), or the K’un-lun Mountains (concerning which more presently). The second hypothesis may relate only to a sojourn of longer or shorter duration on the way from Akkadia to the ultimate settlement in China, especially since the Khotan civilization has been shown to have been imported from the Punjab in the third century B.C. The fact that serious mistakes have been made regarding the identifications of early Chinese rulers with Babylonian kings, and of the Chinese po-hsing (Cantonese bak-sing) ‘people’ with the Bak Sing or Bak tribes, does not exclude the possibility of an Akkadian origin. But in either case the immigration into China was probably gradual, and may have taken the route from Western or Central Asia direct to the banks of the Yellow River, or may possibly have followed that to the south-east through Burma and then to the north-east through what is now China — the settlement of the latter country having thus spread from south-west to north-east, or in a north-easterly direction along the Yangtzŭ River, and so north, instead of, as is generally supposed, from north to south.

Southern Origin Improbable

But this latter route would present many difficulties; it would seem to have been put forward merely as ancillary to the theory that the Chinese originated in the Indo-Chinese peninsula. This theory is based upon the assumptions that the ancient Chinese ideograms include representations of tropical animals and plants; that the oldest and purest forms of the language are found in the south; and that the Chinese and the Indo-Chinese groups of languages are both tonal. But all of these facts or alleged facts are as easily or better accounted for by the supposition that the Chinese arrived from the north or north-west in successive waves of migration, the later arrivals pushing the earlier farther and farther toward the south, so that the oldest and purest forms of Chinese would be found just where they are, the tonal languages of the Indo-Chinese peninsula being in that case regarded as the languages of the vanguard of the migration. Also, the ideograms referred to represent animals and plants of the temperate zone rather than of the tropics, but even if it could be shown, which it cannot, that these animals and plants now belong exclusively to the tropics, that would be no proof of the tropical origin of the Chinese, for in the earliest times the climate of North China was much milder than it is now, and animals such as tigers and elephants existed in the dense jungles which are later found only in more southern latitudes.

Expansion of Races from North to South

The theory of a southern origin (to which a further serious objection will be stated presently) implies a gradual infiltration of Chinese immigrants through South or Mid-China (as above indicated) toward the north, but there is little doubt that the movement of the races has been from north to south and not vice versa. In what are now the provinces of Western Kansu and Ssŭch’uan there lived a people related to the Chinese (as proved by the study of Indo-Chinese comparative philology) who moved into the present territory of Tibet and are known as Tibetans; in what is now the province of Yünnan were the Shan or Ai-lao (modern Laos), who, forced by Mongol invasions, emigrated to the peninsula in the south and became the Siamese; and in Indo-China, not related to the Chinese, were the Annamese, Khmer, Mon, Khasi, Colarains (whose remnants are dispersed over the hill tracts of Central India), and other tribes, extending in prehistoric times into Southern China, but subsequently driven back by the expansion of the Chinese in that direction.

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