Mythology is a collection of myths or the study of ancient traditional stories of gods or heroes, giving an explanation to an unexplained event. For Plato, the fist known user of the term, muthologia meant know more than the telling of stories (Kirk 8). Mythology is an important aspect to the world, today. Through the study of myths help us develop an idea of what the cultures were like. It includes hints that exhibit how they lived their lives. Myth is its serious purpose and its importance to the culture (Lansford 1). Every culture has its own myth that explains about the nature of that particular culture. The Chinese culture has been around for many centuries, its myths have accumulated into varies stories of gods and their culture.
China is the world's oldest continuous civilization (Cotterel 9). Evidence show the earliest Chinese civilization to be found around 1650 B.C. The beginnings of Chinese mythology, started around the Wei and Jin Dynasties. Influenced by alchemist ideas, Taoist and Buddhist superstitions, various writers created storied about their enigmatic surroundings. The beginning of the Chinese civilization is based on mythology. One of the creation myths is about the beginning of the world. In it, the world began as an egg and cracking open, the top of the shell grew to be the sky, the lower shell became the Earth, and in the middle stepped a man named P'an-gu. Mythology of the ancient Chinese is apparent through art, music and literature. Since, there is no explanation of how the Chinese civilization began; mythology has been a way of explanation to the Chinese culture and other cultures around the world, today.
Chinese mythology, as with many other cultures, has many gods and goddesses that are in charge of various things. In the Ancient Chinese culture, there are gods and goddesses for every important aspect of the people's life, even things as unlikely as the stove god and the door god. Other deities that were important to the Chinese people were the gods of the elements such as Chu Jung, the fire god, Lei Kun, the thunder god, the wind god, and the lightning goddess. Most of the element gods devoted themselves to punishing criminals and keeping evil spirits away. There were also important gods in charge of fields such as Kuan Ti, the god of war, Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion, T'Shai-shen, the god of wealth and Tsao hsang, god of the hearth. Although there gods were very important to the Chinese people, one of the most important gods was Nu wa, the mother goddess. She was a compassionate goddess who created mankind and bestowed love and creation to them. She helped her people when they were in need, like when she created rice from her own milk and blood in order to feed her people. She was very humble and a modest goddess, not wanting credit for her benevolence. The gods and goddesses of Chinese mythology were basically deities that symbolized the good and just qualities that people should imitate in their everyday life.
The basis of Chinese life was a belief in harmony and balance (Williams 20). The Chinese believed in harmony with nature, and sometimes honored the spirits with gifts, feasts, and rituals. The Chinese believed the souls of the dead returned (Williams 20), a concept of Buddhism. The family held Chinese society together (Williams 20). In China, many generations of families lived together, even in the same house, and the children were taught to respect and obey their elders (Williams 20). As in all cultures, men were superior' to women in China. Parents believed they would become gods after they died, if they had a son (Williams 21). This belief was taken fiercely to the point that the parents would kill a newborn female. A custom that the upper-class women followed was of foot binding, which was believed to make the foot appear tiny, since the culture considered small feet feminine and delicate. The most important festival in China was the Chinese New...
Cited: Cotterel, Arthur. Ancient China.
Kirk, Geoffrey Stephen. Myth: its meaning and functions in ancient and other culture California; University of California Press. 1970
Lansford, Tyler. "Mythology" Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2002. Microsoft Corporation, 2002
Owens, D.W. "Ancient Chinese Mythology: Gods and goddess folklore"
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Schafer, Edward H. Ancient China. New York; Time Inc.1967
Williams, Brians. Ancient China. Middlesex, England; Reed Educational and Professional Publishing, Ltd. 1996
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