A Discussion on the Concept of “Sacred Narrative”

In: Journal of Chinese Humanities

Sacred narratives are one of the foundations upon which human societies depend for their existence, since in all societies those narratives help establish the legitimacy of the social order and values. While Western societies have opted to regard tales of the supernatural as their main form of sacred narrative, ancient Chinese societies chose, instead, to regard ancient history as theirs. Even though the narrative contents of myths and ancient history differ, they fulfill the same social function and both are believed to represent “facts” from immemorial antiquity. Therefore, the author uses the concept of the sacred narrative to embrace both myths and ancient history, transcending differences in content between mythological and historical narratives and setting forth an argument based on their common social function. This not only allows mythology studies to be in keeping with historical reality but also contributes to an accurate understanding of the narrative foundations of different social and cultural systems.

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  • 1

    Alan Dundes“Introduction,” in Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Mythed. Alan Dundes (Berkeley: University of California Press1984) 1.

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  • 3

    Bronislaw Malinowski“The Role of Myth in Life,” in Sacred Narrative199.

  • 4

    Lü Wei 呂微“Shenhuapian 神話篇 [Mythology Chapter],” in Zhonghua minjian wenxue shi 中華民間文學史 [History of Chinese Folk Literature] ed. Qi Lianxiu 祁連休 and Cheng Qiang 程薔 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei jiaoyu chubanshe1999) 3-4.

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  • 6

    Confucius“The Analects of Conf ucius,” in The Chinese Classicstrans. James Legge (Taipei: smc 2001) 1: 201.

  • 7

    Ban Gu 班固“Yiwenzhi 藝文志 [Treatise on Literature],” in Hanshu 漢書 [History of the Han Dynasty]. This refers to a specific literary genre that recorded conversations heard on the street.

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  • 9

    Jiang Guanyun 蔣觀雲“Shenhua, lishi yangcheng zhi renwu 神話、歷史養成之人物 [Figures Fostered by Myths and History],” in Zhongguo shenhua xue lun xuan cui 中國神話學論選萃 [Chinese Mythology: A Selection of Writings] ed. Ma Changyi 馬昌儀 (Beijing: Zhongguo chuangbo dianshi chubanshi1994) 18.

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  • 13

    “Shenhuapian” 4.

  • 14

    Yang“Shenhua yiding shi shensheng de xushi ma?” 85-86.

  • 15

    Malinowski“The Role of Myth in Life” 199.

  • 17

    Mencius“The Works of Mencius,” in The Chinese Classics trans. James Legge (Taipei: smc 2001) 2:283.

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